Jan. 16, 2013
LEXINGTON, Ky. - The fifth-ranked Kentucky women's basketball teams looks to keep its overall and home winning streaks intact when it returns to the friendly confines of Memorial Coliseum on Thursday, Jan. 17 against Mississippi State. The game will be carried live on the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price at 7 p.m. EST.
Fans can follow the UK Hoops team on Twitter at @UKHoopCats and use #UKHoops to comment on the game.
Single-game reserved tickets cost of $9 for all ages. General admission tickets for adults are $8 while single-game general admission tickets for seniors and children (ages 6-18, 65 and over) are only $5. UK faculty, staff and children ages five and under are admitted free in the general admission seating area, while supplies last.
"We are awfully excited to be back in Memorial Coliseum tomorrow night," UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "We have had great, energetic crowds. We really appreciate our fans' dedication and loyalty coming out to these games and we'll need another big, energetic crowd tomorrow night because we are playing a very aggressive, tough, hard-nosed, defensive team in Mississippi State. We have a lot of respect for them. They have some really good players so it will be a great challenge tomorrow night. It's really great that we are going to be at home. We are looking forward to getting back into Memorial and seeing if we can earn another victory."
Kentucky improved to 16-1 overall, 4-0 in the SEC with a 69-43 win over Missouri on Sunday. It was the Wildcats' pressure defense that sealed the victory and snapped the Tigers' 11-game home winning streak. UK jumped out to a 23-4 lead early in the game and the Tigers would get no closer than nine points the rest of the way. UK held Missouri to 35.3 percent shooting, including just 10.0 percent from beyond the arc. The Tigers, who came into the game leading the nation in 3-pointers made per game with 9.9, were limited to a season-low two 3-pointers. UK also held Missouri's Morgan Eye, the nation's leading 3-point shooter, to just six points and zero treys for the first time this season. Junior center DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) led three players in double-figure scoring with a game-high 17 points, while senior guard A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) and redshirt sophomore point guard Jennifer O'Neill (Bronx, N.Y.) added 14 and 11 points, respectively.
"I have been really pleased with how we have hustled to get to 4-0 in the league," Mitchell. Said. "We couldn't be in a better position than that. What this time of year is all about is trying to take it one game at a time and really put everything you have into the preparation for each and every game and seeing how many victories you can stack up in that win column. They have done a really good job of that. Last week, on Thursday and Sunday, I thought we hustled in both games for 40 minutes. That's something we have asked our players to do, so I am really pleased with that. From game-to-game there are some areas that need to be improved and do things a little bit better, but as a whole, I am really happy with where the team is and they continue to come in each day and practice really hard and I think that's going to be the key for this team."
The Wildcats are currently riding a school-record 15-game winning streak which ties Duke for the nation's longest active winning streak. UK's 31-game home winning streak is the longest in school history and ranks No. 2 nationally behind top-ranked Baylor which has won 48 in a row at home.
Mississippi State (8-9, 0-4 SEC) travels to the Commonwealth looking for its first SEC win of the season. The Bulldogs have lost to Vanderbilt, No. 15/18 South Carolina, Florida and LSU in their first four league games.
Overall, sophomores Kendra Grant and Martha Alwal lead State in scoring, averaging 12.8 and 12.2 points per game, respectively. Alwal, a 6-foot-4 center, also leads the team in rebounding (9.8) and blocks per game (2.4).
The Bulldogs top the SEC and rank 18th nationally in blocks per game with 5.4. Alwal is third in the league with 2.4 blocks per game. State's defense has held its last three opponents to under 40 percent shooting from the field.
Vic Shaefer is in his first season as head coach at Mississippi State after serving nine seasons as the associate head coach at Texas A&M.
The Wildcats' "40 minutes of dread" defense has them leading the nation in turnover margin (+10.3), limiting the opponent to 36.8 percent shooting, including 28.4 percent from beyond the arc, averaging 12.1 steals and 5.4 blocks per game.
Overall, Mathies lead the team in scoring, averaging 14.5 points per game. She also has a team-high tying 37 assists and 35 treys. She currently ranks in the top 10 of 12 career lists at UK, including No. 4 in scoring (1,682) and third in steals (279). Junior forward Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) and Stallworth lead the way on the boards, averaging 8.5 and 6.0 rebounds per game, respectively.
Thursday marks the 39th meeting between Kentucky and Mississippi State. UK is 21-17 all-time vs. Coach Mitchell's alma mater, including a 9-8 advantage when playing in Lexington. The Wildcats have won the last five meetings against State, including an 88-40 win last year in Memorial Coliseum, the largest margin of victory against an SEC opponent in school history. MSU's last win in Lexington was Jan. 18, 2009 (52-45).
