No. 10/11 UK Hoops Set to Face Syracuse in Second Round Monday
March 23, 2014
LEXINGTON, Ky. – After playing one of its most complete games of the season, the Kentucky women’s basketball team earned its seventh consecutive first-round win in the NCAA Tournament with a commanding 106-60 win over Wright State on Saturday. The Wildcats will now face a sixth-seeded Syracuse in the second round Monday night in Memorial Coliseum with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line. Game time is 6:40 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and online at ESPN3. It also will be carried live on the UK IMG Sports Network with Neil Price.
Fans can follow updates on Twitter at @ukhoopcats and use the hashtag #ncaaw to talk about the game.
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Kentucky set several school and NCAA Tournament records in its 46-point win over the Raiders in the opening round. UK broke the school record and tied an NCAA record for most rebounds (67) in an NCAA Tournament game. UK’s 44 made field goals tied for the fourth-most in an NCAA Tournament game. Kentucky set school records for most points (106), rebounds (67), field goals made (44), blocked shots (12) and largest margin of victory (+46) in an NCAA Tournament game. The Wildcats shot 55.0 percent from the field, including 67.7 percent in the second half. UK also swatted a season-high 12 blocks in the game.
All 11 players scored at least two points but seven were in double figures. Junior guard Jennifer O’Neill (Bronx, N.Y.) paced the pack with 21 points off the bench. Senior forward Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) recorded her ninth double-double of the season and 20th of her career with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Her 14 rebounds were a school record for an NCAA Tournament game. Sophomore point guard Janee Thompson (Chicago) finished with 14 points, while freshman guard Linnae Harper (Chicago) added 12 points off the bench, her third straight game in double digits. Junior guard Bria Goss (Indianapolis) scored 11 points and senior forward DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) also had 11 points along with a season-high five blocks which set a school record for an NCAA Tournament game.
“We had a great day yesterday and we had a significant advantage in personnel,” UK Hoops head coacfh Matthew Mitchell said. “This game, the difference in personnel is not as great, the advantage is not as great and we have to be ready to play. We really need a good day of preparation here to get ready for Syracuse. What I see with them is a team that is able to create some turnovers in a different way than we do. They full-court press you, three-quarter court press you, they’ve got some half-court traps that we’re going to have to deal with and then the 2-3 zone, which we’ve had some success against, but it certainly hasn’t been automatic this year. There have been times where we’ve struggled against the 2-3 zone. When you think about us offensively, we really just really need to be sharp during our practice session today and see if we can transfer from yesterday, which was all man-to-man, and now tomorrow is pretty much all a zone look unless Syracuse changes something up. (I’m) trying to get the players to switch gears and their preparation is going to be important today. And then offensively, they certainly have some explosive players that pose some problems for us. They have a big presence there with (Shakeya) Leary in the middle, and she had a big day yesterday in Chattanooga and we were impressed with her. (Tasia) Butler is a great shooter and I don’t know about (Brittany) Sykes and what her health is, but she is an unbelievable player. She is very, very high-level and just explosive. It’s a really good group of players there that are talented and have won some big games, so we’ll have to be ready for them.”
The Orange enter Monday’s game with a 23-9 record after defeating Chattanooga in the first round, 59-53. The win marked their first NCAA Tournament victory in school history.
‘Cuse relied on its tough 2-3 zone defense vs. Chattanooga, as the Orange struggled shooting in the first round. Syracuse shot just 31.5 percent (17-of-54) from the field and 1-of-15 (6.7 percent) from 3-point range. SU dominated the glass, outrebounding Chattanooga, 52-36.
Sophomore guard Brittney Sykes leads the team in scoring at 16.6 points per game, while also pulling down 5.1 rebounds a contest. Sykes earned Second Team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors in leading Syracuse to the NCAA Tournament. Sophomore guard Brianna Butler is the only other player averaging double-figures at 14.5 points per game. Senior center Shakeya Leary pulls down a team-high 7.4 rebounds per game.
UK is 2-0 all-time vs. Syracuse, 1-0 in Lexington. The last meeting vs. the Orange was in 1995 in a game played in Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio. UK won 83-63. The first-ever meeting between the teams was in Memorial Coliseum on March 18, 1981 in the AIAW semifinals. UK won 87-63.
UK is 15-17 vs. teams from the current alignment of the Atlantic Coast Conference, 0-1 this season. The Wildcats fell to No. 2 Duke in Rupp Arena, 69-61, on Dec. 22, 2013.
UK is now 15-10 all-time in the Big Dance, including 11-4 under Mitchell. The best finishes for UK came in 2013, 2012, 2010 and 1982 when the Wildcats fell one win shy of the Final Four.
UK’s Tournament Central Web site, featuring complete information on tickets, parking, Lexington visitors’ guide and more, is available at http://www.ukathletics.com/ncaawbb/
Media Opportunity - March 23, 2014
Matthew Mitchell, Kentucky, Head Coach:
On Syracuse and what they do well …
“Well, we had a great day yesterday and we had a significant advantage in personnel. This game, the difference in personnel is not as great, the advantage is not as great and we have to be ready to play. We really need a good day of preparation here to get ready for Syracuse. What I see with them is a team that is able to create some turnovers in a different way than we do. They full-court press you, three-quarter court press you, they’ve got some half-court traps that we’re going to have to deal with and then the 2-3 zone, which we’ve had some success against, but it certainly hasn’t been automatic this year. There have been times where we’ve struggled against the 2-3 zone. When you think about us offensively, we really just really need to be sharp during our practice session today and see if we can transfer from yesterday, which was all man-to-man, and now tomorrow is pretty much all a zone look unless Syracuse changes something up. (I’m) trying to get the players to switch gears and their preparation is going to be important today. And then offensively, they certainly have some explosive players that pose some problems for us. They have a big presence there with (Shakeya) Leary in the middle, and she had a big day yesterday in Chattanooga and we were impressed with her. (Tasia) Butler is a great shooter and I don’t know about (Brittany) Sykes and what her health is, but she is an unbelievable player. She is very, very high-level and just explosive. It’s a really good group of players there that are talented and have won some big games, so we’ll have to be ready for them.”
