Nov. 20, 2013
LEXINGTON, Ky. - The seventh-ranked Kentucky women's basketball team concludes its three-game homestand on Thursday, Nov. 21, with a matchup vs. Lipscomb at 7 p.m. ET in Memorial Coliseum. UK will look to improve to 5-0 for the first time since 2011-12 and fourth time under head coach Matthew Mitchell. Fans can listen to the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price or follow Twitter updates on @UKHoopCats. Live streaming video is available to members of the subscription video portion of www.UKathletics.com.
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. Season tickets are also still available for just $65. Lower-level chair back seating ($80) is sold out.
During the Wildcats' next two home games, Thursday vs. Lipscomb at 7 p.m. ET and Wednesday, Nov. 27 vs. Bradley at Noon, fans are asked to bring unused toiletry items travel size or regular size (tooth brush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant) to either game. The items will be donated to Bluegrass Hospitality Group's Thanksgiving Dinner for the less fortunate, which will take place on Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, Nov. 28) from 11-2 p.m. ET at Malone's and Sal's on Tates Creek Road.
Fans who donate items will receive a voucher for a free box of popcorn with their donation. Fans can bring their toiletry items to any of the UK Marketing gazebos located inside Memorial Coliseum.
"We are excited to be back in the Coliseum against a good opponent in Lipscomb," Mitchell said. "We have a great amount of respect for their team and they are very well coached and we will have to be ready for that challenge. I just want to encourage a big crowd tomorrow night. We are trying to gather items to help people that might not be as fortunate as we are and any unused toiletry items that you can bring to the game to help people with the cold winter months headed this way (would be great). We are running a promotion here to help people in our community. Any toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, deodorant, anything that you can find that might help someone that is less-fortunate than all of us who will be at the game tomorrow night we would be very, very appreciate of that. We ask our fans to participate and we know that you will."
The Wildcats (4-0) are coming off a 96-74 win over Central Michigan on Sunday. Six players hit the double-digit mark for the second straight game, paced by senior forward and All-America candidate DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.0 with a season-high 21 points. Sophomore point guard Janee Thompson (Chicago) registered career highs in minutes played (28), points (17), field goals attempted (12) and steals (6), while tying her career high in rebounds (4). Senior guard Kastine Evans (Salem, Conn.) finished with 13 points and a season-high tying three assists and senior forward Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) notched her first double-double of the season and 12th of her career with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Junior Jennifer O'Neill (Bronx, N.Y.) scored 11 points off the bench and junior center Azia Bishop (Toledo, Ohio) finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and a career-high five blocks.
UK has scored 90-plus points in three straight games. It marks the first time since the 1990-91 season UK has netted 90 or more points in three straight games when the Cats opened the season with four wins over 90 points - Kent State (114-83), Duquesne (101-56), Northern Kentucky (97-79) and Ohio State (107-73). The Wildcats have also dished out 20-plus assists in three straight games for the first time since the 1989-90 season vs. Stetson (24), Dayton (24) and Cincinnati (24).
Overall, Stallworth leads the Wildcats in scoring with 15.3 points per game. Walker is the team's leading rebounder with 9.0 rebounds per game and is shooting a team-high 65.4 percent (17-of-26) from the field. Evans leads the way behind the arc, netting 50.0 percent of her attempts (8-of-16).
Located in Nashville, Tenn., Lipscomb is 0-3 after losses to Morehead State (82-77), UAB (70-54) and Belmont (68-52). Redshirt sophomore Ashley Southern is one of two players averaging a double-double through three games with 17.7 points and 16.0 rebounds per game.
Sophomore Alex Banks is the team's leading returning scorer and rebounder after averaging 8.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game as a freshman. She scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the lone game she played this season. She has missed two games due to injury.
The Lady Bisons went 3-26 last season, including a 2-16 mark in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Lipscomb returns six letterwinners and three starters off last season's squad.
