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Matthew Mitchell Quotes After Win Over Mississippi State

Posted: Jan 17, 2013 10:32 PM

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Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening Statement ...

"We are really pleased tonight to get a victory and certainly proud of our players. They worked really hard and played really hard and it was a good night for us. Everybody contributed. We are a happy group of Wildcats tonight."


On the team's pressure defense and Mississippi State's coach teaching him that style of defense ...

"I thought our players worked really hard tonight. It is just not really, really complicated. It is just a lot of work and denying the ball one pass away and putting a lot of pressure on the ball. So the thing that Vic (Schaefer) did for me and that I am really appreciative of and what great teachers do, is they give you three or four things that you can kind of really hold on to. I can remember him talking about how important it was to pressure the ball. I remember him telling me there needed to be three or four drills that you hang your hat on and the players know they are going to do it every day and it really builds confidence. Those couple of things, pressuring the ball so you can't get it into the post when you have undersized post defenders, those things really stuck with me. We have tried to do that day-in and day-out and tried to stay committed to defense fundamentals and defensive footwork and you have to stay really committed to it. It just doesn't happen. You don't show up tonight and say, ‘Hey, we are going to play tough defense.' You have to commit to it over the course of time and I think it will be really soon when you see that kind of defense from Mississippi State."

On why his players play as hard as they do and if they play hard because they feel a certain way about him ...
"I don't think they play hard for me, I think they play hard for Kentucky. We try to make certain that everybody that is here comes in with their eyes wide open as to what this is about. This is about honoring this university with a women's basketball program that this university should have. It is a choice. Everybody has a choice. We don't do it like everybody does and this place isn't for everybody. But, if it is for you, I think it is a heck of a place to go and go play. We aren't twisting anyone's arm or holding a gun to anyone's head. We are just telling you that we think this is really special and really unique. We think the school deserves a great program and we are going to try like heck to give it to them. I think everybody is pretty clear on that. If that is not what you want, you won't be here and this isn't the place for you. There are other places you can go. We just try to make sure our players know they chose to be here and know what they signed up for. We just have a great group of kids that work really hard."

On Mississippi State's coach saying the secret to being successful is having players like the coach ...

"Well, we will have to poll the players because that will be news to me if they do. If they like me, it will be news to me. I have always said the most important thing for me in my life is to be popular (laughing from audience). Hopefully, my popularity with the players is sky high. That would be really good. I would be happy about that."

On what stood out to him on the box score ...
"The thing that leaps off the page is the 35 turnovers because even if you have an advantage in talent in the game, you still have to really hustle to do that. That is a lot of turnovers and you just have to hustle and that is the thing that has impressed me the most about this team lately is they are just hustling. It sounds very simple, and it is simple, but it is not easy to do. We have a bunch of players on this team that are really getting after it and hustling and scraping after lose basketballs and trying to make plays. A lot of good things tonight."

On the offensive performance ...

"(We were) really good at the 3-point line tonight and really good at that free-throw line tonight. Pretty good making layups and trying to get in there and drawing some contact and making some shots in the paint. I thought we were really good at points in the paint tonight. Just not a lot to complain about on offense. Just another spectacular night for Jennifer O'Neill, just a spectacular night of basketball for her. There is nobody that I have seen, and I haven't seen everybody, but there is nobody I have seen that is pushing the basketball up the court like Jennifer O'Neill. She is a weapon right now, man. She can get that ball to the other end so fast and she can do it two at a time in the game when everyone else is trying to catch a break or two. Lot of good stuff for us on offense tonight."

On saying preseason that this was a Final Four-type team and if this was the performance he was expecting when he said that...

"I think that to make the Final Four in women's college basketball you have to be a really, really good team. I think you have to play well obviously during tournament time. The thing I have always felt like, out of all the teams in the country, we are one of them that maybe has the opportunity because of our talent level. There is just a long, long way to go. But I think we have some talent and they are hustling right now. The thing I love about this game more than anything was how they prepared. They were really sharp preparing for this game. We were 4-0 coming in and Mississippi State was 0-4 and I didn't detect that was really a factor in their preparation. I think that will be a key in whatever success we have is are they committed to really trying to be the best they can and are they committed to holding themselves of a high standard. So tonight was a good game. I don't know where we will end up, but if this team will hold itself to a high standard they will have a chance to do some good things."

On Azia Bishop returning early ...
"I was not trying to mislead anybody. All of us will be mad at Azia Bishop the next time we see her. She made me look bad and created an adversarial situation with all of you, I am not trying to do that at all. We need to have good relationships here (laughing). I just didn't think she was going to play. So then, she pops up at practice yesterday and says she is feeling good. Then the trainer, Courtney (Jones), comes in and I am mad at Courtney, too. She said it was going to be three or four games, but what was it? Two games? Just bad information. Not a good situation at all. I take no responsibility for it at all. I thought she did a good job. She is going to be in that splint for, I think, look, I probably shouldn't say this because I don't know (laughter). I have been told another couple of games (on the splint). The whole thing I talked to her about over at Missouri on Saturday night before we played, just telling her she needed to come back and I thought she was playing really hard at Alabama. She was playing really hard when she got hurt and that we really need her to come back for energy. I think she had nine minutes and three offensive boards, something like that. If you can translate that into 20 minutes and six offensive boards then Azia Bishop is playing if you ever see that going on there. I was really happy with her tonight and thankful that she was able to bounce back faster than anyone of us thought she would."