On how he prepares for Syracuse with the injury concern of Brittany Sykes …
“Well, with this short period of time, we’re just going to prepare like she’s going to play. I don’t know if this point in time with our team that we make it totally about the opponent. We really try and have a good plan that we can execute whether she’s playing or not. You may change it slightly. You may and try and do some things in the game a little bit differently if she’s not there. She’s a huge part of their team and she is a very explosive player and so certainly their dynamic will change. As far as our preparation. I think its wisest if we prepare like she’s going to play unless something comes out and they make some type of statement that she is definitely out and there’s no way, no how that she’s playing. I don’t think we’re going to get that word before practice, so we’ll prepare for Brittney Sykes.”
On the team’s performance against Wright State …
“I don’t know if there was anything in the game yesterday that I didn’t believe we were capable of. I was saying yesterday, that I was trying to go into yesterday’s game with the expectation that we needed to win and as a coach, I needed to be there as a coach to encourage them to do whatever they needed to do to win. I didn’t go in thinking we were going to win by 20, or 40, or anything like that. I sort of showed up with the mindset yesterday of let me do my part for the victory, let me coach the best that I can and lets see what happens. Nothing that they did really surprised me, but I was extremely pleased and grateful to the players that they came out and executed the gameplan. I think one thing that’s helping us right now is that we have a pretty good level of focus, so then that allows someone like Azia Biship and Jelleah Sydney to come in and you don’t have that big drop off from DeNesha (Stallworth) and Samarie (Walker) if they’re focused and energetic. Now we can get back to running and running players at you in waves and trying to ware you down and trying to make it a game of attriticion. Back in January, we weren’t focused and we weren’t confident and we weren’t able to throw a lot of people at you because we weren’t playing that well. I think the biggest takeaway for me yesterday is that if we can be in that mental place tomorrow, it can be really good fir us because I think we need this to be a fast-paced game, we need this to be a game where depth becomes a factor, and the only way that you can make depth become a factor is if your bench plays well. Yesterday it was good to see everybody in the same spot mentally where you didn’t have a big swing defensively when people came off the bench and replaced each other. That was one of the really good things about yesterday.”
On if he’s worried about a shooting letdown after yesterday …
“I tried my best to get into a positive place. I worry about a whole lot of stuff and then I try and stop myself and I try and get to a spot to where I don’t worry about it. What we’ll focus on today is we’ll try to focus on what we can control. We try to talk to the players all the time that you can’t let good execution, on-balance shots that don’t go in, you can’t let that affect you. We try to not and focus and put a big number on percentages and I would think that the team would only have that kind of game if they showed up tomorrow for some reason thinking that because we’re in Memorial (Coliseum) that it’s automatically going to happen. That would be the thing as a coach that as I coach, I’ll try and make sure that mentally they’re sharp and know that we’ve got to go out and play tomorrow night, and we’ve got to play tomorrow night. Saturday really doesn’t really come into play. We’re not going to shoot 57 percent because we did on Saturday. And we didn’t shoot 57 percent yesterday because we fooled around. We did some really good thing. We went to the offensive glass, we got some put-backs, things like that. I’ll be trying to get the team to a spot to where they come out with great focus and trying to do the right things that will help them shoot well.”
Samarie Walker, Kentucky Forward
On the precise game against Wright St. yesterday …
“I wouldn’t say I am amazed, I am proud of my team we have come out and played hard. It’s something that we’ve been working on all season but were finally starting to click and we knew that was what we were supposed to do and that’s what we did.”
On her play against a 2-3 zone …
“Yeah it’s a little frustrating for inside players because we don’t know where were going to get the ball, we have to work just a little bit harder than man. We might not always get the ball on the block which is where we want to get the ball, it’s a lot more movement for us but I think by now we should be used to it because that is what we got played most by in the SEC.”
On rebounding against a 2-3 zone…
“For me I wouldn’t say it’s either, I don’t think we crash the boards as hard when teams play zone on us/ We’ve been working on that a lot. For us playing zone, we have learned triangle. I don’t know if other teams do that, but yeah, it’s a little different.”
Jennifer O’Neill, Kentucky, Guard
On the 2-3 zone of Syracuse …
“Yeah I perk up a little bit but I think it should be easier for us because it’s just one thing we have to focus on, it’s the 2-3 zone. We don’t have to worry about them playing man or trying to switch it to a 3-2 or stuff like that. We know what they’re going to play and now we just have to go out and perform and execute.”
On being a 3-point shooter against a 2-3 zone …
“I have the same feeling when the team is going to play man.”
On watching the second game and their impressions of Syracuse …
“Yeah we got to watch some of the game and I feel like we could get the ball into the middle of the paint and short corners and then we’ll have success with scoring the ball.”