Sunday, November 27, 2016

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

Head Coach Matthew Mitchell Post-Samford Press Conference Interview

Opening statement … 
“We’ve finished off the month of November 5-1. That’s a great development for us. I’m proud of the team. They worked really hard over the last two days to get ready for a challenging team in Samford. The first 20 minutes were outstanding. I’m really proud of them hustling. They had to really work hard to get the results. We clearly lost some intensity there in the second half, so we’ll have to correct that as we move forward as a team. They’re working hard and we’ll need a couple of good practices this week to continue to try to improve and get ready for Oklahoma Thursday night. Glad to win today.”

On what the team needs to improve on moving forward…
“I thought we really improved over two days coming back after Thanksgiving, as evidence by what we were able to do in the first half. That was not easy to do. They really did a good job. I think we just have to try to embrace the defensive end more. Really want to do it, instead of just doing it because you have to. We’re going to have to have a real love for the defensive end of the court. We were trying to do some things in the second half that we hadn’t had a lot of reps on. So, some of that is just on the fact that we haven’t been able to do it enough. We just need to keep working and understanding that. We’re getting a lot out of the team. They’re working really hard and it’ll be a stout test Thursday night. This is a chance for us to work hard and prepare for a really good team. If we want to be a really good team by the end of the season, this is the kind of team we’ll have to beat.”

On the team’s identity…
“Well, I think we have a lot of weapons offensively, and I think they really enjoy the offensive end of the floor. That’s good. We continue to take care of the ball and shoot the ball well, share the ball. There’s no selfish player on the team. That’s really good. I think that we’ve tried harder to rebound. I don’t know that Samford really challenged us a lot today. I think they were concerned about getting back in transition, so I don’t know that today was a great measure of how far we’ve come in rebounding. In practices, I know that they’ve worked harder to become a solid rebounding team. I think we just really have to take some pride in staying in front of the basketball. As the coach, I’ve got to find some way to make sure that we have enough time to work on individuals guarding the ball while we’re also trying to put together a combination defense; a solid man-to-man that has some variations to it; a solid zone that gives us multiple looks. I just hope these two practices that we take advantage of Tuesday and Wednesday, help us try to grow as a defensive team.” 

On free-throw shooting today…
“It was so great because they were really sagging the paint trying to force us to shoot outside shots. It showed a lot of patience with the team and a lot of tenacity. I thought in the first half Taylor really got after it. I thought Jess Hardin was very aggressive. Those things really help us get to the line. When you let a team sag and you continue to shoot perimeter shots, you’re really not making them pay. I was so happy to see the team play and get to the line. Evelyn Akhator was physical. Seven-out-of-10 is good. We need to remain aggressive because we have so much ability to be explosive offensively, and the free-throw line can be a big help for us.”

On getting the team to embrace the defensive end…
“You just have to be highly organized, and you have to do a good job of motivating them to getting that done. You just demand it. You hold them accountable. If it’s not happening, you just have to make the consequences more severe so that it’s in their best interest to do it. I think what’s different for us this year is finding out what we could do, and that’s taken more time so we’re a little bit behind. That’s alright, because again, we’ve got a group that I believe has the goods to do it. There’s just been so many things that we’ve been trying to work on and bring people up to speed. I do feel like we’ve got an identity. Today showed me a lot of what they can do when they’re locked in, focused and hustling. You’re not going to guard anybody who throws that much at you for 30 seconds the way Samford did. So, the first half shows you what we’re capable of doing. But we as coaches have to be highly organized and understand what we’re capable of doing, and make sure they have enough reps so that they’re comfortable doing it. I’m confident that part is on me. I’ve got to make situations in practice where they understand how much we value defense, and not give them false hope that offense will bail you out. You’ve got to stay in front of the ball.” 

On four players scoring double figures …
“Well, as you get into games and if you have got players that can make open shots (it helps.) We really created some nice open shots for people today with being aggressive. Defense is hard to play, it is hard to play. If you can just key in on one or two people it makes it easier when you have people that can score and produce and you can be a balanced offensive team and they cannot just take one or two things away. Being balanced makes it difficult to prepare for. That is something that again, I want to see us be able to do in a high –level game. We are going to be able to get that experience in the month of December. We will find out and get more experience against some really tough opponents. We have a real tough December ahead of us.” 

On him enjoying coaching this team …
“Well, I have enjoyed our teams here at Kentucky. We have had great teams come through here that have worked really hard. This particular team, they just have a great spirit about them. They want to please. They work hard in the classroom and represent us great off the court. There are no complainers on this team. They are just great, great high character young women and that is fun to be around. Sometimes when that happens you have to stoke the competitive fire sometimes with this group. But that is on me. I am really confident and excited about the quality of people we have in the program. So I just have to know and work really hard to bring out their competitive and I think we have worked really hard on that the last couple of days in practice and I think it showed in the first half today. But again, the downside of that in the second half, we are up and they don’t really have something to shoot for and we don’t keep that fire burning. That is where we have to get better. But when you are a high character and have good kids you have confidence to get that done. That is what we are working with here.” 

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