By: Tyrus York – It was a rough start for UK Hoops as they opened their season against Rice in Memorial Coliseum on Friday night. Forget the fact that the normally very well attended game was undercut by a men’s game playing simultaneously in Rupp Arena, the Cats were hitting the floor without their best player in Makayla Epps as she winds down her suspension from off the court issues over the summer. Continue reading College Basketball – Womens – UK Hoops Crushes Rice in Season Opener
Schedule highlighted by “Pack the House” games vs. Duke and Louisville in Rupp Arena
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Eight home games, including matchups vs. Duke and Louisville in Rupp Arena, and a road game at first-time opponent Arizona State highlight Kentucky’s 2015-16 women’s basketball non-conference schedule, it was announced Thursday. Altogether, the Wildcats will face four teams that appeared in the NCAA Tournament last season, including three who finished in the Sweet 16. Continue reading College Sports – UK Hoops Announces 2015-16 Non-Conference Schedule
(Notes and Interviews courtesy of UK Athletics)
UK Hoops 2014-15 Postgame Notes – (7) Dayton 99, (2) Kentucky 94 – Memorial Coliseum – Lexington, Ky. – 2015 NCAA Tournament – Second Round – March 22, 2015
Team Records and Series Notes
- Kentucky finishes its season 24-10 overall, while Dayton improved to 27-6 this season and moves onto the Sweet 16.
- Kentucky moves to 736-495 (59.8) all-time in 41 seasons of varsity women’s basketball.
- Matthew Mitchell, UK’s all-time winningest coach, dropped to 224-110 overall, 194-81 at UK.
- UK is now 4-4 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
- Kentucky is now 17-12 in the NCAA Tournament, 13-6 under Matthew Mitchell.
- The Wildcats finish 14-3 at home this season. The loss broke UK’s streak of 54 straight non-conference wins in Memorial Coliseum.
- UK leads the all-time series with Dayton 13-4.
- Dayton tied the series at 1-1 in the NCAA Tournament.
- UK is now 19-7 against Atlantic-10 teams all-time.
- Today’s attendance was 3,320.
First Half Notes
- UK started with the lineup of Jelléah Sidney, Makayla Epps, Bria Goss, Jennifer O’Neill and Alyssa Rice.
- This lineup started a game for the first time.
- Dayton led by as much as nine (20-11) at the 13:03 mark in the first half.
- Kentucky went on a 13-2 run over the next 3:14 to take a 24-22 lead.
- Senior Jen O’Neill scored 10 points in the first half for the second game in a row.
- Kentucky outscored Dayton 12-2 in first-half points off turnovers.
- UK, who leads the nation in free throw attempts per game, shot 10 free throws in the first half, going 10-of-15 from the stripe (.667).
- Kentucky led 45-42 at the break and is now 16-5 when leading at the break.
Second Half Notes
- UK opened the second half with Jelléah Sidney, Makayla Epps, Bria Goss, Jennifer O’Neill and Alyssa Rice.
- In the second half, Dayton shot 64 percent from the field and 62.5 percent from three-point range.
- UK started the second half 1 of 5 from the field, and Dayton tied the game at 48-48 with 15:50 left.
- UK went on a 7-2 run to take a 62-54 lead with 12:18 to go.
- Dayton forced a UK timeout when it took its first lead of the second half at 79-78 with 5:24 to go in the game.
- Kentucky outscored Dayton 7-2 over the next 2:09 to take an 81-85 lead
- Dayton’s Kelly Austria hit a 3-pointer with 1:08 to go, giving Dayton a 90-87 lead that it never relinquished.
- Jennifer O’Neill responded with two made free throws on the other side of the court, but Dayton’s Amber Deane hit another 3 as the shot clock was winding down, to give Dayton a 93-89 lead with 24 seconds remaining.
- Dayton outscored Kentucky 57-49 in the second half.
- Makayla Epps scored 22 of her 29 points in the second half.
- Dayton shot 57 percent (30 of 53) from the floor, which was the best shooting performance by a UK opponent this season.
- Dayton’s 3-point field-goal percentage (61 percent) on 11 of 18, was also a season-high by a UK opponent.
- Dayton made 28 of its 31 free-throw attempts (90 percent), which was the most by a UK opponent this season and tied the best percentage by a UK foe.
- Kentucky is now 322-22 when scoring 80 or more points under Matthew Mitchell, and 9-1 this season. In the last three seasons, UK is 70-3 (.959) when scoring 80+ points.
- Kentucky 31 made free throws are the second-highest of the second, while the attempts are the third-highest.
- UK won steals 11-1.
- Dayton had 24 turnovers, compared with five by Kentucky.
- Kentucky outscored Dayton 24-5 off turnovers.
- Kentucky’s four seniors (Azia Bishop, Bria Goss, Jennifer O’Neill and Jelléah Sidney) concluded their careers as the winningest class in school history with 108 wins.
- Sophomore guard Linnae Harper came off the bench to grab a UK-high 12 rebounds, and she added nine points.
- Senior guard Jennifer O’Neill recorded her 29th double-figure scoring game of the season, including 10th straight with 16 points.
