Feb. 12, 2014
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The 18th-ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team will play host to Ole Miss Thursday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. ET in Memorial Coliseum. The teams will don pink uniforms to help raise breast cancer awareness and funds for research as part of the annual Play 4Kay initiative. The game will be televised live on Fox Sport South with Dave Baker and LaChina Robinson calling the action. It also will be broadcast on ESPN3 and the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price. Fans can follow Twitter updates on @UKHoopCats and use hashtag #MISSvsUK to talk about 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.
The 2014 Play 4Kay initiative is an opportunity for a nation of coaches to raise breast cancer awareness and funds for research on the court, across campuses, in communities and beyond. Since its inception in 2007, the Play 4Kay initiative has raised over $2.8 million to support women's cancer research. The Kay Yow Cancer Fund is the official charity of the initiative.
“Well, first of all, that’s (Play 4Kay) a very important part of what is happening all over the country in women’s college basketball and is certainly something that we want to get behind and do our part in raising awareness for breast cancer awareness,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “So we’d love for a big crowd to come out and support us in that endeavor.
“It’s going to be a tough game. Ole Miss is certainly a team that has some explosive athletes, one of the best point guards that I’ve seen in the conference in (Valencia) McFarland, and (Tia) Faleru is a very explosive post player that can drive the basketball and just plays with great, great energy and can make an impact on the boards. And then the entire supporting cast is really playing hard. So obviously with Coach (Matt) Insell coming back we’re proud of him but certainly aware that he knows our team very well and I just anticipate them coming in with a lot of energy, a lot of effort and working really hard to get the victory. So we have to prepare well and play well so we can earn a victory tomorrow night.”
UK (17-6, 5-5 SEC) currently ranks seventh in the league standings, while Ole Miss (10-15, 1-10 SEC) is in last place. The Wildcats are looking to get back on the winning track after falling to Florida on Sunday in Gainesville, Fla., 86-80.
Four Wildcats are averaging in double digits this season, led by junior point guard Jennifer O’Neill (Bronx, N.Y.). She is putting up 12.4 points per game, while senior forwards DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) and Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) follow with 11.0 and 10.4 points per game, respectively. Junior guard Bria Goss (Indianapolis), who adds 10.0 points per game, ranks fourth nationally and leads the SEC in free-throw shooting percentage, hitting an impressive 92.8 percent clip (64-of-69). She has now made 23 consecutive free throws which ties for fourth all-time on UK’s all-time list for consecutive free-throws made.
Walker ranks second overall in SEC rebounding with 9.1 rebounds per game, and is second in SEC games only with 8.9 boards per game. She posted her 19th career double-double vs. Florida and now has eight this season which ranks third in the SEC. Stallworth also posted a double-double against the Gators with 14 points and a career-high tying 13 rebounds. She now has 24 career double-doubles, including three this season.
Prior to becoming a first-time head coach on March 28, 2013 for the Rebels, Insell spent five seasons as an assistant coach under Mitchell. His Ole Miss squad enters the matchup at 10-15 on the season, 1-10 in SEC play. Its lone SEC win came over intrastate rival Mississippi State in overtime, 87-85.
Junior forward Tia Faleru leads the Rebels with 16.2 points and an SEC-leading 9.5 rebounds per game and 12 double-doubles. Her 16.2 points per game rank fifth in the SEC. Senior point guard Valencia McFarland and senior guard Diara Moore round out the double-figure scorers for Ole Miss with 16.0 and 10.6 points per game, respectively. McFarland averages 6.5 assists per game, which ranks second in the SEC.
The Cats have won the last four meetings vs. Ole Miss but the Rebels still maintain a 20-14 lead in the all-time series, including an 8-7 advantage in Lexington.
UK won last season’s matchup in Oxford, Miss., 90-65, on Feb. 28, 2013.
Media Opportunity - February 12, 2014
“Well, first of all, that’s (Play 4Kay) a very important part of what is happening all over the country in women’s college basketball and is certainly something that we want to get behind and do our part in raising awareness for breast cancer awareness. So we’d love for a big crowd to come out and support us in that endeavor. It’s going to be a tough game. Ole Miss is certainly a team that has some explosive athletes, one of the best point guards that I’ve seen in the conference in (Valencia) McFarland, and (Tia) Faleru is a very explosive post player that can drive the basketball and just plays with great, great energy and can make an impact on the boards. And then the entire supporting cast is really playing hard. So obviously with Coach (Matt) Insell coming back we’re proud of him but certainly aware that he knows our team very well and I just anticipate them coming in with a lot of energy, a lot of effort and working really hard to get the victory. So we have to prepare well and play well so we can earn a victory tomorrow night.”
