Nov. 12, 2013
LEXINGTON, Ky. – No. 7/8 Kentucky women’s basketball begins a three-game homestand when it plays host to first-time opponent Georgia Southern at 11 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Nov. 13 in Memorial Coliseum. It will mark the home opener for the Wildcats and “Class of 2020 Day” as over 2,000 sixth-graders, and their teachers, from the high school class of 2020 will be in attendance. The game will be carried live on the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price and a live video stream will be available through the subscription video portion of www.UKAthletics.com. Fans can also follow Twitter updates on @UKHoopCats.
“This game has become an important event for us each year to have this early tipoff where we can get some Fayette County student on campus and get them exposed to the University of Kentucky,” UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “This really has become an exciting event for our university. It gets future students on campus and helps us show them what a special place Kentucky is. So we are excited about that.”
The Wildcats (2-0) look to open their season at 3-0 after capturing their first two wins on the road. In front of a raucous, sold-out crowd in McCann Arena in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. on Friday, the Wildcats overcame a slow start to win their season opener over Marist, 75-61. Senior guard Kastine Evans (Salem, Conn.) recorded a team-high 15 points and eight rebounds, while senior forward Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) charted three steals and a game-high 11 rebounds. Point guards Janee Thompson (Chicago) and Jennifer O’Neill (Bronx, N.Y.) scored 13 and 11 points, respectively and junior guard Bria Goss (Indianapolis) added 10 points.
Against first-time foe Wagner, the Wildcats again started out slow but used a 27-3 run in the first half to break open the game. UK cruised to a 96-57 win over the Seahawks paced by senior forward DeNesha Stallworth’s (Richmond, Calif.) 22nd career double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds. Goss followed with 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting and O’Neill contributed 11 points and five assists. All 12 players scored at least two points as Kentucky improved to 21-0 in the Matthew Mitchell era when scoring 90 points or more.
The Wildcats have never met Georgia Southern but are 11-0 all-time vs. teams from the Southern Conference.
“For this game, we are playing a really quality opponent in Georgia Southern,” Mitchell said. “They are a team that impresses me. They have very strong guard play and I am really, really impressed with their starting guards. They are very, very good players and their postgame was extremely active on the offensive glass against their opening opponent. We will have to be sharp. It is a very quick turnaround. The players were off yesterday and we have had one day to prepare for Georgia Southern and then the early tip. It will really make our mental preparation very, very important for this game. We would love to get the season started off at home with a big victory and we are going to work hard to see if we can get that done.”
Georgia Southern (0-1) fell in its season opener at Auburn on Saturday, 69-59. Four players scored in double figures led by senior guard MiMi DuBose with 15 points. DuBose is the team’s leading returning scorer after averaging 12.4 points in 2012-13.
The Eagles return nine letterwinners and four starters off last season’s squad that finished eighth in the Southern Conference with a 6-14 mark. Head Coach Chris Vozab enters her second season at the helm after leading the Eagles to an overall 8-24 record during her first campaign.
UK is 35-4 all-time in home openers and has won four in a row. The Cats are 372-141 (72.5) all-time in Memorial Coliseum, including an 82-13 (86.3) record under Coach Matthew Mitchell.
The Wildcat have won 38 consecutive regular season non-conference games at home, dating back to Dec. 19, 2008.
Important Parking Information:
Due to the game time and regular University functions, all surrounding parking lots will NOT be available for use unless you have a valid UK Parking pass.
All fans and media without valid UK parking passes attending the game are encouraged to park directly at the K-Overflow Lot, located across Alumni Drive from Commonwealth Stadium. A free shuttle service will begin at 9:30 a.m. to take guests across campus (approximately 10-15 minutes) to the front of Memorial Coliseum. Shuttle service will continue until 11:15 a.m. and then resume 1.5 hours after tip-off at the front of Memorial Coliseum until 1 hour post-game.
A limited amount of space will also be available in Parking Structure #5 (next to Kennedy’s Bookstore) on a first-come, first-served basis until full. Guests who park in Parking Structure #5 are asked to bring their white parking voucher pulled from the dispenser upon entry, and exchange it for a pink voucher at any entrance to Memorial Coliseum. The pink voucher will allow you to exit free of charge. Shuttle service will also be available beginning at 9:30 a.m. until 11:15 a.m. The shuttle pick up location is across the pedestrian sky bridge (accessible from the 3rd floor of Parking Structure #5). Shuttle service will resume 1.5 hours after tip off until 1 hour post-game. All shuttles are handicap accessible.
For complete information regarding these special parking arrangements, please visit www.ukathletics.com/wbbgameday.
Media Opportunity - November 12, 2013
Opening Statement …
“This game has become an important event for us each year to have this early tipoff where we can get some Fayette County students on campus and get them exposed to the University of Kentucky. This really has become an exciting event for our university. It gets our future students on campus and helps us show them what a special place Kentucky is. So we are excited about that.
For this game, we are playing a really quality opponent in Georgia Southern. They are a team that impresses me. They have very strong guard play and I am really, really impressed with their starting guards. They are very, very good players and their post-game was extremely active on the offensive glass against their opening opponent. We will have to be sharp. It is a very quick turnaround. The players were off yesterday and we have had one day to prepare for Georgia Southern and then the early tip. It will really make our mental preparation very, very important for this game. We would love to get the season started off at home with a big victory and we are going to work hard to see if we can get that done.”
