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UK Hoops Meets Top-Seeded UConn in Elite Eight




March 31, 2013

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BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -  The seventh-ranked Kentucky women's basketball team finds itself in a familiar territory when it meets third-ranked Connecticut on Monday, April 1 in the Bridgeport Regional Finals. Game time in the Webster Bank Arena is 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN and UK IMG Sports Radio Network.

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NCCA Tournament
No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 1 Connecticut
Mon., April 1 - 7:30 p.m. ET
Bridgeport, Conn.
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | UConn Get Acrobat Reader
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For the second straight season, the second-seeded Wildcats will meet the top-seeded Huskies with a trip to the Final Four on the line. Last year, UK fell 80-65 in the Elite Eight as UConn shot 51.1 percent from the floor, compared to UK's 31.1 percent, and outrebounded the Cats 40-26.

"It is really, really exciting to have a chance to go to the Final Four," UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "I think the opponent in the NCAA Tournament for us has been for us to try and play our best. That's who we've been trying to measure it against, and now our opponent tomorrow is outstanding and excellent. You should be playing somebody like that to go to the Final Four. I think anybody we would play in this round was going to be really good, have our respect. Connecticut certainly has our respect. We think they are a terrific team. I think the focus still needs to remain on us and we need to try and play our very best tomorrow, give our very best effort, and that's what we've tried to do through this tournament."

Tickets can be purchased by calling the Webster Bank Arena at (203) 345-2400 or online at www.websterbankarena.com. All session adult tickets are $54.50 for side and $39.50 for end zone seats. Students and seniors are $49.50 for sides and $24.50 for end zones. Single-session tickets are $34.50 sides and $24.50 end zones, while student and senior tickets are $29.50 sides and $19.50 end zones.

The Wildcats (30-5) earned their second straight and third trip to the Elite Eight in the last four years after an impressive team effort over one of the nation's best players in senior Elena Delle Donne and the No. 15/16 Blue Hens. Ten players scored at least two points, led by redshirt sophomore point guard Jennifer O'Neill (Bronx, N.Y.) with 19 points and senior All-America candidate A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) with 16 points and season-high tying nine rebounds. Delle Donne led all scorers with 33 points on 11-of-23 shooting and a perfect 11-of-11 from the free-throw line.

With the Wildcats clinging to a two-point lead after Delaware had fought all the way back from 16 points down, junior guard Kastine Evans, a native of Salem, Conn., located just 65 miles from Bridgeport, nailed a wide open 3-pointer at the top of the key with 2:21 to play, giving the Cats the cushion they needed. UK withstood the Blue Hens' pressure the rest of the way and held on for the 69-62 win.

UK has compiled an outstanding resume en route to one the most successful seasons in school history. The Wildcats have won a school-record 30 games and have advanced to the NCAA Tournament for a school-record fourth consecutive season. UK, now 14-9 all-time in the Big Dance, looks to earn its first trip to the Final Four in school history.

Mathies, the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and candidate for every major national player of the year award, has once again paced UK to its record-breaking season. The 5-foot-9 senior guard leads the Wildcats in scoring (16.1 points per game), 3-point field goals made (71) and 3-point field goal percentage (.418). She is second on the team in steals (66) and assists (79).  She has reached double-figure scoring in 33-of-35 games this season and is just the fifth player in UK history, men or women, to chart 2,000 or more career points. She joins Valerie Still (2,763, 1979-83), Dan Issel (2,138, 1967-70), Kenny "Sky" Walker (2,080, 1982-86), and Jack "Goose" Givens (2,038, 1974-78) on that elite list.

Following Mathies is 6-3 center DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) with 12.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Despite playing just 13 minutes vs. Delaware with foul trouble, the junior averages 12.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in three career NCAA Tournament games. Also playing well in the Big Dance is O'Neill who averages 9.0 points in five career games and has netted double digits in all three this season.

Standing in the way of UK's first Final Four is top-seeded Connecticut. The Huskies (32-4) enter Monday's game coming off a 76-50 win over Maryland on Saturday. Freshmen Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck combined for 35 points as the Huskies are participating in their eighth straight regional final.

UConn has four players who average 10 or more points per game, led by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis' 17.7 points per game. She currently leads the nation in 3-point field goal percentage at .489 (109-223) and holds the school record for 3-pointers made in a single season.

Following Mosqueda-Lewis is 6-5 center Stefanie Dolson with 14.1 points per game and a team-high 7.1 rebounds per contest.  She currently ranks second nationally in field goal percentage, shooting .596 percent (205-of-344). Freshman forward Breanna Stewart and senior guard Kelly Faris round out the double-digit scoring with 12.8 and 10.0 ppg, respectively.

This marks the fifth meeting between Kentucky and Connecticut, the second in the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats are 1-3 all-time vs. the Huskies after falling last season in the Elite Eight to UConn, 80-65.

Media Opportunity - March 31, 2013

Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

On confidence in post players going into UConn game after frustrating performance in SEC Championship contest and the challenge presented by the Huskies' front line... It's a challenge and I think the advantage that we have coming out of that game is we saw how we performed and then we had a little time to work on it. We had a little time to try to sharpen up and address what was frustrating to us in that championship game. The best thing for you is to have a little time after a period of disappointment. We've worked real hard in the time that we've had, and I feel like we learned a lot from that game. What we've been able to work on will benefit us certainly tomorrow.

On the extra motivation and excitement of having another shot to face UConn and a chance to go to the Final Four...
It is really, really exciting to have a chance to go to the Final Four. I think the opponent in the NCAA Tournament for us has been for us to try and play our best. That's who we've been trying to measure it against, and now our opponent tomorrow is outstanding and excellent. You should be playing somebody like that to go to the Final Four. I think anybody we would play in this round was going to be really good, have our respect. Connecticut certainly has our respect. We think they are a terrific team. I think the focus still needs to remain on us and we need to try and play our very best tomorrow, give our very best effort, and that's what we've tried to do through this tournament.

On the preparation for UConn...
In your defensive preparation, you must prepare differently because it's two totally different offenses. The issue with Delaware was trying to address the points of entry for their offense as it pertained to Elena [Della Donne]. So many times it was able to run through, so you had to identify those. With Connecticut, you are certainly not focused on one player. You're focused more on how their team is getting involved in different things. We have to work really, really hard defensively from a fundamental stand point to have success against a team like Connecticut because they are so solid offensively. We won't be focused so much on one single player like we were with Delaware so the preparation will be different.

On building Kentucky into a national women's basketball power...
What that means to me is consistency over time and you perform well for an extended period of time. I think our sample size is still just so small with where we are. That's why I say we're making progress towards that. We want to be the best program in the country, that's the goal. That doesn't happen overnight. That doesn't happen by making one Final Four. One Final Four is an outstanding achievement and it is something that we are working hard toward getting to and tomorrow is a huge step there. We're 40 minutes away. It'd be a great achievement, but as far as that solidifying anything. I think we need to keep working. We need to do it year after year if we want to be in that conversation.

On the SEC getting back to national prominence...
We had a quarter of the sweet 16. The conference is healthy and it's good. I know everybody in the conference that loves the conference and takes pride in the great tradition in women's basketball in the conference would love to see us have teams back in the Final Four. I think it's real important for us not only at Kentucky but I know the conference would love to see that. It's a great league and it has some really good teams and I think we will get back there real soon.


 

 

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