Women's Basketball

Jan. 23, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 9/8 Kentucky women’s basketball team will play host to the Alabama Crimson Tide on Thursday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. EST in Memorial Coliseum for its third annual “We Back Pat” game. The game will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price. Fans can also watch a live video stream on the paid portion of UKathletics.com or follow Twitter updates on @UKHoopCats.

Kentucky vs. Alabama
Thursday, Jan. 23- 7:00 p.m. ET
Lexington, Ky.
Fan Guide

Game Notes: UK
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In participating in “We Back Pat” Week, the week-long initiative focused on bringing awareness and recognition to The Pat Summitt Foundation, UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell and his wife Jenna, in conjunction with their Mitchell Family Foundation, will donate $2 to The Pat Summitt Foundation for every fan who attends the Wildcats’ next two games: Thursday vs. Alabama (7 p.m. ET) and Sunday vs. Arkansas (1 p.m. ET). The players will also don “We Back Pat” shooting shirts and the UK Hoops coach staff will wear purple to represent the fight against Alzheimer’s.

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.

Tickets can be purchased online at UKathletics.com or Ticketmaster.com, in person at the Joe Craft Center ticket office Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. EST or by calling 1-800-928-2287. Tickets are also available for purchase on game day.

“It’s going to be a tough game tomorrow with Alabama,” Mitchell said. “It’s a quick turnaround playing them because we already played them in the first game of the (SEC) season, so it hasn’t been that awfully long since we played them down there (in Tuscaloosa). They made it tough on us to win in Tuscaloosa. They have some really good athletes, play extremely hard, have one of the best 3-point shooters in the league and so they make it tough on you to guard them and they do a good job defensively. We really, really hustled down there in Tuscaloosa. That was a huge key in the game. We got off to a great start and I thought it was our best game from a mental focus standpoint in the conference. That’s something that is important for us to recapture tomorrow night and get a very, very important victory over Alabama. We’ll have to work hard to do it.”

Kentucky (15-3, 3-2 SEC) went 10 for 20 from the 3-point line in defeating Alabama in the SEC opener on Jan. 2 in Tuscaloosa, 85-63. 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 after charting a season-high 16 points to go along with eight rebounds and two blocks. Always steady senior guard Kastine Evans (Salem, Conn.) followed with 15 points and senior Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) recorded 12 points and game-high 13 rebounds.

Overall, O’Neill leads four Wildcats in double-digit scoring with 12.7 points per game. Senior forward DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) follows with 12.2 ppg, while Evans and Walker add 10.9 and 10.6 ppg, respectively. Walker leads the SEC in rebounding with 9.8 rpg, including 11.0 in league play. She ranks third in the SEC in double-doubles with seven, including two in a row and four in the last five games.

The Tide, under the direction of first-year head coach Kristy Curry, are 8-10 on the season, 1-4 in SEC play after falling at No. 8/8 South Carolina on Sunday. Senior Shafontaye Myers leads the Tide in scoring at 15.1 points per contest. Myers ranks second in the SEC in 3-point field goals made per game (3.0) and fourth in 3-point field goal percentage (.425). Junior Daisha Simmons ranks second on the team in scoring at 13.6 points, while freshman forward Ashley Williams averages 11.4 points per game.

The Wildcats lead the overall series with Alabama 24-16, including a 12-5 advantage when the game is played in Lexington. UK has won nine of the last 10 matchups, including six in a row vs. the Tide at home. Alabama’s last win in Lexington came on Jan. 27, 2002 (61-58) in Memorial.

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 6 p.m. ET on Thursday.

Changes to parking are highlighted in italics:

  • 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 beginning 1.5 hours prior to tip. No vouchers or coupons are necessary for free parking unless otherwise noted.
  • Lexington Authority Transit Center Parking Garage, located between High Street and Vine Street, is available for all remaining games. 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. Game day shuttles are also handicap accessible should these spaces fill before game time.

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.

Shuttle Information:

  • 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. This shuttle will drop off at the front of Memorial Coliseum.
  • Transit Center Parking Garage (green route) picks up/drops off near the corner of High Street and Martin Luther King. This shuttle will drop off at the Lexington Ave entrance near the ticket office.
  • Shuttles will start back up at halftime (to return guests to their parking areas) and end 1 hour post-game.

For more information on parking around Memorial Coliseum and other game-day questions visit www.ukathletics.com/wbbgameday.

Media Opportunity – January 22, 2014

Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening statement…

“It’s going to be a tough game tomorrow with Alabama. It’s a quick turnaround playing them because we already played them in the first game of the (SEC) season, so it hasn’t been that awfully long since we played them down there (in Tuscaloosa). They made it tough on us to win in Tuscaloosa. They have some really good athletes, play extremely hard, have one of the best 3-point shooters in the league and so they make it tough on you to guard them and they do a good job defensively. We really, really hustled down there in Tuscaloosa. That was a huge key in the game. We got off to a great start and I thought it was our best game from a mental focus standpoint in the conference. That’s something that is important for us to recapture tomorrow night and get a very, very important victory over Alabama. We’ll have to work hard to do it.”