On what he has learned about his team so far …
“I thought that the opening weekend was great to get two wins, obviously, but we were able to get into a couple of hostile environments and perform well. We are nowhere close to where we need to be, certainly a work in progress. But some of the intangible things of just being around the players on a trip like that and spending time with them, you learn they are a good group of young women and a lot of fun to be around when their attitudes are right and they certainly were this weekend. It was good just to spend time with the team this weekend. I thought we got into some tough spots where the crowds were against us, especially in the Marist game when they cut it back to six in the second half. That was a great response by our team to show that we wouldn’t buckle under that kind of pressure. Very great sellout crowd at Wagner and they jumped out to an early lead on us and I think we kept our poise well in those situations. I also found out we have a long way to go and not as sharp as we need to be but it is still very early and we will just keep trying to get better every day in practice. It was a good opening weekend for us.”
On if he feels he has six starters on this team …
“What we like out of the point guard position is that there be no drop off when we substitute. That is a luxury to have and I think we are in a spot we can have that. Two really good players playing the same position and working hard to become one really good point guard. That has been really fun to see develop and it is fun to have that opportunity. Both Jennifer (O’Neill) and Janee (Thompson) will have to embrace the challenge of complementing each other and they look to me that they are excited to do that. That point guard position could be a very strong one for our team.”
On how much Jennifer and Janee push each other in practice …
“Well, what I have tried to talk to them about is really becoming one player and spending a lot of time together, not necessarily competing against each other to win a job or anything, that is not the concept. The concept is both of them playing their best and if each of those players will push each other in preparation and each of them will push each other in, not only practice in physical preparation, but in mental preparation and spending a lot of time together. They are sitting beside each other on the bus on the road trip and on the plane and talking about those things. They are just really trying to become one mind at the point guard position and being very competitive, but not with each other, trying to help the other bring the best out. I think when we do that we are going to have a really good point guard at Kentucky, it is just going to be two people. The stats were good in the opening weekend.”
On if that is his way to avoid a point guard controversy …
“We have been so familiar here with playing people. We’ve tried to dispense that a while back, whether we were recruiting players and telling them a lot of players play and a lot of players play minutes. If you are thinking you are coming here to play 35-36 minutes, we will have either radically changed our style of play or you are super woman and you don’t need to come out ever. It is not to avoid any controversy. It is to get the best out of our team. It is such a unique opportunity that not many teams have, a lot of times you are just hoping the backup can come in and steady the ship. That is sort of the goal. Neither one of these kids would hold the ship steady, they can move it forward fast. We are not trying to avoid any controversy. If their minds are set that starting is a significant importance or Jennifer played 25 minutes, Janee played 19 – I don’t even look at those things. I don’t care. And if they don’t care and are just focused on being the best point guard they can be then our minds aren’t on any controversial subject. Those things pop up if you are attaching any significance to starting.”
On the team’s shooting performance to start the season …
“I think we have good shooters. I think the shooting could be better. I think our post players left some points out there that we could have gotten. I thought the perimeter shooting was strong and that is what I had said. I thought the exhibition (shooting performance) was an anomaly. I didn’t think that was what we had been seeing in practice. I think we have the capability of making seven or eight 3s a game and that is where we would like to be. We made seven on Sunday afternoon and I think we have those kinds of shooters. Again, both of those point guards can really shoot the 3 well. We will see, but I think this team can be a very good shooting team. I think when our offense develops and takes advantage of all the opportunities we are not right now, because it is not familiar with us, then the team can really grow offensively.”
On what they need to get better at …
“It is just becoming tighter in all of your defensively responsibilities and rotations and things like that. Our press is not where we hope it will be. All of those things take time and repetition. You need a lot of reps to get that were it needs to be. Early in the season, you are just working so much on big-picture things like trying to get an offensive philosophy and defensive philosophy in that I just think for our team that every practice is a precious opportunity to help us get closer. I don’t think it is one magical thing that needs to happen, it just needs to be incremental progress every day in practice. Like I told the players, there was a lot of practice time leading up to Marist, but now you go to Marist on Friday, very short practice on Saturday, game on Sunday, off on Monday, very short practice today and another game tomorrow. You will just see some things that won’t be as sharp because you don’t have as much practice time. Every practice we get I think will help us get closer to the team we want to become. It is just being really solid with this team in a lot of areas. When we get there, we will be very good.”
On the “Class of 2020” game and playing in front of all the sixth-graders…
“It is fun and typically I think we get the crowd into the game, but (the kids) get us into the game by cheering so loud. We could miss a shot and they’re still excited by just being there, so it makes it really fun.”
On the quick turnaround from this weekend and playing a game in the morning…
“With us having early morning practices I don’t think it’s going to affect us that much having an 11 o’clock game. Getting up at 6 a.m. isn’t easy, but it prepares us for stuff like this game.”
On the “Class of 2020” game and playing in front of all the grade school kids…
“I always love the game with the kids coming because even though they don’t necessarily know what’s going on, they are really just cheering for us as Kentucky because that’s who they’ve grown up cheering for. Obviously, at halftime and at the end of the game when they start counting down is really funny. It’s really enjoyable seeing them having a lot of fun.”
On how much it helps the team when she is another scoring threat…
“For me, it was really just working hard and getting in the gym and becoming really confident. We knew coming into the season that we were going to have a team that needed more than one scorer. I think what has helped our team so much is that we are really unselfish and that’s kudos to everyone on the team because we are getting open shots and knocking them down. I don’t think necessarily that I wasn’t scoring before because we had other scorers and there were times where I had to play another role. The new season, the new system is opening a lot more opportunities for all of us.”
On how Jennifer O’Neill and Janee Thompson have shared the point guard responsibilities…
“I think on the court they are very competitive because they both want to be really great players. The only way for them to get better is to compete. I know there have been times when Janee, Jen and I have been in the gym playing one-on-one-on-one and I can just see their attitude vs. each other. They are trying to make each other better and kudos to their character. They don’t get selfish because one or the other is starting. They cheer each other on all the time and they are roommates so they’ve had that bond since Janee has been here. It’s very important they keep that relationship rather than having a selfish attitude.”