Friday, November 11, 2016

Transcript: UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell Post-Miami Press Conference Interview

Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell Post-Miami Press Conference Comments

Opening statement….
“A great victory tonight. Miami is an outstanding team and they’ll have an outstanding season. These early season matchups with really good teams, you never know how they’re going to go.  What I was looking for from our team tonight was for them to hustle and play harder than Miami and that was really my expectation tonight. We are so far from being where we need to be to be a successful team. We have a long way to go but they have shown great character, they’ve really worked hard. I was worried that I didn’t prepare them enough for this particular game, so the credit goes to the players, they really battled tonight and fought hard, showed much resiliency with all of the runs that Miami made at us. I am just very pleased with how they fought hard. Hard fought and well-earned victory over a really good team.”

On Epps getting it going in the 4th quarter….
“I didn’t get on Epps for that tonight, I got on Epps for a couple of other things tonight. She’s a great player, she sensed the moment, it was what we needed. Miami was a really hard team to play against in the first of the year. They just came at us with things that we were not all that prepared for. The volume of time we have to get in with such a young bench, it takes time and we will get better but we are not anywhere close to a finished product. They were doing some things that we were not quite ready to handle and she just made some plays. She put us in a position to win but her team really played great around her, really hustled. The stat sheet may not look huge but just battle and really helped us win so it was a big team victory and Makayla obviously led the way and it is probably how things are going to be early in the season and I think she is good with that.”

On Evelyn being in foul trouble in the 3rd quarter…
“This is my thing and this will be my thing, we have to have extreme patience with our team right now. We are not going to come in and just whack somebody. That is just not going to happen right now because people need time and so as long as we had the lead I thought we were doing great. I was just so proud of the team and I wanted it to be close going into the 4th quarter to give ourselves a chance and it was a pretty amazing feeling over there when you have what was going on out there. Kids were hustling, that 2-3 zone that we were in, we put that in a few days ago. We will get better at that but kids were battling and you had to be ok with it because we needed Evelyn on the floor at the end of the game. As long as we had the lead I could leave her on the bench, I was good with it.”

On running a zone…
“I got more comfortable tonight because we were able to win with it but I found out something. When I always ran it, somebody would make a 3 so we would say ok that zone doesn’t work so you do have to have some patience with it. We gave up 10 3s tonight but I thought Miami was so explosive with number 3 (Thomas) and 23 (Motley), I was just very concerned they were going to go by us all night long. Our help rotation isn’t that great right now. I just didn’t want them making layups all night and we would just try to force them into outside shots. Some of those you have to live with, number 5 (Greene) came off of an on-ball and stopped at about 25 feet and that was better for me than a lay-up. I was proud of the kids, they made enough plays to win, I wouldn’t say it was a great defensive performance by any means, if anyone looks at that film, they’ll think UK is easy to score on but we’ll get better and it’s good for me. You have to learn something new. I have get better as coach, figure out a way that this team can play at their best and I think zone is part of that mix.”

On Jess Hardin hitting the 3 going into half…
“I will have to talk to Jess to figure out how big it was for her but it was huge for our team because we’re going to need Jess Hardin. Jess Hardin is a successful piece of our puzzle and she can play. I tell her this all of the time, Jess has the goods, she can do it, physically she has everything she needs, she’s very fast, quick, you saw her make a toughness play at the rim tonight. That was just grit and toughness and she is one of those people that needs time, but I’m sure that is huge for her. She’s coming from walking on campus playing intramurals to playing in a top-25 game, making an impact, and we wouldn’t have won without Jess Hardin. It was huge for her I’m sure, huge for our team but I have a lot of belief in her and she’s high on my priority list every night and I thank God that she was on campus because she is going to be a good player for us.” 

On point differential from 1st-2nd quarter…
“I thought early in the game we were a little nervous, how is this going to work, we don’t have a deep bench. I just thought everyone was a little jumpy but I started to settle in myself because we were taking good shots, they just weren’t going. It really started occurring with me that we could compete with Miami and we were going to be ok. Once we got those first subs in and they got into the game and everyone settle down. Everyone was thinking we’re going to be alright, we can win this game. The thing I was worried about was do you get the inexperience players in, do they not have success. Is Miami so good that their confidence goes down. That is what Makayla and I talked about before the game that she had to effective with her leadership because we believe in these kids, they can play, and I just thought it was first game nerves, I didn’t think Miami did anything, Miami didn’t score a lot either. Both teams just had the jitters, I think it was the only game a top 25 matchup, it was big game for both teams so I thought it was just settling in and starting to feel more comfortable with the game, it wasn’t any big adjustments that we made. That’s another thing, I just wanted to give credit to the players tonight, they really figured it out. Miami threw some things at us that we weren’t ready for and we’ll get better at defending but they just found a way to get it done. Give credit to them.”

On Taylor Murray deflections...
“We do count the number, I’ll have to get that. It was huge tonight, deflections are a major thing. When you start to play better defensively, deflections can be disruptive and she was fantastic. Our zone made us really disruptive, I think we ended up with 18 turnovers and we were plus 7, that is just great. I think we will get better and better as the season progresses in the zone. With someone like Taylor who is not very tall, it can make her more long and very quick and I thought we played well with the deflections tonight.”

On turning right around and playing Albany tomorrow…
“We won’t be in this position until SEC tournament. Right now it’s a mental thing that you have to clear your mind mentally and know that you can do that. They’ll take care of their bodies tonight, we have the best trainer in the world, Courtney Jones. They’ll ice and rest, then tomorrow we will just stretch and work on free throws, we didn’t shoot free throws well tonight but we won’t have a real hard practice tomorrow. It will be more mental preparation and then we’ll try to turn it loose and see if we can beat a good Albany team. This is a very tough situation to put the team in, but they can do it. This will be a mental test, we’re physically ready but mentally you have to get yourself ready to go and ready to play.” 

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