- Finished her career tied for sixth place on UK’s all-time games played list with 133.
- She finished her career ranked 12th on the UK all-time points list with 1446.
- She also finished her career ranked second on the all-time 3-point field-goal list with 197.
- She is one 30 Wildcats to have scored 1,000 points in her career.
- Senior guard Bria Goss added 12 points, her third straight game in double figures.
- Marked her 14th double-figure scoring game this season, and 72st of her career.
- She moved into fourth place alongside teammate Azia Bishop on the all-time games played list at UK with 134.
- She is one 30 Wildcats to have scored 1,000 points in her career.
- She ranks fifth on UK’s career list for free throws made (398) and ranks second in FT percentage (.819).
- Sophomore guard Makayla Epps scored a game-high 29 points, her 27th game in double figures this season, including fourth straight.
- Freshman forward Alyssa Rice made her 11th career start, and scored seven points.
- Senior forward Jelléah Sidney blocked a season-high two shots
- She scored seven points and added two blocks and four rebounds.
Kentucky Head Coach, Matthew Mitchell
Opening statement …
“First of all, I would like to thank everyone from the University of Kentucky and everyone from the NCAA that came in and was a part of putting this tournament on. It was really well-run and it was a first-class operation and we just thank everyone who had a hand in that. It was a great experience from that standpoint. I want to congratulate the University of Dayton, they just played so hard today, they wanted the game very badly, they played with great intensity, they had great resilience in the game. When they went down, they always found a way to fight back and they just played much harder than we did, and certainly down the stretch when it was time to win the game, they just played. I would congratulate them and wish them well as they move forward. It’s a disappointing end to a really, really good season for us. The good part of the season, there are a lot of moments, a lot of great wins, a lot of great victories, a lot of happy times. But I think for me, just what we learned about our players and what Kentucky needs to stand for and what Kentucky needs to be, I feel really good about that I feel really good about how we will approach the future. A disappointing end to a season that I will always remember. And I’m real grateful to our seniors. They had a great career here and what they did for us down the stretch to help us know what we needed to know what we needed to do going forward I’ll always remember.”
On not coming out ready to play and focused …
“I just thought yesterday was one of the best days we had from a focus standpoint and a preparation standpoint, the spirit the players were in when we talked about the gameplan, they were really focused in. I was really looking forward to the game today. Our practice was sharp yesterday, so I was looking forward to the game today. I wanted to find a way to beat a good Dayton team, because I wanted another week with this team. I really thought yesterday was what I was looking for from this team, and I thought if we could get another week of that, then we could really do something. It’s just plagued us all year — inconsistency at inopportune moments. I could really kind of tell it from the beginning. There’s just certain things that you can notice from players and we just did not have the focus and the energy and the effort that we needed and we just gave them so many opportunities in their strength zone and they took advantage of it. We needed to play harder, sharper, and we needed to play more consistently throughout the game. We had a chance to stretch it to double-digits in the first half and we missed free throws, you know, we missed 14 free throws. You can always tell with our team. There are nights where you’ll miss three or four and days like today when we’ll miss 15. In the first half, we had a wide-open 3 to stretch it to 10, got the offensive rebound, had free throws to stretch it to nine, get a stop and then really have some great momentum going into halftime, but we let them come back and cut it to three. It’s just things like that. We had a chance to stretch it to 10, the place is going crazy, everybody is fired up and we miss two free throws, let them get back going and we missed some layups at inopportune times. So, to me, we just weren’t nearly sharp enough from a mental perspective to stop Dayton. If you let them drive the ball and don’t stop them getting to the rim, they can really hurt you. (Ally) Mallot had a fantastic day and (Amber) Deane had a fantastic day. They just played up to their ability and their best and we just didn’t ever seem like we had that fire in our belly to advance, and this particular team can’t play that way. There is no in-between. We have to play really, really hard with maximum effort and greater effort than our opponent, or we get beat and that’s what happened today.”
On the suspension of Azia Bishop …
“My role as the head coach is I have to set the standard. February 24 was the day, a Tuesday, when the seniors came to my house and said I was not doing a good enough job upholding the standard and I needed to be much more focused with our younger players and I told them, I appreciate that, but you can’t come in here and tell me that and then not uphold the standards and so everybody was clear. Everybody needed to be in their rooms by 11 (o’clock) with nobody coming by and stopping by to see you and nobody on the floor, and I don’t think that there was anything in Azia’s mind but a lack of focus. She just lost focus at a real important time. She’s not a bad person, she’s a great person who I love a lot, but if I’m not going to uphold the standard – I don’t know whether that lost the game for us or not. We’ll never know. It’s irrelevant to me. What I have to do is uphold the standard as their coach and I can tell you if she played, whether we won or lost the game, I think we would have lost a bunch in the future if I don’t uphold the standard, so it’s not what I wanted to be dealing with this morning, but it’s what you have to deal with. I do the right thing, and I don’t really think about that. We had more than enough talent on the floor to win. We could have won the game, and so how did it affect us, I don’t know. I’ll talk to the players and we’ll see what it was. I hate that that was the way her career ended. I really wanted to get to next week because I know she feels terrible about the situation. I feel terrible about the situation. But if you’re in my shoes, you must do the right thing or if you don’t have integrity you don’t really have a program. That’s my thought on that situation.”
