Jan. 27, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. - The sixth-ranked Kentucky women's basketball team will help celebrate Alumni Day and the 26th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day on Sunday when the Wildcats play host to Alabama in Memorial Coliseum. Game time is set for 2 p.m. ET as it will be broadcast live on CSS with Matt Stewart and Joe Ciampi calling the action.
Sunday is one of more than 1,000 events taking place across the country for National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Congress has proclaimed this national day each year since 1987. It recognizes the progress of girls and women in sports and the benefits that sports and fitness activities can bring the lives of all girls and women. The day is organized nationally by the Girl Scouts of the USA, Girls Incorporated, National Association for Girls and Women in Sport, the National Women's Law Center and the Women's Sports Foundation. There will be an autograph session with female student-athletes from each of UK's varsity sports beginning at 1 p.m. and the first 1,000 fans will receive a free commemorative poster.
Sunday also is Alumni Day. Over 40 former players will be recognized at halftime and the second annual Alumni Game will be played in Memorial Coliseum at 11 a.m. ET. Admission is free but the arena will be cleared following the game.
"We are setting our sights on Alabama for Sunday afternoon," UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "It's a big game for us, we're glad to be back home in Memorial (Coliseum). It's our Alumni Day and we will be happy to welcome back a bunch of alumni who have helped us build this program. So that will make it special. Alabama is a team, like many teams in the Southeastern Conference, with a lot of athletes, lot of speed, lot of quickness. We will have to be ready to play well Sunday afternoon and I'm looking forward to getting back to practice and seeing if we can continue to improve."
UK also will recognize the 1981-82 team at halftime. Thirty years ago, this Wildcat squad posted a 24-8 record en route to UK's first Southeastern Conference championship and first appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Led by Coach Terry Hall, the Lady Kats as they were known then, defeated Alabama, LSU and Tennessee to win the SEC Tournament which was held in Memorial Coliseum. UK then advanced all the way to the Midwest Regional Championship before falling to No. 1-ranked and eventual national champion Louisiana Tech on the Lady Techsters' home floor.
The Lady Kats were led by junior Valerie Still who was named the SEC Tournament Most Valuable Player and finished the season ranked fifth nationally in rebounding (14.3), sixth in scoring (24.8) and 13th in field goal percentage (58.2).
Still will be selling and signing copies of her new book," Still Alive on the Underground Railroad," on the WEST concourse of Memorial Coliseum prior to Sunday's game.
Surrounding the festivities, the Wildcats (19-2, 8-0 Southeastern Conference) look to continue their winning ways after a school-record 8-0 start to league play. Kentucky's 19-2 start ties its best start in program history through the first 21 games. Kentucky's best start to a season was in 1982-83 (21-2).
Kentucky has won 16 straight at home, the fourth-longest streak in school history, and the Cats are an impressive 44-2 at home over the last three seasons.
Junior guard A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) continues to dominant in almost every statistical category for the Wildcats this season as she averages 15.9 points per game, 3.0 steals per game and shoots a team-high .384 percent from the 3-point line. Freshman guard Bria Goss (Indianapolis) follows Mathies in the scoring column with 11.3 points per game, while sophomore forward Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) pulls down a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game.
UK ranks in the top 10 of five national statistical categories. The Cats lead the nation in turnover margin (+11.5), are sixth in steals per game (13.4), seventh in won-lost percentage (90.5) and eighth in scoring offense (78.6) and scoring margin (21.5).
This is the 37th meeting in the series between Kentucky and Alabama. The Wildcats lead the overall series 21-15, including an 11-5 advantage when the game is played in Lexington. UK has won six straight over Alabama after defeating the Tide last season in Tuscaloosa, 82-69. UK won the last meeting in Lexington, 88-63 (Jan. 17, 2010).
Tickets are sold out. If not able to attend the game, it also will be broadcast nationally on ESPN3.com. It also can be heard on the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price. Fans can also follow the UK Hoops team on Twitter at @UKHoopCats and use #UKHoops to comment on the game.