"Lipscomb is a team that is going to try and use their skill level to make some plays against us and we have to work really hard defensively and communicate tomorrow," Mitchell explained. "They have some really good set-actions in the halfcourt and really make good decisions with the basketball and have a player right now that is averaging a double-double. We will have to be ready for them and we have had two good days of practice and preparation and we need to take the floor tomorrow night with a lot of enthusiasm and energy and we have a good 40 minutes of Kentucky basketball tomorrow night to get a victory."
UK is 1-0 all-time vs. Lipscomb and 17-5 all-time vs. teams from the Atlantic Sun. This marks the first meeting between the two programs in Lexington.
The Wildcats have now won 14 straight regular season non-conference games and 40 straight regular season games vs. non-conference opponents at home. The Cats own a 374-141 (72.6) mark in Memorial Coliseum, including an 84-13 (86.6) record under Matthew Mitchell.
For parking information, please visit www.ukathletics.com/wbbgameday.
Media Opportunity - November 20, 2013
Opening Statement ...
"We are excited to be back in the Coliseum against a good opponent in Lipscomb. We have a great amount of respect for their team and they are very well coached and we will have to be ready for that challenge. Before we talk about the game, I just want to encourage a big crowd tomorrow night. We are trying to gather items to help people that might not be as fortunate as we are and any unused toiletry items that you can bring to the game to help people with the cold winter months headed this way (would be great). We are running a promotion here to help people in our community. Any toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, deodorant, anything that you can find that might help someone that is less-fortunate than all of us who will be at the game tomorrow night we would be very, very appreciate of that. We ask our fans to participate and we know that you will.
Lipscomb is a team that is going to try and use their skill level to make some plays against us and we have to work really hard defensively and communicate tomorrow. They have some really good set-actions in the halfcourt and really make good decisions with the basketball and have a player right now that is averaging a double-double. We will have to be ready for them and we have had two good days of practice and preparation and we need to take the floor tomorrow night with a lot of enthusiasm and energy and we have a good 40 minutes of Kentucky basketball tomorrow night to get a victory."
On the team's schedule going forward and what the team is wanting to get down in this homestretch ...
"For us it is just about the process of daily improvement and trying to really stay focused on what each day holds. Today it was practice and preparation for Lipscomb, it was scouting and all of the things that went in to preparing for this game. It is just about getting better today and I think that when this team does that and they can just pile good practice after good practice on top of one another, I just think they are going to end up in a really good spot. We certainly as coaches know what is coming and we are trying to get the team prepared. It will be a very tough stretch in December, but we are just trying to get ready for that by doing a good job today with what we have right in front of us. The team is completely focused on tomorrow night's game and trying to get another victory in the Coliseum."
On the team's response to Samantha Drake's injury and the team losing two post players this season ...
"I have been really proud of Samantha, she has responded with a very positive attitude and that is what she needs. The only thing we can do know is prepare every day to get her into a position to get back on that court. It won't be this season, but she can get back on the court next season. Right now our focus is getting ready for surgery and that is a process unto itself just trying to strengthen all of the muscles around the knee and get the swelling reduced to have a successful surgery. We have some of the best people in the world here to get that done for us here at UK. She needs a positive attitude and she has one. The coaches and the team will continue to support her and make sure that it is not an isolated feeling of being injured and not on the court. She is at every practice and is engaged and involved and that is where she needs to be. We have proved that you can bounce back from this injury successfully and that is what we plan on happening to Samantha Drake.
Kyvin Goodin-Rogers is progressing very nicely. She was back in some non-contact stuff today in practice and that is very encouraging for her. When you have these setbacks you must take advantage of the opportunity to learn the lesson. We don't know why these things happen. You never know why these things happen, but you have to learn the lesson that is there and you only do that by positive attitude and moving forward in a positive way. Both of those kids are doing that and I am proud of the team because they are rallying around them and helping them a lot. It is a good atmosphere from that standpoint."
On being down two in the post and the play of Azia Bishop ...
