Wednesday, January 04, 2017

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


Video courtesy of kywildcatstv

Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening statement …

“Well Missouri’s having a great season. Robin’s (Pingeton) one of the best coaches in the league. They’ve got really good players. They can spread the floor and really give you a lot of trouble as you’re trying to defend them. Great one-two punch with (Cierra) Porter and (Lindsey) Cunningham and they just cause a lot of problems. We are really banged up right now and we’ve gotta find a way to work our way through a challenging time here. We’ve had some good practices here this week and we’ll try to finish up today with a good preparation and get ourselves prepared to work as hard as we can to earn a victory over Missouri.”

On the team’s injuries …
“Well, Jess (Hardin), that’s a big loss for us. That’s around 15 minutes a game that’s getting spread out between Maci (Morris) and (Makayla) Epps and Taylor (Murray). And Taylor’s not feeling great. She’s doing a good job but it’s still—it’s bothering her and Makenzie’s (Cann) nose is broken. Rachel Potter’s out. That hurts us in practice. She does a great job for us in practice and so it’s a challenging time right now with practice and just trying to make sure we keep everybody as healthy (as possible) while still keeping them game sharp. And so it’s just—people go through it. You go through these kind of things in a season and we’re just in one of those spots right now. But we went—I thought the team really worked hard yesterday. I saw some real improvement people in people yesterday. So they’re working hard and that’s what we’ve gotta keep doing every day.”

On whether Jess Hardin will miss Thursday’s game …
“Yeah. Hardin’s out.”

On Maci Morris’ play …
“Well, Maci is very important to us and she’s done a good job of being assertive. She just couldn’t get a few of those shots to fall. She shot the ball a lot at Tennessee but I thought it was because she was being aggressive. And I really liked that. She’s a very important part to our team, both offensively and defensively, and I just expect her to always go out there and make an impact on both ends through her hustle and her tenacity and she’s just highly skilled. So that’ll help us tremendously if she can have a good game and I think she will. Real encouraged with the progress that (Jaida) Roper and (Paige) Poffenberger) are making. They, I think—them kind of getting thrown into the skillet, so to speak, here and being in the fire, they’ve really upped their efforts in practice and I’ve seen tremendous improvement. So we’re starting to build some trust with those two freshmen and we just have to find a way as a team to play great basketball and win games.”

On whether Taylor Murray not feeling well is in reference to her finger …
“I’m just saying that’s it’s not real comfortable. It’s still—she would feel better if she didn’t have a big gob of tape on her hand. It still hurts to catch and she’s banged up. She obviously can perform. She did a great job Sunday in Knoxville. It’s not a matter of whether she can perform. It’s just we’re all kind of nicked up right now and it takes a toll collectively when everybody is. And so we just gotta soldier on here and find a way to continue to play good basketball.”

On if Makenzie Cann getting a custom mask has helped her game …
“She did. It’s a big improvement. She went from not being able to see to being able to see. So, I think that in basketball that generally a key to being able to have vision on the court. Huge improvement in this mask over the other one.”

On how the team battling in these two losses will help the team in the long run …
“Sure, what it is is we give tremendous physical effort and we let our confidence erode just at an incredibly disproportionate rate to what’s reality and we have a lot of high achievers on our team that want to do well that let their confidence go which now divides your mind when you’re thinking you’re unsure. Now, you’re not in the right position and you start to make mental errors that we’ve just made in the Duke and Tennessee game. We had a legitimate chance to win both of those on the road against extremely talented teams, but we can’t do it making the mental mistakes. So what we’re trying to tell the team is that physically they just hustle and they won’t give up but let’s don’t get into a situation where, you know, your back’s against the wall and you let these leads stretch to 12 and at Duke we weren’t able to fight back. At Tennessee we were able to fight back and you know if we could’ve gotten a couple things go our way there at the end we had a great chance. But what happens before that time is we really make too many mental errors for what our margin for error and is. So I think it’s tremendously beneficial that - you don’t want to lose these games, you want to win these games – but there’s a reason. It’s not happening to you. You’re participating in it. You are actively involved in the result because of what you’re doing on the court. So we’ve just got to embrace the fact that we’ve got to be a smarter, sharper basketball team that’s in position because when we do that we’ll win a bunch of games.”

On whether the mental aspect is the key difference between playing at home and on the road …
“Well, I think the road games have been the quality of competition has been very difficult. I don’t think it’s necessarily the road. I think, as a general rule, everybody plays better at home but we can win on the road if we stop making the mental mistakes. So that’s my job as a coach is I’ve got to, with the help of our staff and the help of the players, we’ve all got to pay more attention. We’ve got to make sure we’ve got great plans in order to correct these things that are going wrong. I thought yesterday was a great, great day for us. The players I think recognize what a difficult schedule they’ve played and how close they’ve been in these games, but at some point you’ve got to learn the lesson so it does benefit you. It doesn’t do you any good to get beat if you just continue to do the same thing over and over against quality teams you’re going to get beat. Missouri is a really, really good team and we just can’t make a bunch of mental errors and expect to win. So we’ve got to be locked in and ready to go. We continue to practice hard, show film and teach in an effort to get those things cleaned up.”

On if he thinks the players are teetering on the mindset that things are beginning to go south …
“No. I think our kids are smart and understand that we could have a different record if we played a different schedule at this point in time. The bigger concern is trying to make sure that you can stay healthy and there are no guarantees on that. You have to play hard and practice hard. Things happen. That’s the biggest thing for me as a coach is trying to make sure that we practice as hard as we can while being smart because we need to stay healthy. I think we feel a little banged up because we all had two brutal, physical and tough games on the road. We have to weather it right now. The only problem that we have mentally is that we lose confidence way too quickly. There are a few kids on the team that have to work their way through that and they will. It’s why you come here, learn, grow and get better as a team. That’s why it’s such a great vehicle to teach these kinds of lessons because they have to stay confident. The only way you get true confidence is through achievement, so we’re trying to approach it from that way. Just clean these few mistakes up and you’ll get the results that you want. That’s the great thing about basketball. If we can get that done, then we are in great shape as far as reaching our postseason goal. In basketball, you can try to peak in the end and be playing your best at the end. I don’t sense any discouragement or panic in the team. They have to focus on what they need to do to play winning basketball.”

On how the zone defense is going …“We had some good possessions. The situation there in the second half at Tennessee – we just had three guards play 20 minutes and had some flat out times where we didn’t go do what we were supposed to do. That’s what we have to figure out is how to stay focused and either let me know to use your timeouts strategically, but you can’t just stop playing. When we play in our zone, it’s pretty good. When you stand around, it’s not very good. We’re getting good stuff out of our zone. They’re moving better. They get better each week that we work on it so it will continue to be a part of our package. I thought yesterday was good – one of our better days of flying around playing man-to-man defense – and that’s what we’ll need against Missouri. (Missouri) is really dynamic offensively and they can spread you out and have a lot of good shooters. You’ll have to hustle no matter what defense you’re in.” 

On if communication on the court is improving …
“That’s a constant thing that we have to emphasize and work on. I do see improvement there.”

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