Women's basketball parking for Sunday's game is available in the following surface lots and parking structures:
- Student Center Lot - off Euclid Ave
- MLK South Lot - between Lexington Ave and MLK Blvd. and south (towards Euclid) of the center drive lane. DO NOT PARK IN NORTH MLK LOT (closest to Wildcat Lodge) AS THIS IS A RESIDENTIAL LOT AND SUBJECT TO TICKET/TOW
- Handicapped Parking (first come-first served until full) is located in the Northeast corner of the MLK South Lot, must have valid state-issued hang tag
- Joe Craft Center North E-Lot - large lot located north of the Joe Craft Center, and accessible via Lexington Avenue or Rose St.
- Good Samaritan surface Lot - accessible off MLK Blvd
- Parking Structure #5 - entrances off Limestone and S. Upper
Other important notes about Sunday's game:
- UK Athletics encourages women's basketball fans to arrive early to ease traffic and parking congestion around the Coliseum.
- Doors to the Coliseum will open one (1) hour prior to tip-off.
- Surface event lots (i.e. Student Center, Hardymon, South MLK, Joe Craft Center North and Good Samaritan Surface Lot) typically reach capacity approximately 45 minutes prior to tip-off, at which point, vehicles should proceed to Parking Structure #5 (PS#5).
- The PS #5 shuttle will begin one hour prior to tip and end one hour post-game. The PS #5 shuttle picks up on Administration Drive, accessible via the sky bridge located on the 3rd Floor of PS#5.
Pre-Alabama Media Opportunity - Jan. 27, 2012
"We are setting our sights on Alabama for Sunday afternoon. It's a big game for us, we're glad to be back home in Memorial (Coliseum). It's our Alumni Day and we will be happy to welcome back a bunch of alumni who have helped us build this program. So that will make it special. Alabama is a team, like many teams in the Southeastern Conference, with a lot of athletes, lot of speed, lot of quickness. We will have to be ready to play well Sunday afternoon and I'm looking forward to getting back to practice and seeing if we can continue to improve."
On another sellout game at Memorial Coliseum...
"It's a fantastic development for the program. I think it's a real credit to a couple things. One, we have a very special group of young women who lay it on the line every time they play, they play extremely hard and they are fun to watch. We just have a situation that exists here at Kentucky where people are passionate about basketball and the University of Kentucky. When those two things come together there's great fans turning out to watch us. It is great to be at a place where people care."
On the team not losing focus with the task at hand...
"We are on a mission and we are very confident in the team that we have and we think we can get a lot accomplished. Every win counts the same and every loss counts the same. If we want to be the champions of this conference, which I think we are capable of being, we have to win games and I just don't think you're going to be able to lose very many games and accomplish that. Alabama is a team that, as I watch them on video, they haven't made a lot of shots, but they get in position to make a lot of shots and on a day when those shots fall you're in trouble. Alabama is the biggest game on our schedule right now and we have to win it. I think we'll have no trouble staying focused because I think this team is on a mission."
On how he keeps the team focused...
"We just work real hard in practice, we're very honest with them and we evaluate them. They compete so hard against each other every day, that you have ample opportunity to get constructive criticism or to get positive feedback when you do something well. I think that's what's so great about our team is that if you show up and you drag around in practice you're putting yourself in jeopardy for minutes in the next game and they know that's on the line. I don't think we've played a lot of games where we didn't respect our opponent. I don't have that trouble with this team. Sometimes they lack focus, they're young kids, and they don't understand how important going as hard as they can every day is, but I don't think we have a group of kids that lacks respect for this league."
On how much he'd like to count on A'dia Mathies' shooting and Samarie Walker's rebounding every game...
"Those two things are very important, and I think those two things need to be consistent. When you talk about A'dia , she is really taken on this role over the last eight games - we really addressed it after the Florida game, the first one. She's done well, she had one game where she sort of went back to differing to other people and she knows she can't do that. She did not do that last night. She did a very good job. She wants to win badly enough that she'll be alright there and we'll be able to count on her. We'll coach her certainly very hard to make certain that happens.
