UK Hoops Enters AP Top 25 Poll at No. 20
Feb. 1, 2010
LEXINGTON, Ky. – After two impressive road wins over No. 18/19 LSU and Mississippi State last week, the Kentucky women's basketball team entered The Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time this season, ranking No. 20 it was released Monday afternoon.
It marks UK's first ranking in the AP poll since 2006-07 and its highest ranking since debuting at No. 15 that same season.
“It's exciting for our program to be ranked in the national polls but like I've said before the ranking we want to be in is the top 64 and that's the 64 teams who get invited to the NCAA Tournament,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “That's where our focus is and we must remain hungry and humble because we still have a lot of games to play. I am very proud of what this team has accomplished so far but we have our sights set on the NCAA Tournament and we have to win more games to get there.”
The Wildcats improved to 18-3 overall, their most wins since 2006-07, and took sole possession of No. 2 in the SEC standings at 6-2 with wins over the Lady Tigers and Lady Bulldogs last week. With the victories, UK set a new school record with five consecutive SEC wins. The previous mark was four set in 2005-06. The Cats also won back-to-back SEC road games for the first time since 2005-06.
SEC Player of the Year candidate, Victoria Dunlap, averaged a double-double (21.5 points/11.0 rebounds) for the week after posting a game-high 24 points and nine rebounds in the 71-62 win over No. 18/19 LSU and a game-high 19 points and 12 rebounds in the 69-59 win at Mississippi State. UK's win in Baton Rouge marked its first since 1995 and gave UK its second win over a ranked opponent this season. Against the Lady Bulldogs, Dunlap became the 27th member UK's 1,000-point club after registering her 19th career and sixth double-double of the season.
The Cats return home Thursday vs. Ole Miss before traveling to Arkansas on Super Bowl Sunday.
Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
On how he feels his team is playing ...
"I feel really good about the effort they are giving. These two wins this past week were incredible, they were really battles physically. LSU was tough and yesterday was a really tough basketball game. Our players made some plays just through sheer toughness. I am really excited for them, they have worked extremely hard and not a lot of teams are willing to practice and prepare as much as they are and we are reaping the benefits now."
On being ranked No. 20 in the AP poll ...
"It is great for the program but not necessarily important to the team. What is so great about this team is that if we don't come in tomorrow or Wednesday and prepare like heck to get ready then we will get beat by Ole Miss. You don't even have to worry about playing mind games with them because that is the way it is, you have to prepare or you will lose. Whether we are 20 or 10 has no bearing on the rest of the season. Unfortunate thing for us is that it is not a 21-game season, but a 29-game season and we have a lot of basketball left. We have to keep plugging."
On playing well on the road this season ...
"Defensively, we have just been able to get a plan in each game and the team has been able to carry that out. That is a credit to them being able to absorb a lot from a scouting perspective. The biggest thing for this group is that they have been able to get themselves in such a physical position and they can play hard for 40 minutes. That really helps you in the SEC on the road or at home. They are just a really hard-working group."
On the team learning how to play together ...
"They have really accepted that and have done a good job of that. One thing I have said is that I don't take this group for granted because they work so hard. What makes them have an opportunity to be special is that they have an understanding of what we have to do to be successful. We are not going to blow anybody's doors off with our talent. We have gifted players, but they know every day they have to come in and pay attention to detail and work hard on our fundamentals. That is not always the easiest thing to do to get a team to buy into that. So give credit to them. They have been willing and are working hard every day."
On getting SEC Player and Freshman of the week honors ...
"I think both were well deserved. I'm telling you, LSU and Mississippi State are two of the most talented teams in the conference and the most physically-gifted teams in the conference. For Victoria to do what she was able to do was remarkable. She is a heck of a basketball player.
"A'dia Mathies is a big difference on our team from last year. She can do things defensively and offensively that make a big difference for us. She performs well and this week she preformed particularly well in two tough road games. Both awards are really deserved."
On what is standing between them now from them being special at the end of the season ...
"The thing that is standing between us now is games. We have to continue to win and we have not accomplished anything up to this point that is really tangible. What is going to be special is if we can find a way to get into the NCAA tournament and compete for a national championship and have a good year in the SEC. Those things are yet to be determined. We have to pay attention in practice and practice well, that is what stands between us being special. I have told the team that we have an opportunity (to be special) and they have put themselves into a position to be a really special basketball team. The thing that I like about them is that they have seemed, up to this point, to understand that they have to keep plugging and working. They showed me a lot this past week going on the road to beat two good basketball teams."