Saturday, March 19, 2016

Transcript: UK Hoops Head Coach Matthew Mitchell, Makayla Epps, Janee Thompson Post #3 UK Hoops 85 vs #14 UNC Asheville 31 First Round ~ 2016 NCAA Women's Tournament Lexington Region Memorial Coliseum, Lexington, Ky Comments

Matthew Mitchell, Kentucky Head Coach:

“We are really proud of our team today. A great victory. I’d like to congratulate and complement UNC Asheville. I thought preparing for the game and watching them, they clearly had a team with a lot of heart and a lot of fight. They played very, very hard. They had an amazing season. I don’t think that will be the last time you see them in a NCAA tournament. We have a lot of respect for them. I think our good play was fueled by a healthy respect for Asheville. They had a great season, and it was a really good year for them. 

Our players took four days off after the SEC Tournament. Since we got back together, they really worked hard to prepare for today. Today was not perfect. We don’t have to be perfect. We just have to have great attitudes. I thought we had great attitudes today. I thought the players hustled. I thought we bounced back from some mistakes that we made and tried to improve in the game. We are really proud of this victory and proud to move forward in the tournament and looking forward to preparing for a tough game on Monday.”

On if Kentucky was able to do what they wanted to do in this game...
“I wanted the players to hustle and have great attitude today. I think they did that. We made a lot of mistakes today defensively, but I thought our overall aggressiveness, and for the balance of the game we were the aggressors, I think that was unsettling for Asheville. They missed some shots they probably normally made. We’ll go back and be real honest with our players about what was a good play and what was a bad play. You often don’t know how it is going to go during this time. It looks like it was good for us. We were able to still keep some offensive rhythm. I thought our players had been improving offensively. I think they did a good job and worked well together today. What we wanted today is to win. We wanted to win, and we wanted to advance in the tournament. We did that. I’m happy with how the day went.”

On Taylor Murray’s game and if he was worried about how his freshmen were going to do today...
“I thought they were well prepared for the day. Taylor just has been making constant improvement as all of our freshmen. I thought all three of our freshmen had some really good moments in the game. All of them made some mistakes in the game. But they are getting better. I have seen Taylor progress in the last two weeks. She’s getting better. She had a couple of plays today that might not have been real, real noticeable to everybody. As a coach, you are watching her, and you’re watching the play develop. And you’re thinking in your mind I hope she does this, I hope she sees this and I hope she’ll slow down. She did. There have been times this year where you’ve been like, ‘Oh gosh. I hope she’ll slow down.’ She just played so fast and out of control. I thought she showed a lot of improvement in practice, and I thought it showed up today in the game. It was good for the other two freshmen as well.”

On the play of Makayla Epps on inserting herself in the offense early...
“She did a good job. What we’re trying to do every practice is we review every practice. We show them what we need to improve; our teaching clips. And then we show them what they’re doing well. Right before they started getting ready today our last bit of preparation was to show how aggressive we had been in practice attacking in transition. The very first clip was Makayla. She had a good 10 days of practice. She really was aggressive and prepared well. I thought she was very aggressive and had a good day. We’ll need her to continue to improve and work hard. It was great to see her shoot the three well today; 3-of-6 is really good for her. If we can keep shooting the ball well, we’ll have a chance to win every game we play.”

On the play of the other freshmen Maci Morris and Batouly Camara...
“Sometimes we talk about how our offense affects defense. Maci did not let poor defense affect offense today. I had a sub at the table for her to try to get her out of the game because she kept running into a screen and she made two threes in between time. Thank goodness her parents are coaches; her dad’s a coach. If it had been a normal parent, they’d have been saying, ‘Why is he taking our daughter out after she made two threes?’ She struggled a little on defense. You know what I liked about Maci was we brought it to her attention a couple of times and sometimes a kid just gets kind of caught and she can’t dig herself out of it. I thought she bounced back in the latter part of the third and the early fourth and started making some better plays defensively. We’ll work with her. She’s a real determined player and keeps a good attitude and always accepts coaching. It was good to see her shoot the ball well today. She gave some good effort to correct some mistakes she made on the defensive end.

“I just thought Batouly show more improvement. One thing that we really tried to emphasize in this game was to finish plays; finish defensive possessions with two hands. I just thought she got some rebounds; went and got the ball and finished some plays today. One time we’d been working on when a team has a side of our offense how to play out of a broken play. When she faked that handoff and turned the corner and missed the layup, she got to the foul line. Those are the little things that you see coming on where you see some improvement. She also was making some defensive mistakes that she corrected. I thought she played a really good fourth quarter on defense and made some really good plays. 

“We’d be sunk without those three freshmen. They’ve had a fantastic year. They continue to get better. We’re going to work hard to try and improve tomorrow and see if we can win Monday night, which will then get us two or three more practices. We’ll see if it will continue to give us another chance to improve. I’m very excited. They’re great kids and they’re working hard to get better.”

On Oklahoma and their challenges...
“We’re real familiar with Oklahoma. Sherri Coale is at the very top of people that I admire in this profession. Her program is one that we have tried to emulate from an attitude standpoint and how they treat each other. They really seem to be connected. I’ve learned a lot over the years from just studying them from a far. In the last few years, I’ve gotten to know Sherri some. She’s been always real kind to me and willing to help. I just have tremendous respect for her and her program overall. 

“Her team we are familiar with. We played them last year in the Virgin Islands. A lot of those kids are still on the team. I got to watch them today. Really great low post players. Great guards. They can spread you out. It will be a difficult defensive task for our young team because they are very, very well coached. They execute great. 42 (Kaylon Williams) and 0 (Vionise Pierre-Louis), the post players are a handful down on the low block. Just their overall size and length is a great concern. It will be a very difficult game for us, but we’re excited to be playing it. We’ll work hard to try and improve tomorrow and work hard to prepare for victory on Monday night. It will be a great game.”

Makayla Epps, Kentucky Guard

On having a fast start…
“Coach Mitchell told us in the locker room that if we start off fast and the ball is bouncing in our favor then that’s good. If it’s not and it’s kind of lopsided going back and forth with UNC Asheville, then that’s okay, too. He always tells us ‘no lead is too big and no deficit is too big to come back from,’ so we just wanted to come out and make a statement for everyone who was watching us tonight that Kentucky’s here and we want to make a good run at the tournament. So putting it away early really helped us a lot.”

On Kentucky’s defense and Asheville’s difficulty to score against it…
“Coach Mitchell told us at one point when they had 13 points that we’re still not playing great defense. They had a time where they had five offensive boards and we had seven. So we really focused on boxing out and rebounding. They play hard and like Coach Mitchell said, you have to respect them. And we did respect them. Just being out there on the court with them, you could tell that they really wanted to win and give it everything they’ve got. But I told the team at the last media timeout to try to keep them under 35 and we did that until the last media timeout.”

Janee Thompson, Kentucky Point Guard

On focusing on Monday’s game…
“We can take a second to be happy about winning but we have to put it behind us and move forward and prepare for Oklahoma. They’re a really good team. They’ve got a good coach and a good program. So we’re just excited that we’re able to move forward in the tournament and keep playing.”

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