Jan. 3, 2014
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The sixth-ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team looks to chart the 700th win in program history and seventh straight win over Florida when it plays host to the Gators on Sunday, Jan. 5 in its Southeastern Conference home opener. The game will be televised live on CSS at 3 p.m. ET with Matt Stewart and former Auburn head coach Joe Ciampi calling the action. Fans can also watch a live video stream on ESPN3.com, listen to the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price or follow Twitter updates on @UKHoopCats.
|Kentucky vs. Florida
Sunday, Jan. 5 – 3:00 p.m. ET
Game Notes: UK
Radio: UK IMG
Live video, stats, audio, blog, and social media
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.
“We have a very tough challenge ahead Sunday afternoon versus a really good Florida team,” UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “If you think about the series over the last seven years, it’s been a really, really difficult game for us and Florida always has really good players. They do again this year. They’re always extremely well coached. They are extremely well coached again this year and their guards are really, really strong and I think we need to play really good defense. Jaterra Bonds has been just a nightmare for us to guard over the last three years and she’s having a great season. She is one of the top scorers in the league and just surrounded by some really good players. So we are in for a tough, tough game Sunday afternoon and we’re going to have to pour everything into getting ready for this one and have really good practices today and Saturday and Sunday morning and do everything we can to see if we earn a victory against a really good Florida team.”
UK, which holds a 699-478 (59.3) overall record in 40 seasons of varsity women’s basketball, is 25-22 all-time vs. Florida, including a 13-9 advantage in Lexington. The Cats own a six-game winning streak vs. UF and a five-game winning streak vs. the Gators in Lexington but the last four wins in the series have been by a combined 20 points.
“It certainly doesn’t feel like we’ve won six in a row against them,” Mitchell said.” They’re just always so tough. I think we have really good games because they always have tough players and their coach gets them ready to play and our style of defense has some difficulties against them because they always have good guards.”
Florida is 11-3 overall, 1-0 in league play after defeating Mississippi State, 82-72, in its conference opener in Gainesville, Fla., on Thursday. Senior guard Jaterra Bonds is the team’s leading scorer and assist leader with 16.8 points and 4.6 assists per game. Sophomore guard January Miller is second on the team with 12.2 ppg, while sophomore forward Christin Mercer averages 11.8 ppg and 6.5 rpg. Redshirt sophomore guard Cassie Peoples scores 11.7 points per game and redshirt junior guard Kayla Lewis is the team’s leading rebounder at 8.1 per game to go with 9.8 points per game. The Gators are led by head coach Amanda Butler who is 171-107 in nine total seasons, including a 131-85 mark at Florida.
The Wildcats (13-1, 1-0 SEC) began league play with a convincing, 85-63, win at Alabama on Thursday. Four Wildcats scored in double figures led by junior point guard Jennifer O’Neill (Bronx, N.Y.) with 17 points off the bench. Junior center Azia Bishop (Toledo, Ohio) looked impressive in her fourth starting assignment of the season, charting a season-high 16 points to go along with eight rebounds and two blocks. Always steady senior guard Kastine Evans (Salem, Conn.), who has double-figure points in 10 of 14 games this season, followed with a season-high tying 15 points and senior Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) notched her fourth double-double of the season with 12 points and game-high 13 rebounds.
Overall this season, senior forward DeNesha Stallworth, who has missed the last five games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on her left knee on Dec. 18, leads a very balanced scoring attack as one of six players in double-digit scoring. She averages a team-high 14.2 points per game, while O’Neill follows with 12.9 points per game. Evans is averaging 11.8 and sophomore point guard Janee Thompson and Walker average 10.4 points per game apiece. Junior guard Bria Goss (Indianpolis) rounds out the double-digit scorers with 10.1 points per game. Walker is the team’s leading rebounder with 9.6 rebounds per game, while Bishop has swatted a team-high 18 blocks this season.
