Feb. 23, 2013
LEXINGTON, Ky. – No. 8/7 Kentucky women's basketball puts its four-game winning streak on the line when it travels to Baton Rouge, La., for a Sunday afternoon matinee with LSU at 2 p.m. CST/3 p.m. EST in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. The game will not be televised but broadcast live on the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price.
Fans can also follow the UK Hoops team on Twitter at @UKHoopCats. Use the hashtag #UKHoops to comment on the game.
The Wildcats (23-3, 11-2), who currently sit in a tie for second place in the Southeastern Conference standings with No. 10/13 Texas A&M, travel to Baton Rouge, La., for the second of three straight road trips after defeating the Aggies on Monday 70-66 in College Station, Texas.
"This is a very important game for us Sunday in Baton Rouge," UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "LSU has an outstanding team. We will have to prepare well to beat them. We had a tough game with them here in Lexington. The final margin was not indicative of how difficult the game was. We will have our hands full, another real tough road test for us and we will have to respond to get a victory."
In the Jan. 27 matchup in Lexington, Ky., sophomore reserve center Azia Bishop (Toledo, Ohio) was crucial to the 73-60 win as she came off the bench for a career-high 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting in just 20 minutes of action. Junior forward Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) also shined as she captured her ninth career double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds, while senior guard A'dia Mathies added 15 points.
"They are very, very talented and they have some explosive scorers at really three positions with Theresa Plaisance, and two of their guards, (Adrienne Webb) and (Danielle Ballard) are really, really just difficult players to deal with," Mitchell added. "They are three of the better offensive players in the league, they can put it on the floor and so I thought the first game they did a great job in trying to find some weak links in us and we had some struggles that day, so it will be imperative that we have great defensive preparation. Another thing is they are really battling for the NCAA Tournament and trying to get that berth. I know that's important for them with them hosting there in Baton Rouge. I just think it's going to be a real motivated group and a very talented group so it will be a tough game for us."
This game could also be significant in the UK record books as Mitchell, who has 137 wins in just six seasons as the head coach of the Wildcats, needs just one more to tie Terry Hall's record of 138 wins set from 1980-87. His winning percentage of 69.9 percent (137-59) already ranks first. Mitchell was just the third coach in UK Hoops history to record 100 wins and he earned that milestone in just 151 games, becoming the second-fastest coach to reach 100 victories.
The Wildcats look to carry the positive momentum from their last game vs. No. 10/13 Texas A&M into Sunday's matchup at LSU. Against the Aggies, junior DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) came up big as she flirted with a triple-double. The 6-foot-3 center charted her 20th career double-double, including eighth at UK with 12 points and 12 rebounds, while also swatting a school-record seven blocks. Mathies scored all 13 of her points in the decisive second half, and junior guard Kastine Evans (Salem, Conn.) scored a season-high tying 12 points in her fourth consecutive starting assignment. Walker had nine points and 11 rebounds as UK swept the series with A&M and charted its fourth win over a ranked opponent of the season.
Sunday will mark the 42nd meeting between the teams. LSU leads the all-time series 30-11, including a 12-3 advantage when playing in Baton Rouge. The Wildcats fell last season in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, 61-51. UK's last win in Baton Rouge was Jan. 28, 2010 (71-62).
Overall this season, Mathies leads UK and ranks second in the league (conference games only) in scoring, averaging 18.1 points per game. The preseason SEC Player of the Year currently ranks in the top 15 of six SEC statistical categories, including second in scoring (18.1) and 3-point field goal percentage (.448). She also ranks in the top 10 of 13 career lists at UK, including third in scoring (1,843) and steals (295). She needs just three points to move up to No. 2 on UK's all-time scoring list. Mathies is the only player in UK history to accumulate over 1,800 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 250 steals in her career.
In the front court, Stallworth and Walker are giving Kentucky a dynamic inside presence this season. The duo combines to average 22.2 points, 14.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game.
LSU (16-10, 7-6), tied for fifth in the SEC standing with Vanderbilt, is coming off a short turnaround after defeating Missouri in overtime on Friday afternoon, 78-74. The Lady Tigers' Thursday night matchup against Mizzou was scheduled for a 9 p.m. EST tip but was postponed until Friday at 2 p.m. EST due to a massive snow storm and a declared state of emergency in the state of Missouri. Close to 10 inches of snow fell in the Columbia area. Junior Theresa Plaisance scored a game-high 21 points and LSU hit 10-of-12 free throws in overtime to escape with the win.
Overall, Plaisance, a 6-foot-5 center, leads the Tigers in almost every statistical category, including scoring (17.7 ppg), rebounding (7.9 rpg), field goal percentage (.460) and blocks (2.8 bpg). She ranks second in the SEC in scoring and leads the league and ranks 13th nationally in blocks per game.
Two other players average in double-figure scoring in senior guard Adrienne Webb (14.1) and freshman guard Danielle Ballard (12.5). Senior guard Bianca Lutley follows close behind with 9.8 ppg.
Media Opportunity - Feb. 22, 2013
"This is a very important game for us Sunday in Baton Rouge. LSU has an outstanding team and we will have to prepare well to beat them. We had a tough game with them here in Lexington. The final margin was not indicative of how difficult the game was. We will have our hands full, another really tough road test for us and we will have to respond to get a victory."