Kentucky Student-Athlete Jen O’Neill
Regarding Dayton shooting 57 percent …
“Coming into this game we were told that they were an unselfish team and they really look for their key players coming down the stretch and they were able to knock down shots.”
Describe the difficulty of defending Dayton …
“We just really needed to stop dribble penetration and we weren’t getting it done. They were able to penetrate and kick.”
What’s it going to be like knowing you’re not going to pull on that Kentucky jersey again?
“Personally, it’s tough for me just because I’m the one who really lost the game. I let her hit that 3-point shot. That’s deflating to my team. We were on a little run and as a senior I can’t make mistakes like that. Among a bunch of other mistakes I made that was a key moment in the game and should never happen.”
Kentucky Student-Athlete Bria Goss
Regarding Dayton shooting 57 percent …
“They hit some really big shots down the stretch. They did a really good job distributing the ball and finding the open man and knocking them down when they needed to be counted.”
Describe the difficulty of defending Dayton …
“A lot of drives and kicks. We were just too late on recovery in trying to help stop the drive and just came up short.”
Was there anything in the game that looked different from what you saw from Dayton on Friday…
“No, our coaches did a great job in getting us prepared. It was up to us to buckle down and focus, focus for the full 40 minutes and not take plays off. They are a great team and they executed really well but our coaches did a great job letting us know what was going to happen and what we were facing up against. We just didn’t take advantage of it.”
What’s it going to be like knowing you’re not going to pull on that Kentucky jersey again?
“It’s just going to be tough … (long pause) Next question.”
(UK Hoops Notes and Mitchell Interview courtesy of UK Athletics) – UK Hoops 2014-15 Postgame Notes – No. 13/15 Kentucky 67, No. 2/2 South Carolina 56 – Memorial Coliseum – Lexington, Ky. – March 1, 2015
UK Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
Opening Statement …
“Well, great victory and really proud of our team, especially proud of our seniors. It probably would not have been possible without their input and how much they care about the program. Sometimes life doesn’t work out where people get what they deserve. That was going to be a hard game to win today. I wasn’t really worried about the outcome. I was so proud of them for what they have done but it sure is icing on the cake to get the victory and their memory of “Senior Day” is going to be something special and they deserve to feel good today. I am really proud of our team as a whole and especially proud of our seniors.”
On this “Senior Day” compared to the rest …
“It’s a special one. It’s always a great day. We have had a lot of success on “Senior Day” but this one is really special. Before the game tipped off it was special for me because of what they have done and I think the Thursday night victory was one of the biggest ones I have ever been a part of just because where we were able to go in a very short period of time. It was directly because of what the seniors did and that is what we want at Kentucky. We just want great women who accept responsibility and know how to figure things out and solve some problems. I was real happy before the games started.”
On the chat with the seniors on his couch this week …
“First of all, I was so happy that they called the meeting and Jen (O’Neill) called the meeting. Jen was the person who called me. Bria (Goss) has been a rock her entire career and she has done everything she can do. She’s really worked hard and I have been really after Jennifer to step up and accept her importance to this team. The kids love her, I love her, the fans love her, everybody loves her and her importance to the program is something that she has not always embraced and I could just hear it in her voice for the first time. It kind of hit that this thing was winding down and I needed to meet with her. All of us needed to meet with her, so I thought that was good. I was not defensive at all and I just want our players to be successful. That is what I’m in it for, the wins are great and all of the other stuff – I don’t do this for any other reason than to try to help these young people be the greatest they can be. I was happy to hear because I knew something was missing there and as a coach you try to evolve. Maybe give the players a little bit more responsibility here and there not control everything because when you start out you control everything, you just have to control the culture and the kids don’t know what to do. You’re hoping that you can transfer that responsibility to them and basically what they sat down and told me they said you’ve got to go back to when we were freshman, you’ve got to go back five years ago to Jen and you have got to get this group under control from a focus stand point. Again I’ll tell you as far as I know there is no one that has done anything criminal and I don’t think there is any bad people on the team it’s just an incredibly unfocused group of players that had kind of gotten into a spot where they were just telling me nobody is listening and you’re the only person that is going to listen.”
On Jen’s performance …
“Thursday night her defense changed the game and I have always wanted her to value defense. When we have been go this year she has really cranked it up on defense and she did it again today. She was the energy defensively that changed everything. Bria is always there and sometimes when you’re always there you’re taken for granted and I think Jennifer really was powerful. She really understood the game plan. She was really terrific defensively and I think that is what this team needs her to do. The offense will be there but we need her to be a lock down defender because she and Bria can do that and there are not a lot of kids that can bring the kind of energy and pressure. We had to have some kind of ball pressure today to help. Our kids are so undersized compared to South Carolina. They just have an unbelievably talented team so we had to disrupt their ball handlers so they don’t have time to throw the ball in because their post players are open a lot but if you can’t see them you can’t throw it in there. If the ball handler can’t see them and that was sort of our philosophy today. I thought she was great with that so it was a great performance and we needed her to do that down the stretch and we might do something special.”
