Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Video/Transcript: UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell Pre-@Duke Press Conference Interview


Video courtesy of kywildcatstv

Head Coach Matthew Mitchell News Conference 

Opening Statement … 

“Well, really excited for our final non-conference opportunity. Duke is a fantastic team and is obviously off to a great start. They have won a lot of big games so far this year. I am really proud of our team and how they have come back from the break. We have had two really quality practices with great effort and great attitude and really good intensity. So I am excited about finalizing our preparations and trying to go over and win what would be a valuable road non-conference game to us as we head into conference play. But it is the time of year where all the games that you feel like you are going to win when you go in this time of year, those are over for us now. And every game from here out starting with Duke and going through the SEC schedule is going to be a big-time game for us. We need to just continue to practice hard and work hard for each other and good things are going to happen. We are going to try to work hard to prepare for a big victory at Duke.”

On how this series with Duke came about …
“I have always thought that one of the real benefits for our program is tapping into the great brand that the men’s program has had for over 100 years now. When we were in the early stages of trying to develop our program, we felt like playing some of the tops schools that our men’s team has had great rivalries with could be valuable and it so happens that Duke has developed a great women’s basketball program as well and we just thought it would be a good game for both of us – for Duke and for Kentucky. That has proved to be correct. We have had some fantastic crowds here and some tough, tough games over there, so we would love to get a win over there. That has been the one thing missing in the series so far is us winning at Duke. So it will be a tough game tomorrow but it will be an exciting game for our players and an exciting game for our fans and their fans and a really good game for women’s college basketball.” 

On Duke’s strengths …
“Well, they are really explosive offensively. They can beat you from the perimeter and can beat you inside. They really rebound the ball well, which has been one of our Achilles heels in our losses is giving up second chance opportunities. That has been really difficult for us when we have had those closes losses is getting beat on the board. They are really powerful and athletic and big and can rebound. That is a big challenge for us. The other thing they can do well, which we have struggled at in our losses is turnovers. When we have been able to compete on the boards and take care of the ball and win the turnover battle, we have been pretty successful, when that has gone the other way we have been in trouble. They are very disruptive defensively. They can show you a lot of things and go fullcourt, and guard you great in the halfcourt too. So their just a really solid, well-coached basketball team that has some great players. I think their one-two punch at guard is so explosive. Rebecca Greenwell just gets it done in a variety of ways and can shoot the 3 and knockdown mid-range shots. She is a really aggressive offensive rebounder. We have to do a great job on her. And then Lexie Brown is a good point guard for them and averaging about 17. Then everybody else really plays their role and are averaging over 80 points per game. It is going to be a really big test for our defense.” 

On how he’s stressed to the newcomers the importance of winning non-conference games…
“One good thing about having a team with a 3.5 GPA is they’re intelligent young women, so you don’t have to explain what’s going on here. I mean, I think everybody understands that it’s a progression through non-conference and I think everybody understands that what you’re trying to do is get yourself in good enough position in non-conference play that if you play well in the conference you are going to be able to attain your postseason aspirations. So, you know, I think that our team’s done a great job of competing in big time games. I mean we’ve had one of the top schedules in the country. They’ve had to play hard. They understand that. So there haven’t been many nights we’ve taken the court already that you know victory was guaranteed. There may have been a couple that we felt like we had tremendous advantages in. So from that standpoint I’m really confident that the team knows what we have to do to be good. We’re not going to blow anybody away talent wise, but when we play really hard, out-hustle our opponent and we play together, you know the sum becomes greater than the parts and that’s what developing a team is all about. I just love the way we came back from Christmas. You know, sometimes you’re trying to pry people away from the holiday with their mind. They come back and sometimes that Dec. 26 practice is really a difficult one to get everybody re-focused and I was just so, so proud of our team the way they came in. They’ve really hustled the last two days. I think they know this is an important game that can really benefit them if they can work hard enough to earn a victory it’ll be very beneficial for them. So I don’t think they need to have it explained to them how important each game is going to be. They’ll understand that.”

On how Taylor Murray’s injury is progressing…
“Yeah, Taylor, you know, we’re hoping it’s just going to take some time. She’s just sort of day-to-day at this point and we’re just trying to figure out at this point whether we can get her in the game. So proud of our team for navigating those two games, being victorious without her because it’s really hard without her. I’m just telling you, she is a huge part of our team. She’s really become one of the top leaders on the team. I don’t think I’ve ever had a player do a better job who was injured in a game stay engaged in a game. She was so invested in those two games. Just vocally, she was up there. It was like we had another coach out there. She wanted to win. So she’s really developed as a leader. She just has elite-level speed that makes us different when she has the ball in her hands. She jump-starts our defense. It’s a lot harder to win a game without her than it is to win with her so we certainly hope we can have her available tomorrow night but we just won’t know until game time. We’re not going to rush her back. We’re not going to do anything that hampers her ability long term because we’ve got January and February. That’s where you figure out what your season’s going to be about. So we’ll make sure we’re doing what’s in the best interest of our team long term and we’ll see how she feels today. She’s been able, it’s been the kind of setback that has just really limited the ability of her left hand. So she’s been able to run and move and gotten a lot done with some form shooting and things like that. So, you know, I feel like once the doctors feel like the bone’s in a good spot we’ll get her back out there and we’ll see. Hopefully she plays tomorrow night. That’d be great. It’d be a big boost to our chances for success.”

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