“We’d love to see a big crowd out,” Mitchell said. “It just makes such a difference in Memorial Coliseum, so if you are a season ticket holder I just want to ask you to come out and see us play. If you’ve never come out to see us, come out and see us. I think you’ll come back if you come one time. We need a big crowd to help us beat a good Florida team Sunday afternoon.”
Please note that fans arriving approximately 1 hour or less before tip-off are highly encouraged to park at the Transit Center Parking Garage (see shuttle info below) or Parking Structure #5 next to Kennedy’s bookstore. Both are a 5-10 minute walk or a short shuttle ride over to the Coliseum. All surface lots near the Coliseum will likely be full one hour prior to tip-off and you will be re-directed to one of these options. Doors to Memorial Coliseum will open at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday.
- All E-lots (Employee Lots) surrounding Memorial Coliseum beginning 3 hours prior to tip-off
- Parking Structure #5 (adjacent to Kennedy’s Bookstore) –access from Limestone or Upper Street. Fans who park here need to pull a white ticket from the dispenser and exchange for a pink voucher with Event Staff at the entrances of the Coliseum.
- Lexington Authority Transit Center Parking Garage, located between High Street and Vine Street, is available on Sunday. If parking in this garage, bring the yellow token and game ticket to the Guest Service table at the Lexington Ave entrance to request a free parking coupon.
- Handicap parking is available in the E-Lot (Employee Lot) north of the Craft Center, adjacent to the metered spaces running along the frontage of the Craft Center with a valid, state issued handicap tag. These spaces (typically 20-30 stalls) are available on a first-come, first-serve basis until full.
Please note: parking is prohibited in any R (Residential) lots. Vehicles parking in Residential lots without a proper permit, along yellow curbs, grass spaces, or other non-specified and unapproved areas may be subject to ticket and/or tow.
- Shuttles are available beginning 1.5 hours prior to tip off from Parking Structure # 5 located off Limestone and Upper Street and the Transit Center Parking Garage located off High Street and Vine Street.
- Parking Structure # 5 (blue route) picks up/drops off on Administration Drive, at the end of the pedestrian sky bridge accessed from the 3rd floor of the parking garage.
- Transit Center Parking Garage (green route) picks up/drops off near the corner of High Street and Martin Luther King.
- Shuttles will start back up 1.5 hours after tip-off (to return guests to their parking areas).
For more information on parking around Memorial Coliseum and other game-day questions visit www.ukathletics.com/wbbgameday.
Media Opportunity – January 3, 2014
Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
“Well, we have a very tough challenge ahead Sunday afternoon versus a really good Florida team. If you think about the series over the last seven years, it’s been a really, really difficult game for us and Florida always has really good players. They do again this year. They’re always extremely well coached. They are extremely well coached again this year and their guards are really, really strong and I think we need to play really good defense. Jaterra Bonds has been just a nightmare for us to guard over the last three years and she’s having a great season. One of the top scorers in the league and just surrounded by some really good players. So we are in for a tough, tough game Sunday afternoon and we’re going to have to pour everything into getting ready for this one and have really good practices today and Saturday and Sunday morning and do everything we can to see if we earn a victory against a really good Florida team.”
On how much this kind of game can help his team, particularly with DeNesha Stallworth out …
“Well, DeNesha’s absence has been something that we’ve had to work very hard to get through with some success and I’m proud of the team, where we stand since she went out. I know she’s been itching to get back and hopefully she’s going to be back very soon and we’ll see where she is today. Our goal is to try to work her back in the first chance she can play. And so if that’s Sunday, that’d be great. But I would think her first game back is going to be a process of trying to get in there and we’ll kind of see what we have. Even if she were back Sunday, I still think the team’s mindset has to prepare for her role to possibly not be that big, which means we have to do what we’ve been working on and we have to be successful without her. And Florida really poses some real challenges for us because we’re relying on some young players. Linnae (Harper) and Makayla (Epps) need to play well in this game because I think we need to do everything we can to make the pace of the game a factor. But it’s hard against Florida because Bonds is such an incredibly dynamic ball-handler and so explosive and fast, we really had a hard time pressing her in the past. And she’s surrounded by a really good set of guards and some mobile post players, some good 3-point shooters too so that’s always a real concern in the press. If you’re late on a rotation and you can let Lily Svete or (Carlie) Needles get open from the 3-point line. January Miller’s a really good 3-point shooter. I think with Florida, they play so hard and they’re so difficult to press, we need Makayla and Linnae to really be sharp in this game. For freshmen, the SEC time is a little difficult transition and so it all goes back, for us, to practice and they need to practice really, really well and the entire team does to get ready for this game.”