(Game Notes provided by UK Athletics)
UK Hoops 2014-15 Postgame Notes – No. 6/6 Tennessee 72, No. 10/10 Kentucky 58
Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tenn. – Feb. 15, 2015
Team Records and Series Notes
- Kentucky is now 19-6 overall, 8-4 in the SEC, while Tennessee is 22-3, 12-0 SEC.
- Kentucky moves to 731-492 (59.8) all-time in 41 seasons of varsity women’s basketball and 168-144 (53.8) in the month of February.
- Matthew Mitchell, UK’s all-time winningest coach, is to 219-106 overall, 190-77 at UK.
- Mitchell is now 79-41 in SEC play.
- This was the 62nd meeting between the programs since UK began women’s basketball as a varsity sport in 1974-75.
- Tennessee leads the series 52-10, including 22-3 in Knoxville.
- Tennessee has won the last three against the Wildcats.
- Today’s attendance was 16,013.
- Next up: Kentucky will play host to No. 15/16 Texas A&M on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on the SEC Network. Thursday is UK’s Play4Kay game.
First Half Notes
- UK started with the lineup of Linnae Harper, Makayla Epps, Bria Goss, Alyssa Rice and Jelléah Sidney for the fifth time this season. This lineup is now 4-1.
- It was a game of streaks early on. Tennessee jumped out to a 10-2 lead, Kentucky had a 7-0 run and Tennessee replied with an 8-0 spurt.
- UK nabbed its first lead, 22-21, with 7:05 on the clock when Epps hit a straightaway 3-pointer.
- The Wildcats’ largest lead of the period was three at 28-25 and the teams went to halftime tied at 31.
Second Half Notes
- Kentucky began the second half with its original starting five.
- Trailing 38-37, Tennessee took the lead with 14:49 remaining when Ariel Massengale hit a 3-pointer with the shot clock expiring. That began a 14-2 Tennessee run to give the Lady Volunteers a 51-40 lead they did not relinquish.
- Kentucky cut the lead to as few as four points at 58-54 but could get no closer.
- Kentucky had only 11 turnovers, tying a season low achieved on two previous occasions.
- Kentucky had balanced scoring with four players landing in double figures.
- Sophomore Makayla Epps led the Wildcats with 13 points.
- It is her second straight game to lead the Cats in scoring and sixth time this season.
- It was her eighth consecutive game in double figures and 21st of the season.
- She also had three steals, one shy of her career high.
- Senior Jennifer O’Neill tallied 12 points.
- It is her 20th double-figure game of the season and 67th of her career.
- She extended a streak of 15 straight games with at least one 3-pointer.
- Senior Bria Goss scored 10 points, her ninth double-figure game of the season and 68th of her career.
- Sophomore Linnae Harper scored 10 points and has reached double figures in a team-best 23 of 25 games this season. She also paced the Wildcats in rebounding with six boards.
Junior point guard was averaging 10.1 points per game this season
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky women’s basketball starting point guard Janee Thompson suffered a dislocated left ankle which resulted in a broken fibular against top-ranked South Carolina on Sunday in Columbia, S.C., and will miss the remainder of the season. Surgery is schedule for Monday morning at the UK Hospital in Lexington, Ky.
Thompson, a 5-foot-7 junior, sustained the injury at the 4:06 mark of the second half, scrambling for a loose ball. She left the game with nine points, a team-high tying five rebounds and three assists in 31 minutes of action.
“We are so sad for Janee,” UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We never want to see a player sustain an injury like that. We are particularly sad for Janee because she’s worked so hard and has really come into her own. She will continue to make an impact on our team with her leadership. She will stay heavily involved and everyone will just have to raise their level up to contribute and make up for a tough loss. We are going to play as hard as we can for Janee and make sure we have a special season for her.”
Thompson, a native of Chicago, finishes the season averaging 10.1 points per game, including 10.3 ppg in four Southeastern Conference games. The two-time SEC Player of the Week was the team’s leader in assists with 52 and ranked second in steals with 29. She also was tops in free-throw shooting percentage, hitting at a 78.1 percent clip (50-of-64).
She has started in 50 of 86 career games, including a team-high 31 consecutive.
No. 10/11 Kentucky (14-3, 3-1 SEC) returns to action Thursday, Jan. 15 vs. Florida in Memorial Coliseum. Game time is 7 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.
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2014 PAC-12 Freshman of the Year will be eligible after the fall semester of the 2015-16 season
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Former University of Oregon women’s basketball standout Chrishae Rowe (pronounced CRI-shay) has transferred to play at Kentucky, Wildcats head coach Matthew Mitchell announced Friday.
Per NCAA transfer rules, the 5-foot-10 Rowe will be permitted to practice but will not be able to participate in games or travel with the team. She will be eligible for games following the fall semester of the 2015-16 season.
“We are very excited to welcome Chrishae to Kentucky,” Mitchell said. “This will be a great opportunity for her to become the best player she can be. We have high hopes for her and we look forward to her coming into our program and working hard to help us achieve our goals.”
