Dec. 4, 2013
Dec. 5 Update: This game has been picked up by ESPN3 and will be streamed online.
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 5/6 Kentucky women’s basketball team will travel to Arlington, Texas, looking to continue its winning ways when the Wildcats take on the ninth-ranked Baylor Lady Bears on Friday, Dec. 6 at 6:30 p.m. CT/7:30 p.m. ET in a doubleheader with the UK men’s team in the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium. The women’s game will be broadcast live on ESPN3 with Fran Fraschilla and Jon Sciambi calling the action. It also will be on the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price or fans can follow Twitter updates on @UKHoopCats.
Tickets are still available online at ticketmaster.com.
The Wildcats (8-0) are riding an eight-game winning streak overall and an 18-game winning streak over nonconference opponents after a thrilling come-from-behind 69-64 victory over intrastate rival, No. 4/3 Louisville on Sunday. Friday will mark UK’s second straight game against a top-10 opponent and UK’s second consecutive meeting against the Lady Bears in Texas. The Cats’ last regular-season loss to a nonconference opponent came last season to top-ranked Baylor in Waco.
“We are very excited about our upcoming game,” UK Hoop head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “It’s a great, great experience. We have a great opportunity to play an outstanding team, but the overall experience is a great opportunity and I want to thank John Calipari for really putting this thing together and giving our program a chance to participate in something like this. He just called me one day a couple years back and had the idea and it went from there. He’s been so supportive of our program from the very first time he got here.”
Senior forward DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) leads a very balanced scoring attack this season. She leads five players who average in double-digit scoring with a team-high 14.0 points per game. She also shoots a team-high 58.1 percent from the field which ranks tied for fourth in the Southeastern Conference. Senior guard Kastine Evans (Salem, Conn.) follows close behind with 12.1 points per game. Senior forward Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) is averaging a double-double with 10.3 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. The 10.3 rebounds per game ranks second in the league. Junior guard Jennifer O’Neill and Bria Goss also are averaging in double figures this season with 11.1 and 10.0 points per game, respectively.
Baylor enters Friday’s game at 7-0 after wins over Grambling St. (110-55), Nicholls State (111-58), Rice (79-46), Savannah State (99-31), Northwestern State (88-54), UTSA (92-62) and San Jose State (113-73).
“It’s going to be a great opportunity to play one of the most hard-nosed, aggressive, tough basketball programs in the country,” Mitchell said. “Baylor is just really, really tough and have been ever since Coach Mulkey’s taken over that program. It’s a program we have tremendous respect for. It will be a very difficult game and we’ll have to prepare well to have an opportunity to win. We’re headed down tomorrow with our mind on going down and playing really hard and seeing if we can come back to Lexington with a very significant victory.”
National Player of the Year and 6-foot-8 center Britteny Griner has graduated but the Lady Bears return one of the nation’s top players in All-American guard Odyssey Sims. She leads the team and ranks second in the nation in scoring this season at 27.6 points, while also dishing 5.1 assists per game. Freshman forward Nina Davis is the only other player to average double figures at 15.1 points per contest. Sophomore center Kristina Higgins leads BU in rebounding at 7.3 per game.
“Odyssey Sims is probably the best singular talent that I’ve seen in the country this year,” Mitchell said. “She is really, really amazing. There are some other really talented players, but she is putting up monstrous numbers right now and they found a way to increase their scoring average. They are very good team, certainly not one-dimensional. Life continues after Brittney Griner and they are alive and well, I can promise you that.”
The UK men’s team will tip off with Baylor at approximately 10 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Media Opportunity - December 4, 2013
“We are very excited about our upcoming game. It’s a great, great experience. We have a great opportunity to play an outstanding team, but the overall experience is a great opportunity and I want to thank John Calipari for really putting this thing together and giving our program a chance to participate in something like this. He just called me one day a couple years back and had the idea and it went from there. He’s been so supportive of our program from the very first time he got here. The first day he showed up to campus, he came over to our office and was positive that day and has been positive every day since. Personally, he’s been very supportive of me as a young coach and shared a lot of wisdom with me over the years. To have a person like that to work with and promote our program the way he has, I’m really appreciative. We thank him a lot for that. It’s going to be a great opportunity to play one of the most hard-nosed, aggressive, tough basketball programs in the country. Baylor is just really, really tough and have been ever since Coach Mulkey’s taken over that program. It’s a program we have tremendous respect for. It will be a very difficult game and we’ll have to prepare well to have an opportunity to win. We’re headed down tomorrow with our mind on going down and playing really hard and seeing if we can come back to Lexington with a very significant victory.”
On life without Brittney Griner for Baylor …
“They are a top-10 team and they have won two National Championships and have been consistently good for over a decade now. They are one of the really fine women’s basketball programs in the country. Odyssey Sims is probably the best singular talent that I’ve seen in the country this year. She is really, really amazing. There are some other really talented players, but she is putting up monstrous numbers right now and they found a way to increase their scoring average. They are very good team, certainly not one-dimensional. Life continues after Brittney Griner and they are alive and well, I can promise you that.”