On playing a lot of zone defense vs. Auburn and if one of the reasons is due to the new rules…

“I’m trying to figure that out. As you watch the games from last year – which you do sometimes as you get ready for an opponent, especially if they have a veteran team – it is different and I think what the difficulty is, is trying to figure out what’s legal guarding position and what contact is initiated by the offense. If I’m in my space in a legal guarding position and the offense runs into me and I didn’t create the contact, I think that’s really what is giving us so much trouble. Just trying to figure out what’s legal and what’s not. It says in the rulebook that they can’t create the contact and the foul will be on you. It has been difficult. You see that being one factor, but I think another factor is we could play a lot better, a lot harder. We watched film on it yesterday and so that’s not all of it. It’s not all the new way the game is being called. A lot of it is on us too. I don’t know if the way it’s being called is in our head and it just keeps us from really turning loose and playing because we were much more active and aggressive in the zone (defense) and played with the kind of energy that I wish we would play in man-to-man. It’s a bit of a conundrum for me right now. I’m trying to figure that out, but we’ll get it figured out. One way or the other we’re going to find a way to stop people. We have good defenders. We have good athleticism. We have good quickness. We have some good defensive fundamentals. If it has to be a little bit more multiple right now, I think we have the team that can make that adjustment and I was extremely proud of the players because we probably played more zone minutes-wise in the game than we’ve practiced it, so it was a good, good job of them hustling and making an adjustment in the game. We’re working on that (zone defense) more now, so it may become a big part of what we do. I just don’t know. I’m trying to figure that out from a coaching standpoint right now.”

On if the team likes to play zone defense…

“That may be the way that they are successful. I think it’s important as a coach to find a way for your players to be successful. I think man-to-man defense is the way to play. I think that’s the best way to play, but I’m not out there playing and it’s not about me, it’s about the players. They have been very active in man and zone yesterday in practice, so we’ll practice both today and we’ll see what happens.”

On if there are any unique challenges with playing Alabama again so quickly…

“I think it’s probably a little bit easier than when you have a long, long time. I think it’s pretty fresh on the players’ minds. I certainly don’t think it’s that much of a negative. I think it will be fresh in our players’ minds of what they can do and what they are capable of doing. That’ll probably be an advantage for us at this point in the season right now.”

On the players’ reaction to winning a close game at Auburn …

“It’s just really a remarkable game. You get down 13 on the road, you miss 16 free throws on the road, you have to go to an alternate defense that you’re not great at playing on the road and still find some way to win. I think it should really motivate the players to try to tighten some things up and get better and come out with the right kind of focus and energy tomorrow night. It’s just one of those really, really great moments in the season that you can either capitalize on or if you take it for granted you’re in really, really bad shape. I think we were, as coaches, trying to emphasize how humble we have to be right now. We’re not certainly clicking on all cylinders and we have to really, really look deep inside and see what you need to do day to day in practice because you look at the record, you look at the ranking and all these things that just don’t mean anything right now. It’s how you’re playing on the court is what’s very important. And so I just told the players we are just so proud of the part of the effort that got us the victory and we have to correct what got us into the situation where it looked so dire there for a while, 13 down in the first half. So there are reasons that’s happening and those are the things that we have to correct. But we have good players and some talented players and we just have to find a way to really pull together in practice every day and focus on getting better.”

On how the team has responded after losses compared to past seasons …

“You know, I think it’s just hard to compare year to year and really not fair on the current team to ever compare them. I think that the gift or the advantage of time passing, you know, I don’t remember all the unique challenges we went through last year and I seem to—every single year you’re going to have some stretch of the season it seems that it’s just hard to get everybody through and get everybody on the same page. At least we’ve struggled with that over the years. But then after you complete the season and then just the way that I am, I usually try to look back on those things very positively and try to enjoy the successes we’ve had. So it’s hard for me to look back exactly what we were going through last year. And so I would just say this with this team: We have been getting off to some rough starts and it’s been really—Alabama we got off to a great start and we got down to Florida, we got down to South Carolina, we got down to Missouri, we got down to Auburn. And to me that is a mental focus issue and the coaches and the players, we all have to do a much better job preparing. And that’s to me the key because you get down eight to Missouri and you beat them by 19 points for a large part of the game. You get down 13 to Auburn and you beat them by 15 points the rest of the game, plus you miss just an enormous amount of free throws. So we’re clearly playing some basketball during those games that’s pretty powerful and pretty good. But South Carolina, we got down 24 points in the second half and you cut it back to nine. So the talent still is there and I just think that we need to really work hard to get it together from a mental standpoint. When we do that, I think you’ll see us sort of start to take off and get going. But until that happens, we just have to as a coaching staff try to find a way to win games because I really think at some point you’ll see it click. I just don’t know that it’s really doing that right now.”

On what adjustments he expects Alabama to make …

“I think that what they’ll probably do is go back and look at the film and see where they had some success. They had some success driving the basketball on us. They had some success in their ball-screen offense. So I would think that they’ll really try to hone in on the places where they were successful and really try to see if they can exploit some of our defense that hasn’t been all that great. It’ll be a real challenge. We need to be very, very sharp on the defensive end of the floor today in practice.”

On Jennifer O’Neill’s impact …

“She has a big impact production-wise and scores a lot of points for us and that’s so important and she made some shots at Auburn. The ability just to make shots when a team is tough on defense like Auburn was and not breaking down a whole heck of a lot and not giving you easy baskets. Just the ability to make shots is so important and valuable for our team. And I just want to try to see if Jennifer can really lock in mentally and be focused razor-sharp for every practice and every game. That’s just a struggle for her. She really, really struggles with that. As her coach, I just feel like I need to find some kind of way to get that in her game because when that happens we’ll be better. When she can really practice well, we all see how talented she is. She made some important buckets against Auburn when we were really struggling. So those are so valuable, but I think she’s a big key to us defensively and just from a leadership standpoint I feel like she can give us a whole lot. So I think she can do even better than what she’s doing now.”

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