The native of Corona, Calif., was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and earned All-Pac 12 honors after leading the Ducks in scoring last season with 21.6 points in 32 games. Rowe’s 690 total points were the most by a freshman in Oregon history and the 12th most in Pac-12 single-season history. She was just four points shy of breaking the Oregon single-season scoring record of 693, set by Alison Lang in 1982-83. She also set the Oregon record for most points in a single game when she poured in 41 vs. Seattle University on Dec. 4, 2013 with 41, totaling three 35+ point games. She also posted four double-doubles.
At Santiago High School, Rowe averaged a team-high 19.9 points per game to go along with 4.9 rebounds, 3.4 steals and 2.7 assists per game as a senior. She led Santiago to No. 7 national ranking and a 29-3 overall record, including a 10-0 mark in league play. Rowe was rated one of the top 10 players in California and one of the top-20 shooting guards coming out of high school.
She will have three years of eligibility remaining, beginning at the conclusion of the fall semester in December 2015.
UK Hoops 2014-15 Postgame Quotes
No. 10/11 Kentucky 78, Auburn 57
Memorial Coliseum – Lexington, Ky. – Jan. 8, 2015
UK Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
Opening statement …
“Well, it was a fantastic win. Really proud of the players for getting after it on defense tonight. It was a good start to the game for us defensively. We had some energy tonight and a great turnover margin. I thought when we were the aggressor and when we out hustled Auburn, it was easy to see that we’re a much better than when we had a couple of lapses when they were playing harder than us. It’s very important that we learn from this game, that we gain some consistency from the team and that is what we were able to see tonight.”
On minutes being spread out more amongst the team…
“I thought that we played a little bit better tonight at times. They worked real hard since our game Sunday. We put a lot of time into it. We still have a lot of improvement that we need to make but we’re working like crazy to try to get up to speed and so I thought that we were a little bit better tonight. Tra’Cee Tanner had a big night, really good player, but we just need to continue to improve. I’m glad that the minutes were a little more even tonight and we need to make sure that if we can get everyone up to speed, then we can use our depth as an advantage and maybe try to ware some teams down and be stronger at the end. Still a lot of improvement we need to make in our post game but hopefully tonight was a positive move in the right direction.”
On getting off to a fast start …
“I thought we were really aggressive. I thought Makayla (Epps) was very aggressive at the start of the game. I thought that Janee (Thompson) was very aggressive at the start of the game. Auburn has a very good full-court press that they like to run. They used it almost the whole game. You just mentally have to fight to figure out where the opening is. I thought we got off to a very good start. I will again tell you that the kids worked really hard this week on their games and on their minds. We just tried to improve so hopefully all of the hard work paid off with a good start.”
On only 12 turnovers against the full-court press the entire game…
“I’m just really so happy that we have been able to show some maturity in that area. I really thought that the team throughout the year showed our lack of maturity. It shows that they have taken it seriously because we have gone from there to here. That’s the third game in a row that there is less than 15 turnovers and that’s right where we would like to be and we would love for the turnover margin to be plus 10. It’s the second out of three games where it was plus 13. We did a really good job and it’s also hard to prepare for the press because we don’t run that press and we don’t have our practice guys here. We’re a little bit thin and players said that they didn’t get a really great look at it in practice so I’m really proud of them how they handled it in the game. We’re trying to be a tough team that doesn’t turn the ball over. We need that to be the best that we can be.”
On starting Alexis Jennings starting over Kyvin (Goodin-Rogers) …
“I was really trying to get Kyvin going. I had it more with her in mind. She was a lot better tonight. She still made mistakes. I thought she had more energy tonight and we must get her going in order to get to our best. She is not showing you what she can be. She can be very disruptive defensively, fly around, block some shots, take some charges and she can do some things. Offensively she is also talented. She started the game trying not to make a mistake. I wanted to get her going more than Alexis (Jennings), but she came out strong. We had one of our better offensive options on the floor. Very good start for her as she made some very nice plays. She made progress tonight with the exception of giving up too many boards. Hopefully those two players will continue to gain confidence to get better. When they are playing in an efficient and productive manner, it changes our team in a dramatic fashion. They are both working really hard. All our players are working real hard. I can’t tell you how hard the players and the coaches have worked this week. We are just fighting to see if we can become a good team.”
On how Makayla Epps responded tonight…
“I thought she bounced back late and did some good things. I got very upset with her during the game. I think she loses focus and I want her to look more energetic. She looks like she is coasting. We don’t have time for any of that. We need to be a team with some energy and I thought she responded really well once she got back out there. She showed some maturity. She could have gotten down, because I wasn’t very pleasant in one of the timeouts. She bounced back and came back. We are just fighting to get better and fighting to improve and see if we can become a really good team before the season’s end.”
On the difference late in the game…
“I thought we started hustling. We really tried to make hustle a premium tonight. Auburn scraps and plays hard. We started to let free throws and layups deflate us. Auburn had some great athletes and blocked some shots and we let that really deflate us. At 7:19 or whenever that media timeout was, we just talked about being the aggressor and be the team that hustled more. We started to coming up with loose balls. Jennifer O’Neill ran the ball down in the press and back tipped it. The last seven minutes we outhustled Auburn and that is why you saw the margin increase.”