On A'dia Mathies saying the team rebounded better because they jumped higher ...
"Gotta get A'dia back to media training don't we? That is a bad, bad answer. We jumped higher? We were just technically sound. We thought that we had clearly an advantage tonight in the game in size, speed and athleticism. I just tell them simple things like this, ‘The only way anybody is going to know that is if you go do it.' So you have to get in there and get around the boards. I thought we did an OK job. I thought our offense did a good job of trying to get Mississippi State out of position. So a lot of those boards did come to us because I thought State had to hustle so much to try and cover some people and their rotations got the defense distorted a little bit. So we had some easier looks at some offensive rebounds, but still we caused 35 turnovers so even if you have an advantage in speed and size and athleticism you still have to do it. I am happy anytime we can have a good night on the boards. I think that is going to be something that is important and important in this league specifically."

Kentucky Student-Athletes

#11, DeNesha Stallworth, Jr., C

On the atmosphere in Memorial Coliseum...

"Big Blue Nation has been doing a fantastic job coming out and showing their support and we played hard for them."

On her dad being at the game...

"Yes, my dad is here. I'm a daddy's girl. He is also staying for the Auburn game, and it's very exciting for him to be here. It means a lot that he is here."

On missing the first three shots

"I was just rushing and falling away. I just have to work on going through contact and not being afraid to just power through, so that is something I will have to focus on."

#1, A'dia Mathies, Sr., G

On what tonight's game meant for the team...

"It means a lot. It just shows how much hard work we've put in."

On the beginning of the game...

"We know that not everyone is going to get their best shot during the first four minutes of the game. But we knew that if we continued to play great defense and do the things we should be doing, that we would eventually break and get the lead."

On the rebounding margin...

"I think with every game it's important. We've got to go out there and rebound. Coach always tells us that the champions in the SEC are great offensive rebounding teams and are great rebounding teams in general. So we just go in there and try and crash the boards on both sides and we tried to block out so they couldn't get the ball and we came out on top tonight."

Mississippi State Head Coach Vic Schaefer

Opening Statement ...

"Obviously they're very good. In the first half, we tried to spread them out a little bit and try to get in some one-on-one situations. We knew that anytime you screened the ball, they were going to jump and double it. We had some limitations, size wise, at point guard so we knew that could be a problem for us. Matthew (Mitchell) has done an unbelievable job. He's done a great job, got great players, great system and I think his kids play extremely hard. In this game, it's not what you do, but how you do it that separates you from a lot of people. There's a lot of good teams around the country. There's very few great teams. I've been fortunate enough to be a part of some great teams over the last few years at A&M and we live by that saying. Coach Mitchell has got that here at Kentucky right now. It's not what they do, but how they do it that separates them. He's got some really great players and a great staff. They got those kids playing at high level and it's hard to deal with and hard to prepare for. That's something that I've been trying to impart on this group. I've got obviously a young and inexperienced team but that's what allows you to be great. That's a great basketball team out there. You got a great coach with a great plan. We lost to a good team today. Obviously, we're pretty out-woman at every position but I was proud of several of my kids too. I thought they competed for most of the game. Right now, that's what we're trying to teach Mississippi State, trying to teach competing and trying to teach toughness right now."

On giving Coach Mitchell tips about defense...

"That's a story that probably needs to be told to Sports Illustrated or something like that. He and I went through it like two straight days on the phone and I kept telling him, ‘Matthew, we can sit here and talk.' We talked for a couple hours, for a couple straight days - this was three or four years back - and he just felt like he needed to do something. Again, we talked about it but you've got to give that guy credit. He's got those kids playing hard for him. I've got another saying in this game, ‘When you coach women's basketball, you don't have to be their best friend but if they don't like you, they're not going to play hard for you.' I'm giving away a secret because I bet there are a lot of people out there that don't have that relationship with the players. I think he's got it and I think that's the secret to being a successful basketball coach, especially in the women's game. I bet it'd work pretty good on the other side to, to be honest with you. I've been to some gyms where how you talk to somebody is a whole lot different on that side of the fence than on our side. That's really a big secret and Kendra (Grant) will tell you, I've tried to impart that on our young ladies and we've spent some time on that, absolutely. He gets it and you've got to give him all the credit in the world for that because at the end of the day, he's smart enough to know that No. 1, it's not about him, No. 2, he went and got himself a good staff because he knows he can't do it by himself, and then No. 3, they got players that fit their system. That's our job right now at Mississippi State, we have got to go get some help and get some kids that fit our system and we're trying to do that. In the meantime, we've got to teach a system and teach a way of life. It's not what we do but how we do it because that's what will separate us.

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