"With Samarie I just think you're about to see her really take off. I just think she is beginning to feel more comfortable and more confident in herself. I've always had a lot of confidence in her ability and we've discussed many times how that's been a process. I think you've seen several games in a row and I've seen several practices in a row, a real indicator there is to see if she can get in a passing lane and get a deflection fundamentally sound and it leads to a turnover and a fast break. That's a big part of our defense. What made Victoria Dunlap such a great fit for our system was she was able to get those kinds of plays. Now you're starting to see Samarie make those kinds of plays every game. I think her consistency is coming around. I think she's going to be good for us."
On Samarie Walker's game compared to Victoria Dunlap...
"Samarie is a really good basketball player. I think she has good instincts for the game. I think when you talked about that with Victoria, I think we were really talking about her offensive game. She really developed that during her four years. Victoria came to us averaging 12 points per game in high school, and left averaging (about) 18 points per game and was the SEC Player of the Year. She really developed offensively. I think that's what we were talking about with her. Now it's sort of flipped with Samarie. She is having to develop defensively because she's always been a good scorer and a good talented offensive player, and offensive minded. We still have to develop her, it's just a little bit different. One thing they're similar in is they can both rebound. Samarie went and got some rebounds last night that there were three or four - Auburn is really, really long and athletic. It was even more so than what came through on film. They were tough around that basket last night and she came down with some big time rebounds. That's some good similarities to have because Victoria was certainly a good rebounder."
On how good Samarie Walker can be...
"She has a lot of talent. She has so much strength, she has a lot of explosiveness. In practice you'll see her - she can lead the break and handle the ball a little bit. She has all the tools to be a complete player. Her arms are long enough it allows her to play a little bit bigger than her height. She just has a lot of tools. The one thing that we have to work every day with Samarie on, is her confidence. She weighs failure much heavier than success. You can't do that playing here. We're going to ask you to put yourself out there, take some risks, so if you make some mistakes you'll just have to live with those. She hasn't always been the best with that. She did better with that last night. ... She has had some emotional - not outbursts, but some emotional times on the bench where things weren't going the way she thought they should be going. She let that bother her and you're not letting anything bother you when you get 15 rebounds in an SEC game. So she did good last night with a 1-11 performance."
On if he's comfortable putting any collection of players on the court at any one time...
"I'm sure you all get bored with this, but we've done this for awhile now; we try to wipe the slate clean every day and we try to teach these kids past performance doesn't guarantee future results. We just go, really, on practice. So if you're practicing well and I gain confidence with you in practice, then you'll see more minutes. When everybody's practicing well you just go with who's practicing the best. That's sort of what it is. What I'm comfortable with is, any collection of those players who really want to do well and practice well, it doesn't matter to me who plays. I think we really need everybody just to practice well and that's what you saw with Maegan Conwright. If she practices poorly she doesn't get to play. If she practices really well she gets to play. There's a couple keys, A'dia (Mathies) is a big factor, but she generally practices pretty well. After that, it's really a collection of players who are really talented. I don't guess there's really a method - there probably should be, but I don't guess there's a great method to it."
On keeping track of in-game minutes to make sure players aren't getting tired...
"I just watch them and see. In game a kid will say, `I need a break,' and I'll say, `Well, you can't have one' or `Come on out.' Sometimes they want a break and it's just not time for a break or a media timeout is coming up, `Hey, just hang on here for the next dead ball.' Those kind of things we ask them to communicate. Maegan (Conwright) asked for a break last night and she got to come out. If they're hustling we'll let them come out. And the assistants do a great job of watching, `Hey, Coach Amber (Smith) needs break, Samarie (Walker) needs a blow.' Those kinds of things, that's how we manage that. Everybody's real in tune on the bench with that."
On being able to fit players easier into positions because of their depth...
"Absolutely, and that's what's been so great is you see other teams in the league that may not have that luxury. It's something that you really can't underestimate. It's a powerful thing to be able to have somebody go all out and when she comes out somebody goes in and it doesn't drop a whole lot. That's something that we've tried to do. We've tried to recruit the best players we could and the best character kids who would come in and play this kind of style. It's working so far. We have a long way to go."