On the series with Florida …
“It certainly doesn’t feel like we’ve won six in a row against them. They’re just always so tough, I didn’t know that was the case. We, I think, have really good games because they always have tough players and their coach gets them ready to play and our style of defense has some difficulties against them because they always have good guards. I tell you, Bonds has just been, like I said earlier, she’s just been a nightmare to try to handle for us from defensive perspective. She’s so explosive and can get out and make plays. Sometimes when you have one player, one really, really super ball-handler that is explosive, sometimes if you’re not sharp in the press one player can really, really hurt a press. We have to, in this game, to try to make it about Kentucky as a team and really try to play together and see if we can limit Florida in transition, where they’re so good. Try to keep them off the offensive glass, which is always a challenge in SEC play. They have some really good offensive rebounders. Ronni Williams, their freshman, is really flying to the boards and hard to keep off the glass. I think it’s a tough game because of the style of defense we play and the kind of players they have and it just always makes for a real, real tough game. I think it’ll be that way on Sunday afternoon.”
On Samarie Walker’s play Thursday at Alabama …
“When I went back and watched the tape, we weren’t great in every aspect as far as we weren’t exactly where we were supposed to be all the time. There are some areas for growth from yesterday’s game. But I tell you what I loved and I think if we will keep this we will get all the other stuff worked out, I thought it was one of the great, great examples of Samarie Walker playing – I don’t know how many minutes she got I think it was 28 or 29 – throughout that she stayed in the game mentally and didn’t let anything get her down and she held her head high and played with great attitude. She did not get off to a good start shooting the basketball and there have been times when she would miss a layup or something like that and that would really affect her for several minutes. Sometimes early in her career it would affect her for the rest of the game. As she has matured and gotten better, she might miss something and it might affect her for two minutes or five minutes, but it would still have an effect on her. I was pleased yesterday because she just kept playing. That was a great example for her. If she will do that and just not let any external thing affect her and she stays with it, she is a double-double waiting to happen. She is just so strong, athletic, explosive, talented and skilled. I have told Samarie this so many times, the only player that I have ever felt that could stop Samarie is Samarie. I was really, really happy with her mindset yesterday and I think if she can keep that and continue that, it is going to pay off big dividends for this Kentucky team.”
On how valuable Samarie has been during this stretch with no DeNesha Stallworth …
“Well, Samarie has been really solid and played well in DeNesha’s absence. I know that Samarie is looking forward to DeNesha getting back because I think then she can play even better basketball because she might get a little less attention than she is getting now. I always thought when you have a challenge like DeNesha leaving for a few games there is such opportunity there. I think Azia Bishop is on the cusp of playing some good basketball. It is such a process that we just have to stay so firmly planted in reminding Azia that it is all about practice every day and she just can’t let up one single day and waste a day. If you start to think about the totality of the schedule: 16 games, there are four games in the SEC Tournament possibly, then the NCAA Tournament, it seems like the end of the season is a long way off. So maybe a practice on Jan. 3 is not that big of a deal and that is where we are trying to stay so firmly planted in the process of one day at a time, one practice at a time, one game at a time. That is the key for someone like Azia Bishop or anyone on our team to really become the player they want to be. You just can’t waste a second of practice time if we really want to be a great team. Today, we need to get in there and really sharpen some things up from the Alabama game to see if we can take a step forward Sunday. We have to find a way to stay planted in that process and I think if we do that we will come out on the other side of losing DeNesha as a stronger team. I think Samarie will be better, Azia will be better, all of our team (will be better). In DeNesha’s absence, Samarie has been really big for us.”
