Dec. 11, 2013
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 5/6 Kentucky women’s basketball team will put its nine-game winning streak on the line when it travels to Chicago on Thursday, Dec. 12 to meet DePaul in the McGrath-Phillips Arena. Game time is at 6 p.m. CT/7 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1 with Tiffany Green and LaChina Robinson calling the action. It also will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price or fans can follow Twitter updates on @UKHoopCats.
Tickets are still available at www.depaulbluedemons.com.
The Wildcats (9-0) look to go 10-0 for just the third time in school history but will have to do without All-America candidate and one of the team’s top scorers and rebounders in senior DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.). The 6-foot-3 forward will be out three-to-four weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on her left knee Wednesday morning to remove an articular cartilage that was floating in her knee.
“Not the kind of news you want to hear, but we are glad it was nothing serious,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “Her knee just kept swelling after the Baylor game. Not quite sure when the injury took place. We have moved forward dealing with it and have a lot of confidence in our medical staff and we think she will be back good as new here in three-to-four weeks. That was a bit of tough news for us, but we are very excited about the opportunity we have to go to DePaul. They are a very quality basketball team. Certainly when you lose someone like DeNesha everybody has to rally and really come together and work hard and pick up the slack that’s created by her absence. I think that our team is certainly capable of doing that and I think they will want to do that. We had a good practice this morning and working hard trying to get ready for what will be a very well-coached DePaul team. They have good athletes that can really spread the floor and put pressure on your defense. We will have to be sharp and prepared and really tough to go up and get a victory at DePaul. We are looking forward to that challenge.”
With Stallworth’s injury, junior center Azia Bishop (Toledo, Ohio) will move into the starting lineup. Bishop has played in all nine games and averages 6.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. She leads the team in blocks this season with 11.
“We will get Azia (Bishop) into the starting lineup and if you look at Azia’s numbers (she’s) very productive, around seven points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes on average,” Mitchell said. “You add another eight minutes to her or eight or nine minutes and we are hoping to see those numbers go up with extra time on the floor. Now she will have to get that done. I think she is playing probably her best basketball since she has been at Kentucky.”
Kentucky is coming off a thrilling win over No. 9 Baylor in what is being called one of the most epic games in college basketball history. Playing in a double-header with the UK men’s team in the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas last Friday night, the Wildcats defeated the Lady Bears in quadruple overtime, 133-130. The 263 combined points set a new NCAA record, besting the previous high for a Division I women's game of 252 points in SMU's 127-125 win over TCU, also in four overtimes, on Jan. 25, 1997. The Wildcats also won consecutive games against top-10 teams for the first time in school history and set school records for points (133), free-throws made (49) and free-throws attempted (66). Junior point guard Jennifer O’Neill (Bronx, N.Y.) came off the bench to net a school-record 43 points on 14-of-31 shooting, netting 33 in the second half and overtime periods. Sophomore point guard Janee Thompson (Chicago) added a career-high 20 points, while Stallworth charted 16 points, nine rebounds and a game-high four steals. Senior guard Kastine Evans (Salem, Conn.) and junior guard Bria Goss (Indianapolis) scored 14 and 13 points, respectively and senior forward Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds in the game.
O’Neill, who has come off the bench in all nine games this season, leads a very balanced scoring attack. She averages a team-high 14.7 points per game and is one of six players to average in double-digit scoring this season. Stallworth follows close behind with 14.2 ppg, while Evans averages 12.3 ppg. Three Wildcats, Thompson, Bria Goss and Walker, average 10.9, 10.3 and 10.0 ppg, respectively. Walker is also grabbing a team- and SEC-high 10.0 rebounds per game.
The Blue Demons enter the game at 4-2 after wins over Harvard (99-75), Duquesne (88-77), Illinois State (80-67) and Loyola (93-55) and losses to No. 5 Notre Dame (92-76) and Northwestern (82-79).
Junior guard Megan Rogowski leads the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game and is one of four players averaging double figures. Senior forward Jasmine Penny averages 14.2 points, sophomore guard/forward Megan Podkowa averages 12.8 points and a team-best 7.2 rebounds per game and Hrynko chips in 12.0 points a contest.
Thursday will mark the fourth matchup in school history vs. DePaul. UK leads the series 3-0, including a 1-0 mark in Chicago. This will mark UK’s first game vs. DePaul in Chicago since the teams’ first meeting in 1983. The Wildcats won 72-48 on Jan. 26. The teams met last season in Rupp Arena with UK taking a 96-64 win.
Media Opportunity - December 10, 2013
Opening Statement …
“First of all on the injury front, I have an injury to report; DeNesha Stallworth had an arthroscopic procedure this morning. A piece of articular cartilage was floating in her left knee, so she had a scope this morning that went well and that will sideline her for, we are thinking right now, about three-to-four weeks. Not the kind of news you want to hear, but we are glad it was nothing serious. Her knee just kept swelling after the Baylor game. Not quite sure when the injury took place. We have moved forward dealing with it and have a lot of confidence in our medical staff and we think she will be back good as new here in three-to-four weeks. That was a bit of tough news for us, but we are very excited about the opportunity we have to go to DePaul. They are a very quality basketball team. Certainly when you lose someone like DeNesha everybody has to rally and really come together and work hard and pick up the slack that’s created by her absence. I think that our team is certainly capable of doing that and I think they will want to do that. We had a good practice this morning and working hard trying to get ready for what will be a very well-coached DePaul team. They have good athletes that can really spread the floor and put pressure on your defense. We will have to be sharp and prepared and really tough to go up and get a victory at DePaul. We are looking forward to that challenge.”