The Wildcats (14-2, 3-0 SEC) travel to Columbia, S.C. to take on top-ranked South Carolina (15-0, 3-0 SEC) Sunday, Jan. 11 at 1 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2 with Pam Ward and Carolyn Peck calling the action.
- Sunday will mark the 53rd meeting in the all-time series vs. South Carolina. UK leads the all-time series 31-21 but trails 15-9 when playing in Columbia.
- Seven of the last nine games have been decided by 10 points or less. The Cats went 4-3 in those games.
- UK has dropped two straight games in Columbia. UK’s last win in Columbia was Jan. 15, 2012 (66-58). UK dropped last year’s road game, 68-59.
- Coach Mitchell is 9-6 all-time vs. the Gamecocks, 3-4 in Columbia.
- For 20 straight seasons, UK and USC have played twice as South Carolina is UK’s permanent SEC home-and-home opponent.
- South Carolina is UK’s fourth ranked opponent this season. UK is 2-1 vs. the ranked this season, 2-0 vs. the top 10 with wins over No. 8/9 Baylor and No. 7/7 Louisville.
- UK is 1-16 vs. the AP’s top-ranked team. The lone win came over No. 1 Tennessee in Rupp Arena on Jan. 26, 2006.
Coach and Player quotes:
Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell – Opening Statement …
“I can’t say enough about how hard Ole Miss played and how prepared they were and how aggressive they were. I thought that they really took it to us in the first half and defensively had us back on our heels when we were on offense. You can file this one under better to finish strong and not how you start, how you finish, I guess. We are still struggling to get off to good starts. No matter how you slice it, we were able to get a victory and really proud of our players. We are not playing a lot of players right now and it is a different situation than we are normally in. We just had to go with a core of about four players that had to get it done today with whoever else could chip in. Really, really happy and really excited that we found a way on what was a really tough day for us and you have to credit Ole Miss for that.”
On drawing up the play for Jennifer O’Neill to take a 3 when UK was down six points …
“Well, I think a little bit earlier I had really – we just weren’t playing as hard as Ole Miss was playing. You are not going to win games in this league, especially with us right now we have to play so hard. I really challenged them, someone like Linnae Harper had to get on the offensive glass. Makayla Epps was whining and moaning and crying about how the ball wouldn’t go in and she was being really weak. I just had to challenge them the timeout before. That timeout, I just sensed that we needed to really try to execute well. It was a tough day and Ole Miss was doing a great job of taking us out of what we were doing. We were able to get a set play over there and Jen a 3 and I think it gave us a little bit of a lift. I think we were down six and went up two with an 8-0 run that kind of routed the ship and got us going in the right direction. It is a funny group and a funny team. They are good kids. There are just moments in the game where it seems like they don’t sense how difficult it is and how hard they have to play. Then, thank goodness they can turn it around quickly too. They have shown that. They gutted it out. That was a tough, tough victory for us today. Ole Miss was a difficult matchup for us because their post players are so athletic and we are still trying to find ourselves in the post right now.”
On Linnae Harper’s rebounds …
“That is what I was trying to tell her, our good players, our top-level producers have to play right now. We are clearly struggling with consistency in our post game. It is what it is, we are missing Bria (Goss) big time. If you think about the minutes these kids are playing, 36, 36, 35, 33. You get Bria’s 30 minutes in there and now everybody is playing five minutes less and now we can maybe get some juice going in transition and do a little bit better. Right now, where we are without Bria, you have to do what you do and do it well. You know, Linnae is standing out on the perimeter and so I just told her she had to get on the glass because she is incredibly gifted offensive rebounder. She went from standing out to eight offensive boards in a blink of an eye. She can really, really get on the glass. Makayla can’t moan and cry and go soft and float the ball around like she is shooting trick shots in there. You have to go in there tough and rough and aggressive. Ole Miss came in here to win today and was tough and fighting. I just tried to get them focused. Makayla is a big-time player, she has to step up and play big time. Linnae is a big-time offensive rebounder, she has to get up and get on the offensive boards. And that is all the way down the line with Janee Thompson, Jennifer O’Neil, you have to do what you can do right now so we can win some games until we can smooth this thing out a little bit and become a complete team.”
On if Linnae Harper’s rebounding is a mindset or a gifted athlete or both …
“The giftedness is really special because she is not a tall player. I can remember recruiting her, I was recruiting Janee really hard trying to get her when she was a junior and then this kid that was a sophomore was 5-foot-3 or whatever she is and I was sitting under the goal one day at a AAU game and she just got up off the floor and took it off the rim. I was like, what just happened right there. She just has a very, very incredible quick vertical leap where she can get up quicker than the taller players. So the giftedness is there and I have to work hard to keep her motivated and make sure she understands that she can’t go get those boards if she is standing and watching. The mentality is very important to get in there and get position, but she just had unbelievable jumping ability and incredible timing. You can’t teach it. Victoria Dunlap had it, Linnae has it. It is a gift, is what it is. We are not as good a team when she doesn’t understand how important that is. She has to get in there and get some boards for us.”