On what Azia Bishop has shown since being inserted into the starting lineup…
“We were all so disappointed in the Duke game and our performance there and Azia was 2-for-8 from the field and 0-for-5 from the free throw line and none of the free throws were even close. It just was not a good shooting performance. She came back the night after Christmas and she and I just spent some time at a goal trying to block all that stuff out, let’s get back to the fundamentals of what needs to happen for a layup and what needs to happen for a free throw and it’s all things that she knew, but since she’s come back I think she’s practiced better. I think her attitude has been better and that’s really so much of the process of Azia becoming who she wants to become. She’s grown so much since she’s been here at Kentucky in so many ways and really off the court I’m really pleased at where her decision-making is now, compared to when she first got here. Academically, she had a 3.5 GPA in the fall semester and that’s just so much better than when she got here. I’m really encouraging her to take that next step as a player because you all that have covered the team have seen her have these flashes of brilliance and how athletic she can be and how talented she is. We just want her to realize that potential and she can do it. Yesterday she was 3-for-3 from the free throw line and 6-for-10 from the field and made some things happen on defense and we just want her to become the player that is in there. That’s really our goal for all of our players, is to try to develop them to their very best, as a person, academically and athletically. That’s what playing at Kentucky is all about and I’m encouraged with Azia, but we just can never let up one day with her. There can be no sense of arrival for Azia Bishop. She has to stay firmly, firmly planted in the process of getting better on a daily basis.”
On if Azia had to change her mindset from coming off the bench to starting…
“We just don’t really talk about starting or we don’t put any more value on the start of the game or if you come off in that second unit in that second four minutes because that’s usually what happens because we try to get the game off to a really fast start with the tempo. Usually we’re substituting that second four minutes, so in my mind we need everybody and so a starter’s role is not significantly more important than a bench player’s role at Kentucky. That is a bit unique to other places, but we just don’t talk about whether you’re starting or coming off the bench because everybody is so important. I think for Azia, whether she’s a starter or coming off the bench it’s all the same for her. It’s an attitude and a mindset and a focus that she needs to have so she can go out and play good basketball.”
On how having a strong senior class will help down the stretch in the SEC…
“I think our seniors are important because they are good players and they’re talented. I’m a coach that probably spends more time in the mental or emotional aspect of the game and trying to make sure the players are thinking properly and carrying themselves properly so we can all succeed. Sometimes as a coach you can overdo that and maybe put too much weight on the seniors. Do they have a sense of urgency because it’s their senior year or do they not? There’s just a wide range of what can happen there with the seniors. With this particular team, I’m trying to do the very best job I can as their coach to get them ready for Sunday afternoon and just trying to simplify things. We’ve cast the vision for this team. We’ve let them know that we think they can be a championship basketball team, and I think everybody understands that. So right now, whether it be a senior or a freshman or in between, we’re just trying to get them ready for Sunday afternoon and see if we can earn a victory over Florida. I feel like that’s the best way to get it out of our team. Now, our seniors will be important on Sunday and in every other game because I do think experience helps you and I do think all those things can come into play, but I don’t think you can rely on that and just assume that it’s going to make a huge difference. It can, if you practice well and do what you’re supposed to do. Senior leadership can make a difference. This group is going to work hard today and tomorrow and Sunday morning and see if we can beat a good Florida team Sunday afternoon. We’d love to see a big crowd out. It just makes such a difference in Memorial Coliseum, so if you are a season ticket holder I just want to ask you to come out and see us play. If you’ve never come out to see us, come out and see us. I think you’ll come back if you come one time. We need a big crowd to help us beat a good Florida team Sunday afternoon.”