"I will tell you where we are so fortunate. We are fortunate that Azia is playing well, but we had six post players that can play and had talent and could really go. Now, we have four that can play and that is a good situation to be in as well. In my mind, all four of them are playing quiet well for what they do. They all have different roles but for what they do they are doing a great job. Azia is one of those players in particular that I am encouraged by her progress and I just want her to continue to make that progress. We have had some periods or progress followed by some steps back at times. This has been some sustained progress and that is where we need to be and where we have to stay with Azia. We have to keep her progressing. She seems to be in a great spot mentally and emotionally and those are keys to you being able to go out and really turn loose and let your physical gifts shine. Really happy that she is playing well, but our post group is very energetic and hits the boards and plays tough defense. I think that can be a real key to our success."
On whether this can be a better offensive rebounding team than recent teams ...
"Yeah, we have some very aggressive players. One thing that's helped us is we've been able to get the point guards, Jennifer (O'Neill) and Janee (Thompson), are getting back to get our defense set and the other four are playing to the glass and Kastine Evans and Bria Goss will go to the glass and that's what really boosts you up. Your post players, you know, are around the bucket a lot and can get some offensive rebounds, but when you start getting your guards on that offensive backboard, I think that's what kind of transforms you. And then the two newcomers that we brought in, Makayla (Epps) and Linnae (Harper), those are natural habits for them. They were naturally good offensive rebounders, so that helps that transition there. They've struggled in other areas, but that's a good thing for them. So I do think this can be a very strong offensive rebounding team."
On the balance of this team ...
"Well, the thing that's been great is DeNesha (Stallworth) attracts so much attention sometimes it's hard to get her shots. We need to do a better job of making sure she gets the most shots. I think that's where we need to be. Last game she only shot it eight times, made six and then 9-of-10 from the free-throw line, so it was a very productive, efficient game. So as a coach, you look at that and you're saying you really ought to try and find a way to get her more involved. It's difficult when there's two and three people assigned to her, so it's great when the other players are doing a good job and scoring. We're getting incredible scoring from our point-guard position. It's amazing what those kids are averaging right now together. Kastine Evans is in double-figure scoring and then Samarie Walker is just playing great. So we have a lot of different weapons, a lot of kids that can score. Really very few on the team that aren't a scoring threat in some shape or form, so we like that and we want to try to enhance that and try to make sure our execution gets better. I hope we can become one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country."
On setting goals other than winning ...
"We have game goals, but really the overriding goal for us, whether we're favored in the game or we're the underdog, at Kentucky we're always just trying to be our best. We're trying to chase that every day. We're trying to create an environment for these players where when you try your hardest and when you try to do your best, you're rewarded for that and when you are doing less than your best, we talk to you about that, too. There's so much there just in that concept that you can really measure yourself against your best and we've seen this team in practice what they can do as far as running up and down the floor and what their conditioning is and what kind of effort they can give. And so really each game, no matter whether you're the favorite or the underdog, trying to find that day your very best for Kentucky is really the goal every day out, practice or a game."
On whether these games give an opportunity to figure out the team after injuries ...
"Well, you know, one thing that has happened for us is that everybody's been playing. Even when everybody was available we were able to get everyone in the game. But now I think each and every opportunity in practice to take steps forward and get more repetition and more quality reps and more quality execution, I think that's the key for us. We're down to 11 players now, but all 11 are legitimate and can go in and play. So that's really, really encouraging for us."
On whether Makayla Epps' versatility will be valuable after injuries to post players ...
"Yeah, I was talking to her about that this morning. We've had a lot of success in the past here with some four-guard lineups and so I think Makayla and Kastine need to get comfortable with knowing the post position. We don't really have a four or a five. It's just the post and depending on who gets down the floor first kind of, you know, initiates the offense of what you may do the rest of the sets. Or in half-court sets, they need to know that four position, which can help us be more versatile. Makayla's strength can help her on defense. Get lower and be stronger and maybe keep a taller player away from the basket. She's very athletic, can jump and is very strong on the boards. Kastine's very, very sharp and knows all the plays and plays really hard. So I think those two players being able to play some post for us could really, really help us. Makayla is just very excited about whatever she can do to help the team, whether it's point guard or playing in the post and two or the three. That's a very rare talent, a very rare player, but it's more rare to have a kid with an attitude like she has, that I'll just do whatever you want me to do. She loves Kentucky, she loves being here, she wants us to win and I think she's going to be a real asset to our program."