On using more four-guard sets with DeNesha out …
“What it does is we have had the luxury of depth and we still have some depth at the post position. We will get Azia (Bishop) into the starting lineup and if you look at Azia’s numbers (she’s) very productive, around seven points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes on average. You add another eight minutes to her or eight or nine minutes and we are hoping to see those numbers go up with extra time on the floor. Now she will have to get that done. I think she is playing probably her best basketball since she has been at Kentucky. And then Jelléah Sidney and we will move Makayla Epps over full-time to the 4 during this time and I think that really, really helps our basketball team in a number of ways. Jelléah is so active in the press and does such a good job in the press. I think we can play a little bit more up-tempo defensively and turn up the pressure a little bit. Then Makayla, being able to focus on one position for the next four weeks can really help her progress. I think it is difficult for a freshman to come in and have to play multiple positions and she has done a nice job of it, but she has looked very good the last couple of days in practice playing primarily at the 4. It is a big challenge for Samarie (Walker) to make sure she continues her very consistent high-level of play. That needs to remain constant. We feel good about our prospects of handling this piece of adversity.”
On Azia Bishop and if she is suited to step into a more featured role …
“Yeah, it is good for Azia because you fast forward a year from now, we are certainly going to need her to be in a featured role in the post. It is all good and very good that she can have this opportunity. She has done an outstanding job so far this season. Her challenge has come from a dip in intensity at times that may be from getting discouraged because of a poor play she makes or not being quite as focused as she needs to be. I think she is really improving in those areas in a major way. She has started to shoot the ball a little bit better around the goal. She got off to a really, really tough start shooting the ball around the goal and really poor shooting percentage. In practice, she is really making a lot of shots and that is very important for us. Then yesterday, I was very pleased in practice because she was sort of in one of those downward trends in practice and I challenged her to pick it back up and it was more instantaneous then it has ever been. She picked it up and finished the practice with probably one of her better practices of the year and then today was a very good practice for her. I am really proud of what Azia has tried to do since she has been here. She has had to grow a lot as a person. She has had a lot of personal growth since she has been here. She has grown as a student and now she has a chance to come into the player she can be. During this time with ‘D’ (DeNesha) being out, we will need her production.”
On if DeNesha being out can help the team down the road…
“I think any time you have to focus and do a better job and sort of raise your level of play, I think it gives you an opportunity to be better and stronger when she comes back. I do think you have to believe that if you are going to remain positive and move forward positively. Everybody in the country has some type of adversity that hits them in different ways. It’s like I told our team, I think we’re as well-equipped to handle it as anybody because we’ve had some kids who have sacrificed to come here that maybe don’t play as many minutes that they might at other places, but they are very good very players. We have 10 really good players available for us tomorrow night at DePaul. We have to embrace this challenge as an opportunity to get better.”
On what DePaul does well…
“DePaul is a very good transition offense team. They’re scoring a ton of points; I think they are averaging in the 90s on offense. It’s a high-octane offense and they can really spread the floor. They can get five players out on the perimeter and put stress on your defense, especially a defense like ours that likes to put pressure on a team and tries to get out in passing lanes. They create a lot of driving lanes, so you have to do a good job guarding the basketball because they’re a very good driving team. They can make layups, but they are also a good drive and kick team that can shoot 3s. They put a lot of stress on you defensively. Their defense is very tough, very tenacious. They’re outstanding at home and it will be a tough environment. This will be a huge test for this team.”
On moving forward from the 4OT win vs. Baylor…
“I think for our team, we’ll always have to make sure we’re staying very humble and very hungry and very focused on the fundamentals. When you get out to an undefeated record and you’ve beaten a couple top 10 teams, you must stay focused on the job at hand. We didn’t play a perfect against Louisville and we didn’t play a perfect game against Baylor and you can’t let the result, you can’t let the outcome influence your behavior moving forward. It’s been so nice around town because the game against Baylor was so exciting and people around town are complimenting us, but we’re almost a week removed from it and people are still talking about it. As a player and as a coach you have to move forward and understand what’s real. It’s real that we won that game, but it’s over and done with. It can’t benefit us anymore until Selection Monday; that is the only time it can benefit us anymore. In and of itself, the lessons we can learn from it can help us and the confidence we maybe got, but we have to make sure we understand that last Friday night won’t help us a bit on this Thursday night and we have to be ready to play a really good DePaul team.”
On Janee Thompson and Jennifer O’Neill playing at the same time…
“There are a few components to it. When you play them both together it’s really, really hard for the other team in transition because not only can both of them break you down off the dribble, but both of them can shoot 3s. no matter who has the ball their a real, real threat to go to the basket or get into the pain and make the defense shrink and guard the paint and then whoever’s out there and has the ball kicked to them can make 3s. They’re a lethal combination when they are on the court together. They’re both a little small from a height-standpoint, so when they are on the court they have to be junkyard dogs on defense and use their quickness and their strength – they’re both strong players and quick players they just aren’t real tall. Defensively, they have to really, really get after it, but if they can guard, when they play together our transition offense is pretty good.”
On if it depends on matchups if Thompson and O’Neill are on the court at the same time…
“In the Baylor game, it became clear that scoring was going to be important and defense look like it wasn’t that important in the game, so they’re a really good scoring combination and the way Baylor was playing us the situation called for both of them being in the game at the same time. Sometimes it’s an experience thing, and the situation calls for some experience and the other players may be fatigued or the freshmen may not be exactly ready for that situation. The two freshmen are getting closer and closer all the time. They are really practicing well now and so as we go deeper in the season the situation may not call for it, but here early in the season there have been times where we either needed the scoring punch. One time Janee was playing so well and I subbed Jen in and she told me ‘I’m not going in for Janee. You’ll have to find someone else for me to go in for because we can’t bring Janee out.’ It’s a variety of situations, but I would say in the Baylor game we were looking for scoring.”