On Linanne Harper’s steals at the end of the game …
“She made huge plays. Before we talk about Linnae, Jennifer O’Neill came to play today and came to play on defense and did not get a lot of breaks and we were short on the bench. The last 10 minutes of the game she just disrupted Ole Miss and couldn’t get into what they needed to get into because she played her tail off and Janee Thompson played her tail off defensively. Linnae did too. Linnae’s steals, the game could have gone either way, somebody has to make a play, who is going to make a play? These games go like that all the time and she made two huge defensive plays. I just cannot tell you how proud I am of her. That was crucial to us being victorious today. You cannot go back and replay that game, it is over, we won it. If you lose it, you cannot go back and get it again. It is very important right now to get these victories. When a kid makes a big play like that or a could big plays down the stretch I am grateful because we needed it. Ole Miss was tough, tough, tough today.”
On possibly going to a shorter lineup since the team has a small bench …
“Right, we are trying to put in a disruptive zone that maybe you don’t pick up full court but you still stay true to your identity and we got some good stuff out of it. Probably today is the fourth day we have worked on it. We were able to get some stops and we had some mistakes there and we don’t know exactly what we are doing so it will take some time to teach it. But I think it lends itself to the gifts that this particular team has. I am trying to help them a little bit there where it is just not baseline to baseline for 40 minutes without Bria. When Bria gets back I think that we can maybe have a few more possessions of press. We had some effective possessions of press today and on Friday at Alabama. I think a disruptive zone, trying to be active and disrupt people might help them a little bit where they are not just zig-zagging the ball and get a couple of possessions that are not full court.”
On Makayla Epps’ shooting today …
“Well, her shot selection, I am trying to convince her of her giftedness and that is speed and strength. In the first half, she was driving at Tia Faleru and Faleru is a great shot blocker but Makayla can get into people with her body and absorb that and can challenge her. Well, she stopped and shot a 17-footer and didn’t make Faleru play and to me that is not aggressive enough. When she is aggressive and going downhill and getting to the bucket she is good. The other issue we had was she was getting into the paint where I wanted her to but was then shooting all of these floaters and looked like it was Sunday afternoon and we were going to church and she was praying. They were prayers being thrown up in the sky and hoping they were answered instead of getting two feet into the paint and going up on balance and landing on two feet. There are times where you can shoot a floater or a runner, but it was just hoping the ball would go in instead of really staying focused and getting the ball in. Then she started talking to herself and talking bad to herself and you just can’t be negative in a game like this where every possession is important. She brought it around and made her free throws and I am so proud of that. We needed every one of them. I just need to work with her and coach her better and show her when is a good time to use that runner and when is a good time to get two feet in the paint and get up and use some power. She will be fine. She is a big-time player and she doesn’t have time to hang her head, she has to make plays for us because she is one of our major contributors and major players and she has to play.”
On Bria Goss’ timetable to return …
“She is out of the cast and in a plastic brace and we are going to test it at four weeks I think is the plan. She is practicing every day and the ball is coming to her. She does some warmup stuff and when she starts to feel better (she will get more involved.) So we don’t throw pass after pass. She is feeling a little bit better but she can’t catch the ball right now. She is practicing hard and is in some contact stuff we just try to make sure she doesn’t fall and she just bails out on some stuff if she feels like she is not safe. I will have to check on that. We are in week three and I think they want to maybe test it out at week four. They did get an x-ray and it didn’t get worse, which is good news. She is on the mend and it is a four-to-six week injury and we are just praying that it is four weeks and it may be six. We have to work really hard and win some ballgames until she gets back.”
On possibly playing Bria just for defense …
“That has been thought of. We thought of that at Duke and she practiced and tried to do some things. For right now, we wouldn’t want her to injure it further. When she comes back, could you? I don’t know. That is something that we think about.”
UK Player Quotes
#3 Janee Thompson, G, Jr.
On her attacking mentality …
“I was really just trying to be aggressive. I knew that Ole Miss at times struggled with dribble penetration and I was just trying to get in the paint, create because they were really guarding my teammates really hard. I drove in there and I was able to get some layups.”
On what was said in the timeout before UK made its run …
“Coach Mitchell was just encouraging us to stay with it and continue to play defense. He thought our defense was going pretty well. We were keeping them out of the paint, we were leveling off the ball, pressuring them and I think he was just encouraging us and trying to get us to be aggressive on offense. That resulted in some baskets.”
On this game having an NCAA Tournament-type feel to it …
“I think this was just a hard-fought game. Ole Miss just wanted to win as badly as we did and I think they were making plays and they were excited. We just had to respond to that, and I think that’s something that we did every time that we were called on to respond. Whether we were down six like you mentioned, we responded to the challenge and we were able to get the win.”
#15 Linnae Harper, G, So.
On the early offensive struggles …
“Really, we just kept encouraging each other and didn’t get down. We were trying to find more ways to be more effective offensively and make shots.”
On her rebounding and why she’s so good at it …
“It’s a passion. I’ve always loved rebounding, even when I was younger. As I get older and playing on the college level, it gets harder. It’s really about focus and having the mentality of ‘I have to go get it’. In this game, I had a lot of opportunities, and I just did the best that I could do.”