This is "We Back Pat" week in the SEC. During the week of January 13-20, SEC member institutions will support the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund during their home basketball games. During the week, various efforts will be made to increase awareness of the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund. UK's "We Back Pat" game is Jan. 20 vs. Auburn.
Spectator parking is located in the following areas:
- All E-lots surrounding Memorial Coliseum beginning 3 hours prior to tip-off
- Parking Structure #5 (adjacent to Kennedy's Bookstore).
- Lexington Authority Transit Center Parking Garage (new for the 2012-13 season).
- The Lexington Parking Authority Transit Center Parking Garage, located between High Street and Vine Street, is available for parking after 5 p.m. ET during the week and all day on the weekends. Additionally, a free shuttle service will pick up in the LR Cooke Lot near the corner of High Street and Martin Luther King beginning 1.5 hours prior to tip.
- Handicap parking is available in the E-Lot (Employee Lot) north of the Craft Center, adjacent to the metered spaces running along the frontage of the Craft Center with a valid, state issued handicap tag. These spaces (typically 20-30 stalls) are available on a first-come, first-serve basis until full.
Please note: parking is prohibited in any R (Residential) lots. Vehicles parking in Residential lots without a proper permit, along yellow curbs, grass spaces, or other non-specified and unapproved areas may be subject to ticket and/or tow. Also, due to new dorm construction, the Good Samaritan hospital employee parking lot is no longer available for use.
- Shuttles are available beginning 1.5 hours prior to tip off from Parking Structure # 5 located off Limestone and Upper Street and the Transit Center Parking Garage located off High Street and Vine Street.
- Parking Structure # 5 (blue route) picks up/drops off on Administration Drive, at the end of the pedestrian sky bridge accessed from the 3rd floor of the parking garage.
- Transit Center Parking Garage (green route) picks up/drops off near the corner of High Street and Martin Luther King.
- Shuttles will start back up 1.5 hours after tip-off (to return guests to their parking areas).
Game day Information:
- Doors to the Coliseum will open one (1) hour prior to tip-off.
- UK Athletics encourages women's basketball fans to arrive early to ease traffic and parking congestion around the Coliseum.
Surface event lots (i.e. Student Center, Joe Craft Center North and LR Cooke lot) typically reach capacity approximately 45 minutes prior to tip-off, at which point, vehicles should proceed to Parking Structure #5 (PS#5) or the Lexington Authority Transit Center Parking Garage.
For more information on parking around Memorial Coliseum and other game-day questions visit www.ukathletics.com/wbbgameday
Media Opportunity - Jan. 16, 2013
"We are awfully excited to be back in Memorial Coliseum tomorrow night. We have had great, energetic crowds. We really appreciate our fan's dedication and loyalty coming out to these games and we'll need another big, energetic crowd tomorrow night because we are playing a very aggressive, tough, hard-nosed, defensive team in Mississippi State. We have a lot of respect for them. They have some really good players so it will be a great challenge tomorrow night. It's really great that we are going to be at home. We are looking forward to getting back into Memorial and seeing if we can earn another victory."
On if he is satisfied with the team's recent stretch of games...
"I have been really pleased with how we have hustled to get to 4-0 in the league. We couldn't be in a better position than that. What this time of year is all about is trying to take it one game at a time and really put everything you have into the preparation for each and every game and seeing how many victories you can stack up in that win column. They have done a really good job of that. Last week, on Thursday and Sunday, I thought we hustled in both games for 40 minutes. That's something we have asked our players to do, so I am really pleased with that. From game-to-game there are some areas that need to be improved and do things a little bit better, but as a whole, I am really happy with where the team is and they continue to come in each day and practice really hard and I think that's going to be the key for this team."
On what kind of challenges Mississippi State offers...
"They are very aggressive defensively and they try and take you out of what you want to do. They're really aggressive in the passing lanes and will deny the basketball. It disrupts your offense. They have two All-SEC caliber players right now that are both sophomores who are really good young players in Kendra Grant and Martha Alwal. Martha's averaging a double-double right now in league play and just very productive. She has very great size, long arms, a great jumper, a good shot blocker and can really cause you problems around the rim. Grant is shooting 40 percent from the 3-point line in league play. She is explosive with good size for her as a guard. They have a bunch of hard-nosed, tough players. Defensively, Mississippi State really gets after you so we will have to pay great attention to how we space the floor and take care of the ball. They can certainly turn you over so it will be another good SEC test. It will be a very physical game I think. It will be up-tempo and we will need to be ready."
On his assessment of the bench play during conference play so far...