On what makes LSU tough…
"They are very, very talented and they have some explosive scorers at really three positions with Theresa Plaisance, and two of their guards, (Adrienne Webb) and (Danielle Ballard) are really, really just difficult players to deal with. They are three of the better offensive players in the league. They can put it on the floor and so I thought the first game they did a great job in trying to find some weak links in us and we had some struggles that day, so it will be imperative that we have great defensive preparation. Another thing is they are really battling for the NCAA Tournament and trying to get that berth. I know that's important for them with them hosting there in Baton Rouge. I just think it's going to be a real motivated group and a very talented group so it will be a tough game for us."
On if DeNesha Stallworth has turned the corner…
"We sure hope so. She's played well, certainly was inconsistent there for a stretch. It's such a long season, it's amazing if a player doesn't have some type of struggle throughout the season. She responded at the right time, we certainly needed that kind of performance Monday night. I would think DeNesha and all of our team, you should leave that game understanding what you accomplished and how well you played and I would think that would give you a lot of confidence."
On ifDeNesha plays too nice for the SEC…
"I think what DeNesha struggles with is just confidence in herself. For all of us that can watch her, we think that's silly because she is so dynamic and so talented, we're not inside her brain and inside her head and that's why they are young people and they are growing and they are hopefully here at Kentucky to learn how to have confidence in themselves and how to accomplish things and what is important when you get done playing basketball. She's done a great job for us. I think she is in the right place to grow as a person and she's grown a lot and we will continue to try to help her grow."
On the lift Kastine Evans has provided after being inserted in the starting lineup…
"We were having this discussion with the coaching staff and Matt Insell made a good point that he really thought the change for her starting maybe more clearly defined her importance to the team. It was a great change for her just like we thought it was a great change for Bria (Goss). The same thing was true for Kastine. She seems to have more sense of a purpose and she has played much better since she has been in the starting lineup. We were trying to get Bria going, we thought we had Kastine playing pretty well and she was able to elevate her game, so it's really been a good result for us with that change. Kastine is a player that we are really fortunate she decided to come to Kentucky. She's a winner in every way imaginable and she is playing great basketball for us right now and playing with a lot of confidence."
On if giving a different look in the lineup throws off the opponent's game plan…
"Maybe initially when we first made the change it may have had some effect but I think really the net result is both players are playing better so we are playing better. I think that is really the story with the lineup changes. Both players responded to it in a way where they are performing much better than when the situation was reversed. I just think you are getting better play from both players and that's improving our team."
On the importantance of winning the SEC…
"To me it's, in my mind, extremely important because what we are trying to do here is become the best women's basketball program in the country and when we say program that means year-after-year we are striving and achieving excellence and so for us as a program that doesn't have a lot of tradition I think championships are very important. If we don't win the SEC regular season title we are still going to have a very good seed in the NCAA Tournament, we are still going to have a very good team going into the NCAA Tournament. If we are firing on all cylinders I don't think anyone is going to be jumping up and down excited to play us. From my standpoint and what we are trying to do here at Kentucky, the regular season title is within our grasp and we need to do everything we can to get it because I think it's very important and maybe more so than if you were in a different situation. Standing here thinking about that question I think it's really important and we want it badly."
On the response from Jennifer O'Neill…
"Yes, she's done better. She has practiced better, that was the whole key for her. Her energy and focus in practice started moving away from concentrating on defense and been really solid there. Being quite frankly with you, in the LSU game they really tried to pick on her defensively. Today in practice we will be addressing with her how important it is for her to start her game from a defensive mindset and it seems like it flows from there. The player that played at Missouri, I keep going back and trying to tell her, that was one of her best games and it wasn't one of her high scoring games. She was really tenacious on defense and that's what we need on Sunday. That's what we need down the stretch her if we want to be champions, we need Jennifer O'Neill operating on the defensive end."
On how the team has responded with the last few games without A'dia Mathies and DeNesha Stallworth playing much in the first half…
"You just have to believe that it gives us confidence. It certainly does from a coaching perspective it's really amazing. DeNesha and A'dia you are talking about two of the most talented players and most physically gifted players in the league and you know you win two games against two of the best teams in the league without really a normal contribution from your two most talented players and it's really remarkable. We have a good team, it seems like they understand what we need to do to win. Those were two great performances, especially the last 20 minutes of South Carolina and the full 40 against Texas A&M. We as a coaching staff are just encouraging them to build on that. They just need to build on that, we need to put every single amount of energy we can into this preparation for LSU and do everything we can to go down there and get a victory, it will be real tough but we are going to try like heck to get it."
On how much confidence he has been able to gain after building this program…
"I think if you work hard at it and you are able to surround yourself with really good people and give yourself an opportunity to compete at the highest level and you get into games that really matter and are really important. Just the fact that you are there gives you the experience and everytime you get some experience if you pay attention and learn something from it I think you feel a little bit more confident that you can handle it the next or you are at least getting yourself prepared. So as a coach just the fact that we have been here now six seasons and had all those experience and have had some successes to learn from and certainly our share of failures to learn from, I just think all of that over time builds your confidence as a coach."