On whether he still speaks with Insell …
“Yeah, we speak pretty frequently. I mean, we spent a lot of time together in the trenches and have a real strong friendship and he’s done a lot for this program and contributed a lot and I certainly was proud for him to be able to move and realize his dream of being a head coach, especially in the SEC. Just really, really proud of him. So yeah, I speak to him. We don’t speak as often as I’d like because life’s really busy: both of us trying to get our teams ready to go – but I spoke with him today and, you know, it’ll be good to see him before and after the game. It’ll be tough during the game because he has his team playing really hard.”
On Insell consulting him for advice …
“Well, he’s just contributed so much to my life as a friend and he’s contributed so much to this program with a lot of effort over the years on and off the court. So, you know, I would like to be a person that helps people and certainly people that I am close to, want to try to support them every way that I can, try to help our players develop, try to help our staff develop as people and, you know, that doesn’t stop because he’s gone. I have been through some of the things he’s been through and so I care greatly for him and we want to beat him really bad tomorrow night if we can, but when we are not in that arena I’m there to support him. And he’s supported me a bunch over the years, I’m telling you. He’s really been a great friend to me, so it’s a relationship that I think’s built on some friendship and some mutual respect for one another.”
On Insell saying UK is trying to find its identity without A’dia Mathies and that DeNesha Stallworth’s injury had a major impact …
“I don’t really have a lot of time to reflect on any of those things right now and I don’t have any time to really focus on either two of those subjects. Both of them are facts of how everything exists with our program right now and so whether we are or aren’t, it really doesn’t matter right now. So I don’t really have any comment on that.”
On whether he saw positives on offense in the loss at Florida …
“Yes. We scored 80 points and that was good. It’s just been difficult. Some games we’ve held teams in the 50s and then we don’t score. And then the day we score 80, we give up 86 and so that was tough. Just the lack of consistency’s what hurting us right now. If we ever get that going in practice, we’re going to be in really good shape. When we were playing really well early in the season, we were very, very consistent with what we were doing and our point guards were on the attack and working hard. And so it all starts with the people running down the floor in transition and being very consistent and every single time staying focused on what you’re supposed to do and then executing well helps a bunch. But it’s just—right now we have to try to be real consistent versus Ole Miss tomorrow night.”
On what he saw from the Florida game film…
“The two things that lost the game for us – if we had done better than Florida – were transition defense was really bad. As coaches we have to take ownership there. You have to get the team where they need to be and we’re addressing that. We’re going to try to take a step forward there tomorrow night. Then coming out of the half, we score two buckets to tie it up and have some energy going and then turn it over eight times in the next 10 possessions and that’s where the 14-point spread was. It was just players losing some composure and just some really, really tough plays to see mentally what we’re thinking out there. You definitely put that forward and say we have to do better and you try to look at that in practice. It goes back to that, we go down 14 then we come back and outplay them 13 points for a long stretch there. It’s just really inconsistent.”
On how he keeps the team and himself from hitting the panic button midway through February…
“Yeah, you just really have to be strong right now and you have to believe in this team. What I’m telling the players is we have a body of work that we’re not asking them to do something they are incapable of doing. We’re not a team that’s dreaming about having good players and being able to make things happen. We can do it, so for me right now you just can’t give into frustration, you can’t give into negative thoughts and you can’t give into discouragement. You have to keep showing up every single day and believing in the team and believing they can get it. Right now, that’s where you have to be and they’re just one decision away from doing the right things in practice. If you do that day after day then it will show up in the game. We just have to believe in our team right now.”
On if Kastine Evans is still struggling with a leg injury…
“We’re trying to manage that the best that we can. She’s shot the ball really well this week in practice, so I think she’s going to be alright. It’s a hard thing to figure out and Kastine is the only person who knows how difficult it is. She’s really playing tough and playing hard and giving everything she has.”
On if the team struggles are because of consistency or something SEC opponents are doing...
“The non-conference schedule was so similar to the quality of teams that we play (in the SEC). I think the conference teams have done a great job and I think there was an expectation when you go into a game with us that it’s going to be a tough game. We’ve really taken some good shots from people. I don’t think it’s any different strategy in particular that anybody is doing. I think for us right now we just haven’t handled adversity very well. That’s the great opportunity that this team has, you can really make something of this. I keep saying it, there is so much opportunity here to work through and lessons to be learned. In my mind right now, the focus is on our team and trying to get them to do what they need to do. It can’t really be as much about the opponent right now. We have to make sure we get right.”