"I think we are doing a good job of coming off the bench and playing with great energy. I would like a little more production scoring the basketball from the bench. I think Bernisha Pinkett is poised for a good game in the coming weeks. She is practicing better. I think she is getting some confidence back. I think her confidence was down there for a little while. She has really practiced a lot better and I saw some really encouraging signs from her in the Missouri game. With Bernisha, I don't think she has played nearly as well as she is capable of. I think that gives us another guard that can be in the mix and really be productive on both ends of the floor. Overall, the bench has given us great energy. I would like to see more scoring and a little bit more production. It serves us well as we move through the league."
On if this is more of a traditional team compared to recent years past...
"It's more traditional. I still don't think we play a traditional style, so you can't have an immobile post player that can't defend, run the floor or get the ball in quickly. But it is more traditional no doubt. For so many years what we had was really four guards and an undersized post, so this is much closer to maybe what I started out envisioning when I first got in Kentucky. We had a very traditional approach to recruiting. We were trying to find big power post players. So this is closer to that, but we still have that dimension of athleticism with Samarie and DeNesha that is not as traditional as maybe some of the teams we have had here in the past. It is closer, but I still like our ability to disrupt other teams and you really need mobile post players that can get out on the floor and defend and they can truly do that in my mind."
On if the team is pressing less this year...
"We have trapped less there is no question about it. As a coach I need to figure that out and we're working with that some. We are going to try and do a better job. We've had some people in the post position like a Victoria Dunlap, Amani Franklin and Lydia Watkins who were so comfortable rotating and who weren't afraid to leave because they weren't traditional post players. I think Samarie and DeNesha both probably grew up being told how they were supposed to play. I do think there is reluctance sometimes. It hasn't clicked quite as well from a full-court trapping standpoint. We are still very good defensively as far as disrupting you and applying pressure and making it tough on you to score. We just used to have to turn you over a million times and shoot a bunch of layups to win. I thought we hustled for 40 minutes in Columbia on Sunday, but we only turned them over 15 times. In my mind that was one of the toughest defensive efforts we have had in the last four years. It's a little different and I don't think the players are as comfortable as we have been in the past with the full court press."
On not necessarily having to rely on defense and rebounding to win games...
"What we found as we progressed deeper into the season was that we would run into teams that could handle the pressure and could put some pressure on you. Then it became a situation on who could score. Oklahoma did that to us in the Elite Eight. They were able to score that day and we weren't. We couldn't turn them over and score off turnovers. The same thing happened with Connecticut in the Elite Eight. So I think that hopefully we are built a little bit better for a deeper run because this group is very talented offensively. We are still getting better. I thought we got better in practice yesterday. I thought we learned some things in practice and a couple things clicked yesterday that are going to be valuable for us later in the season if we can keep it going. I would like to have a good mix of both. I would like to be able to turn people over when that is necessary. I would also like to be able to get into something and score and go to people that we know can score. We are a good team and certainly have a lot of weapons."
On trying to make the team tougher/adjusting to how tough the team has gotten...
"This was about getting them to have the right mindset in the league; they're just going to have to be ferocious and aggressive on defense. And if we want to be the best that we can be, everyone is going to have to have that mindset. This team has the talent and the gifts to make that happen. My job right now is just trying to give them something to think about as far as defensive intensity."
On playing time and the starting lineup...
"We handle all of that in practice. When we started in September, the individual workouts for every position on the floor were very similar. There were some modifications but everyone had the chance to show us what they could do and compete against each other. There were no predetermined lineups. That just develops in practice. I don't think I have a lot to do with it outside evaluating what's going on. So that helps us out as far as people complaining; which we don't allow. If a player has a concern they just come and talk to me and we look at the tape and figure it out. Also with how we play, the players know they have to be ready and that if their number gets called, if they do they'll get more playing time."
On the caliber of players here...
"We're just fortunate to have some really great kids come to Kentucky. I don't take that for granted. We just try and put our best foot forward and find high character players here that want to work hard. I'm very happy about that."
On Azia Bishop's health...
"She is progressing but I don't know that she'll play tomorrow night, or Sunday either. But I'd love to have her back for South Carolina. She'd have to really look great in practice for me to put her in. If she did come back, she'd have to play with an air cast but she has progressed very well and we're looking forward to having her back healthy."
On the importance of home wins...
"It is very important to win at home because it's so tough on the road. We need to play well and work hard. Tomorrow night we need a victory. We have six more games at home and we're going to try and win all of them. What's been great for us is that we've had energetic crowds that have helped us out. We hope that people keep coming out because this is a really great team and the players have worked really hard to get to this position."