On Baylor only turning the ball over 11 times a game so far this season…
“I think it’s really important for us to play good team defense. We need to do everything we can to make the other team uncomfortable. Sometimes that’s in the full court with the press. Against UofL on Sunday, it was more in the half court. No matter where we can find the opportunity we need to try to make them very uncomfortable and that’s going to be hard work because they have such talented players on their team. It’s a big challenge for us, especially when you think about going into a brand new environment and not being there before. We’ve got to try to do the best job we can to stay focused on playing Kentucky defense. That usually means everybody is involved.”
On if it is a team goal to force 25 turnovers a game…
“That’s a minimum goal, so if you watch film and you feel like you have some advantages that can exceed that (goal), we’ll do that. We always try to set a realistic goal, but one that challenges the players. To turn a team over 25 times is a staggering amount. It’s become the norm for us and it just tells you how hard our kids have worked over the years, but 25 against a top 10 team that’s a real challenging number. You want to play hard enough to try to approach like we did on Sunday, we were able to get to 24 vs. UofL, but it’s hard to do, it isn’t easy.”
On if he worries about his team shooting in a huge arena/stadium…
“I’ve just always tried to not spend a lot of time on things I have no control over, so it may bother some coaches, but it doesn’t bother me. There’s nothing we can do about it. The game is going to be played where it’s going to be played. We will go practice tomorrow and we’ll get back in there on Friday and take advantage of our game day practice slot. We’ll do everything we can to help the players get prepared to shoot in there. Our teams have shot poorly in memorial coliseum and on the road, they’ve shot well on the road, so I just spend zero time thinking about stuff like that.”
On if he will consider pairing games with the men’s team again in the future…
“Sure, in college basketball what our men’s program has done over more than a century is created a brand that is recognizable as any sports brand in the world. I just have thought you are silly if you don’t try to do everything you can to be a part of that. Cal (Calipari) is just so supportive and so creative and thinks about things like this. He didn’t have to, he could have gone down there and done this on his own. He could have played this game on his own. Any time we can be involved with positive things, and this is what I love about Cal – he’s come to Kentucky with positive energy and I just try to get around as many positive people as possible. I would welcome more opportunities like this.”
On how different Baylor is without Brittney Griner…
“They are very different because it was very, very difficult to score around the rim. That was one part of your offense you had to be very skilled and you had to just be outstanding outside and inside to make Brittney come away from the goal and very few teams could that. Very few teams could do that. It’s very different, but they are still very effective and a tough team. I just think more parts of our offense will be available. We’ll still have to execute. We’ll still have to work real hard. They are still a formidable opponent, but very different.”
On DeNesha Stallworth struggling in the first half the last two games and being selfish…
“The point I try to make to them is that when you make it about yourself and if you miss two layups and you get down, you play with no energy. Kentucky basketball doesn’t work without energy and effort and just a real edge to your game. When you are real lethargic and cool and not into it, our deal does not work. I think it was probably the missed shots early on and so she starts dragging around and won’t get on the boards and won’t play, to me that’s you are more worried about your game than us winning the game; that’s selfish. All I ever need her to do is play with great energy on defense and on the boards and all the other stuff will figure itself out. She’s been concerned about teams double and triple-teaming her or the defense is sagging and collapsing on her. Samarie Walker isn’t worried about that, she’s going to get her own touches on the offensive glass. If you’re as talented as DeNesha, you can give people all sorts of difficulties, so that’s what we’ll just continue to try to encourage her. I’m just trying to coach her much harder in practice. You want these kids to take responsibilities for themselves and for the most part they do. I’ve changed my approach in practice; I’m going after it every day. The only way we are going to be unsuccessful is if we do it to ourselves this season. We have an outstanding group of young women that are very talented. We’re very fast, athletic, aggressive and the only people that can stop us are ourselves. We must practice with an edge and a tenacity that ensures we’re going to take the game floor that way.”
On if he is more intense this season…
“I’ve been intense, but you have a good team; you have a veteran team. Every team I just try to give the benefit of the doubt. That deal Sunday could have gone the wrong way and it would have been, in my mind, our approach to the game. I have to take responsibility for getting the team prepared. That’s part of my job, so we can’t take it for granted that we’re going to be ready to go. The only way I know how to get it done is in practice, so we’re really trying to practice out of our mind right now. We’re trying to practice really hard with a high level of intensity. That’s how we’re going to have to play Friday night to have a chance to win. There’s no two ways about it. One thing I know about a Kim Mulkey team is they’re going to be aggressive and tough and hard-nosed. That’s where Kentucky needs to be and if we are, we’re going to have a good season.”