On if her rebounding mindset changes when there are four guards out on the floor …
“It changes a little bit because I knew there were only four of us. So, I just get to the glass offensively and defensively and I think that helped us a lot.”
On SEC play being a step-up in competition …
“It’s no surprise. There is no question that we have the toughest conference. The SEC is the toughest conference out there, so every game that we play is going to be tough. We have to work for it and that just goes back to us practicing every day and being focused in and changing our mentality to be the most disruptive team and toughest team that we can be.”
Cats looking for 11th straight win at home.
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Just a day removed from winning their conference lid lifter at Alabama on Friday, the 11th-ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team returns action to face Ole Miss in its Southeastern Conference home opener Sunday, Jan. 4 at 2 p.m. ET in Memorial Coliseum. The game will be televised live on the SEC Network with Cara Capuano and former Auburn head coach Nell Fortner calling the action.The game also can be heard live on the UK Radio Network with Neil Price. Sophomore Linnae Harper (Chicago) will be signing autographs after the game.
Single-game reserved tickets are available at a 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.
Children ages five and under are admitted free in the general admission seating area and UK students, faculty and staff are admitted free with valid identification.
Fans interested in UK Hoops tickets can visit the Joe Craft Center ticket office, go to UKathletics.com, or call the UK ticket office at 1-800-928-CATS. Tickets are also available at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 1-800-745-3000.
UK (12-2, 1-0) opened the 36th season of SEC play with a hard-fought come-from-behind victory over Alabama. Trailing by 10 (42-32) with 16:54 to go in the game, the Wildcats clamped down defensively and outscored the Tide 36-14 to take a 56-54 lead with 9:00 to play. With the help of seven straight points from junior point guard Janee Thompson (Chicago), UK used an 18-0 spurt and led by as many as 19 points in the final four minutes. The 78-66 win marked UK’s fourth straight win in an SEC opener and third straight win over Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Four players scored in double figures with freshman forward/center Alexis Jennings (Madison, Ala.) leading the way for the second straight game as she poured in 21 points, including 14 in the first half. After scoring a career-high 27 points vs. Tennessee State last Sunday, Jennings becomes the first UK freshman to post back-to-back 20-point games since A’dia Mathies in 2010. Following Jennings in the scoring column was sophomore Makayla Epps (Lebanon, Ky.) with 14 points and Jennifer O’Neill (Bronx, N.Y.) with 12. Thompson also scored 12 points, while dishing out a career-high 10 assists. She is the first player to chart a points/assists double-double since Carly Ormerod had 13 points and 11 assists vs. Ball State on March 19, 2007.
The Wildcats are still without senior leader Bria Goss (Indianapolis) who will miss at least two more weeks with a broken left thumb. Goss, who played in 117 straight games before missing the last three, is one of the team’s best defenders and she averages 7.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.
Overall, Kentucky has benefited from a balanced scoring attack this season as seven players are averaging 7.4 points per game or better. O’Neill leads the way with 14.9 ppg (fifth in the SEC). Epps and fellow sophomore Linnae Harper (Chicago) follow with 13.4 and 10.4 ppg, respectively, while Thompson adds 10.1 ppg. Senior Azia Bishop (Toledo, Ohio) and Jennings follow with 7.9 ppg each.
Bishop is the team’s leader on the boards with 6.5 but Harper, at just 5-foot-10, follows close behind with 6.4 rpg. Bishop has also swatted a team-high 25 blocks and currently ranks tied for second in the SEC in blocks per game (1.8).
Ole Miss is 11-3 overall, 1-0 in SEC play after defeating Arkansas on Friday night, 71-57.
Senior forward Tia Faleru leads Ole Miss with 16.0 points (second in the SEC) and 10.6rebounds per game (leads the SEC). Faleru is the lone player in double figures but Erika Sisk nears the double-figure mark with 9.7 ppg. Danielle McCray and Toree Thompson follow with 7.1 and 6.8 ppg, respectively. The rest of the scoresheet is balanced with 11 players averaging at least 3.9 ppg.
The Rebels, coached by former UK assistant coach Matt Insell, are looking for their first win over a ranked opponent since the 2010-11 season. They rank sixth nationally in steals with 13.4 steals per game, which also leads the SEC and are 18th nationally in offensive rebounds per game (17.6) and 12th in turnover margin (+7.1).
Sunday will mark the 36th meeting between the teams. The Wildcats have won the last five meetings against Ole Miss but trail 20-15 in the all-time series. The series is tied at eight games apiece in Lexington. Head coach Matthew Mitchell is 6-1 all-time vs. Ole Miss.
The Cats own a 392-144 (73.1) mark in Memorial Coliseum, including a 102-16 (86.4) record under Mitchell. UK is 7-0 at home this season, 6-0 in Memorial and have won 10 consecutive games at home, dating back to last season. The 10-game winning streak currently ties for the ninth longest in program history.
For more information on parking around Memorial Coliseum and other game-day questions visitwww.ukathletics.com/wbbgameday.