Thursday, November 03, 2016

Transcript: UK Hoops Head Coach Matthew Mitchell, Makayla Epps, Evelyn Akhator Post UK Hoops 78 vs Union 60(Exhibition) Comments

Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening Statement …
“I’m proud of our team tonight. We really had to work hard. Union has an excellent team. They’re really tough to defend. There were a lot of actions that you could see out there that made our team work. It was a great night for us. We had to work for 40 minutes. We know a lot more about what we need to work on. There are a lot of bright spots and things to work on. I’m just happy that we could get out and play against a tough opponent for 40 minutes. Know that we will improve from this one.”

On the biggest difference between shooting in the first and second halves for the Wildcats …
“In the first half, we got into a good rhythm and people were aggressive and excited to play. In the second half, we just couldn’t get them to go down. I thought that started getting in our head a little bit. We didn’t play with as much confidence. Union was determined to not let us score around the rim tonight, unless it was an offensive board. They were getting five people and we had so many wide open shots that I think we’ll hit over the course of the season. For this particular team, it was our first time to get out in a tough-game environment. I thought we had to run so much against that offense. It showed us where we have to work on our defense and be a little bit smarter. I think we expended more energy on defense because we’re not at a spot yet where we can defend all that complicated action as well as we should be able to. Maybe that bled over into the offensive end a little bit. It was a tough game to play tonight just because of how Union made us work.”

On the 3-point shooting of Epps …
“She’s worked hard on it. We’ve worked hard on our shooting, period. For this particular team, Makayla has to be very aggressive offensively. What I love about it is that is exactly the mentality. If you think about her career, some nights she might score 25, then she might start thinking about getting people involved and have an eight-point night or a 12-point night. I thought she came out gunning. She and Evelyn (Akhator) are our two horses that need to get the most touches. (Union) wasn’t going to let Evelyn operate much tonight. It was going to be difficult. I was proud that Evelyn, with all of those triple and quadruple teams, only turned it over one time. I thought that was great progress for her. In a game where people are going to play more straight up, those two are going to have to produce and have a scorer’s mentality. What I love about our complimentary players is we can shoot the ball this year. We’re a good 3-point shooting team. If you try to key on Epps and Evelyn, then you have someone like Maci (Morris), who had an uncharacteristic night. She has been playing the best basketball on our team. She has done a great job. Makayla’s mentality has been a positive for us to see. That’s how she needs to come out every night because she’s hard to stop.”

On Maci Morris’s injury …
“Someone came down on her knee. It’s just scary. It’s a contact injury so there’s pain and there’s blood rushing in there. You are a little worried anytime you hurt a knee. Everybody gets a little upset there. As soon as she got over there and we checked it out, you saw her play hard in the second half. It didn’t feel good. It slowed her down a little bit in the second half, but she’s a tough kid and will bounce back.”

On the Wildcats’ defense …
“We could’ve scheduled a lot of teams that played more traditional and we would’ve looked better defensively. I thought there were some stretches where they started to figure out some of that action. We tried to show them some of their actions with our practice team. That’s hard to simulate. I thought they did a good job of hanging in there, hustling and figuring some things out. It’ll be great tape for us to use to teach. Our starting five has experience. Our bench does not. It’s going to be a work in progress, but I’ll say this now, and continue to, I believe in the character of the kids coming off the bench. They will get better. Our team will continue to get better. We are excited to see the film and learn the lessons we need to learn. This is a great game for us.”

On what he saw out of Makenzie Cann in her first game …
“I’m really proud of her. In her first game action in two years, she was very coachable tonight and tried to play her role. I loved to see her ready to shoot tonight. She’s been passing up some shots in practice trying to be perfect and run the execution play. Then, she came out tonight ready to do her job and looked great. She will get better from this. All of our player’s will get better from this point. I thought it was a really good game for her. I’m really proud. I know she was excited to play.”

Makayla Epps

On adding more 3s to her game…
“During preseason I spent a lot of time in the gym working on my 3-point shot because I want to shoot a higher percentage. I’m shooting mid 20s, low 20s. It’s not 30s, and I want to be dangerous on every aspect of basketball: to the rim, mid-range and 3-point. I don’t want people to just leave me open and not respect my jump shot, so I put a lot of work in on the off season.”

On getting off to a good start and having a scorer’s mentality…
“I’m growing into it. Coach Mitchell is always challenging me to be more aggressive. Coach Elzy challenged me to scoring 6 points a quarter, like she says I’m too passive sometimes. The flow of the game, sometimes I have a point guard mentality. I like to get my teammates real involved and sometimes I pass up shots I should be taking. But tonight, I felt like I was doing a mixture of both, looking for my shot, getting my shot and also getting my teammates involved.”

On what she thinks of the team going forward…
“Hats off to Union. I feel like they opened up the doors to a bunch of stuff for us to see and watch film within the next coming days and get ready for a tough Miami team that we have in the season opener. They ran a bunch of difficult screens… Flare screens, ball screens, down screens, just always moving. The defense has to work on talking and just a lot of stuff we work on in practice. But to actually play against somebody else and see it in an actual game pace form, I feel like it’s going to be really, really beneficial for us. So, hats off to Union for that.”

Evelyn Akhator

On what made that team hard to defend…
“During scouting, the coaches told us that they’re a shooting team, so I think getting them off the 3-point line was really difficult. They just shoot and pass it and they’re all good, so even when you take one off the dribble or out of the three, another person takes a shot. So guarding them is really hard.”

On her goal of having minimal turnovers…
“My goal is to have zero turnovers because, as a team, if I have one turnover and every other person has one turnover it is now 11 of them. Our goal as a team is to not get turnovers. I mean, post players are not supposed to have turnovers. So, getting a turnover is not really good for me.”

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