December 7, 2012
UK COACH MATTHEW MITCHELL
COACH MITCHELL: Well, that was a great team victory tonight. I thought everybody played extremely hard and gave a great Kentucky effort. We talked about that before the game. We had a great respect for our opponent coming into this game.
We knew they were a highpowered offense and could give us a lot of trouble and we just wanted to come out and give a great effort, and we especially were excited because the crowd tonight, recordsetting crowd, and we want to thank each and every person that bought a ticket and made the effort to come out here tonight. It was a great, great tonight in Rupp Arena. Really proud our players responded to the challenge.
Q. When you came out tonight and you had the big lead, you wanted to keep the pedal to the medal, but then they made a run of 143. Were you at all concerned for the rest of the game?
COACH MITCHELL: Well, I think sometimes what happens when you make the big opening run, there’s a tendency to relax and there’s just so much basketball left. I was very concerned, we were getting a lot of our offense in transition and it was out of our defense, and I didn’t think we were particularly setting up great in just running offense.
So I thought it was very important to try to answer that run, because that was a big run for them to get back within striking distance if we didn’t really tighten up a little bit.
So I thought our defense responded. I thought when they made that run, we were a little tired. We were able to substitute some people to bring the intensity back, and weather that good run that DePaul made there in the first half.
Q. Were you surprised by that first run, how you guys came out?
COACH MITCHELL: As a coach when you are preparing against a quality team and I think DePaul will play some very good games this year, and I think they will still be an NCAA Tournament team. As a coach, at least the way that I approach the game, I’m not thinking about that kind of run to begin the game. So that’s not what I was expecting.
I was excited to see it, because I think when we play with great energy and we are on the offensive boards the way we were early in the game, that showed you that we were ready to play, and I was very excited to see that opening run, because we were prepared to slug it out tonight with a really, really tough opponent, and that was a great, great opening run, way to open the game, and get the crowd into it early.
Q. DeNesha (Stallworth) had some pretty good statistical games early in the season but you always seem to be looking for from her, is tonight proof of what you were saying all along?
COACH MITCHELL: I think the last four games, she’s been getting better every game. She really bailed us out in the Louisville game when there were people not playing with great effort and energy. She was big on Sunday and she was very big tonight. Started the game with great energy, got a great offensive board early in the game, and I think our first bucket that way, and I think she just continues to get better and better, and that’s a great sign for our basketball team.
Q. Talk a little about the second half, at a time when you can be worried about a letdown, especially when you are up by 18.
COACH MITCHELL: Well, going into halftime, I was you’re happy to be up 18 against a good team like that. But you know, the opening run was really, really tough, and then I thought DePaul really got their footing, and I didn’t think 18 was a real big lead against that team. I just have so much respect for their players, and especially their ability to shoot the ball.
So if you come out at all with any type of lack of intensity and they make a couple 3s or have another 143 run, they are right back there.
So I was very concerned at halftime, because again, I didn’t feel great about how we were executing in the half court. So I just encouraged them to come out in that first four minutes, and I can’t remember what it was, but it was a three or fourpoint victory in that first fourminute segment, and the next fourminute segment was a twopoint victory and that sort of settled us down I thought, and then we were able to break it open.
I was very concerned at halftime because of the respect I have for our opponent.
Q. When you have a crowd like that and a start like that and a game like that, does it make you think about moving more games down here?
COACH MITCHELL: Not really. It makes me happy that we took advantage of our one opportunity. You know, all sorts of things go through my head on this kind of day.
You know, the big thing on my mind today was these people had made such a great effort to come out here and support us, and you just want them to be honored with your effort, and you want it to mean something, because a lot of people, that will be the only time they come watch us this year.
And so I just wanted to us play well and I was so happy that we did that. But it’s a great venue, especially when we can get that kind of crowd, and we’ll just see what the future holds.
But I think that Memorial (Coliseum) is a great, great home court for us, it’s a great facility and it has a great field and we are grateful for the opportunity to come down here once a year right now and I really want to thank the fans for responding and coming out tonight. It’s outstanding.
Q. Can you talk about filling the point guard role, how do you think that went tonight?
COACH MITCHELL: I thought it was good in spots. What happens right now with us is our point guards when they are fresh have some intensity about them and when they are not fresh, they don’t, and the game, the margin was pretty big at one point in time, but Jennifer O’Neill is not playing defense the way that they want it to be played.
So four players are really, really hustling, and Jennifer is, compared to those four, relaxed. So I think that it’s still a workinprogress.
I was so happy that Jennifer came out aggressive on offense. That’s her strength right now. That is her strength and she needs to play to her strength, and they went underneath a couple of ball screens and she made them pay. And that is very critical for us to get going and feeling good about ourselves offensively, so I’m happy with that.
I just need a little more toughness at that position and I’m sure they are going to work on it and I’m sure we’ll get there. But it was a great win tonight but the point guard position is one that still needs to develop.
Q. Can you talk about your post play and how important Samarie (Walker) and DeNesha (Stallworth) are and how big they played tonight?
COACH MITCHELL: I thought they played well together. I thought it was probably their best effort as a tandem tonight, the most consistent that they have been together. And that shows you against a very good opponent, and DePaul is a very good team, I thought that their ability to play with some energy and athleticism and finish around the rim was really good.
So they need to be weapons for us. That needs to be one of the toughest post tandems in the country, and for us to realize our potential, we need some more games like that. But I was really pleased with our post effort tonight, especially out of two starters.
Q. Rebounding, you had three girls well, you have one that need one more rebound for a doubledouble. Did you keep awed I in there late trying to get the doubledouble?
COACH MITCHELL: I had no idea that was going on. We put on the (white)board tonight, one of the huge keys of the game, was rebounding, on the boards. We needed to have great energy and attack the back board tonight with two hands on both ends and they did a great job of that.
The rebounding stats we felt like would be very critical to our success to the victory tonight and I thought we did an excellent job on the boards.
Q. How important is it to take some momentum into the game against Middle Tennessee, a team that you historically had trouble with the last three or four years?
COACH MITCHELL: Yeah, we really have. I think that a benefit that Middle Tennessee has, they have played us before and they now I think it’s been four straight years, or maybe five straight years counting postseason. We have played middle Tennessee.
They do a really good job of trying to control tempo and trying to make sure that our press doesn’t hurt them and they have had some success with that at times. When we have had success, our press has been able to be a factor in the game.
So this is a tough turnaround for our team. This is a great win tonight against a very good opponent, a great crowd, but this is a tough weekend.
We have to keep our feet on the ground here and come back tomorrow with some great preparation and get ready to finish off a great weekend. If we can find some way to beat Middle Tennessee, this would be a great, great threegame stretch for us. I’m going to really encourage the players to come out with a great effort on Sunday.
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