Wednesday, January 11, 2017

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

Video courtesy of kywildcatstv

Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening Statement… 
“Well, we are excited to get back out on the court and try to bounce back from what was a tough game on Sunday. Really happy with how the team practiced yesterday. We had one of our best days in a long time. I think the players are determined to improve and that is what we still need to do. We made too many mental errors and we have to get those corrected. As their coach, I have to work harder in practice so that we have those opportunities so we can get those corrected because we were really close in that game. It was tough to see it slip away. So, big challenge for us going on the road to Alabama, have been outstanding all year. They have been incredible at home averaging over 80 points a game and really, really potent offensively. Just very athletic and strong. So, it will a tough test for us but we are excited to go play and we are going to go down there and try to earn a victory. ”

On being unhappy after the last game… 
“It wasn’t as bad as I felt after the game. You know, I just wanted to win. I want the team to succeed and there were just so many times that I noticed in the game mistakes that we were making, and not a lot of them were effort based. Also, there were times where we worked hard to produce good shots and we just missed shots and Texas A&M made some great plays, just did some incredible things. We were working hard. So, the effort was probably better than what I felt like after the game. They want to win. They know, our team knows, we can do things better so that we can win. They are determined to get that done. I was just so, so pleased with them yesterday. I thought Evelyn Akhator really tried to step up in her leadership role and that is something she and Makayla (Epps) have to do. I think she wants to have a good game and a good season. So, was very encouraged after the off day to see them come in and prepare so well.’”

On being able to fix mistakes from past games… 
“Yeah. Just trying to find some way, as far as fixing, trying to find some way over the course of the season to improve especially on our box outs and just being able to hold off really strong players. (Khaalia Hillsman) was just so powerful and we are just going to run up on teams that are maybe a little bit bigger and we are going to have to find some way in practice every day to try to box out a little bit better, a little bit stronger, and so the second chance points have been a problem for us in the losses. So that’s one thing I can point to. For whatever reason, and it is a long season and the kids have had to play hard. Just had some one-on-one meetings after the game. I just think some people had some things on their minds and had lost some confidence for no good reason. So, I felt much better after talking to the kids. We just need to have a better mindset offensively. Upset many times, I just feel like we get too deflated. If it is not going great, we let it affect our defense. We let it affect our energy and none of these games… you know it was a three-point game and we had a great stop and (Curtyce) Knox just threw, literally just picks it up and throws it in. So it is not as bad as we think at times and it is an interesting situation with our team right now. We are trying… I don’t want them to feel the pressure of the past. We have been so successful. They just need to be the best team they can be and I think that sometimes some of these players are projecting too far into the future. We just boil it down to Thursday night at Alabama and doing our very best there and seeing if we can earn a victory. If not, seeing that we improve and trying to focus on that. So, I feel like we are able to have to talk about those things. We just need to go play and play with some freedom and have some fun playing and not have all this pressure weighing us down. ”

On struggling on the road… 
“I don’t think it is the road. The Colorado trip, it was not ideal. They had a lot going on there. They had a football game and we couldn’t get to the gym. That was something then. The other ones, it is not like we showed up and were completely distracted and was like a deer in headlights. I mean, I am just looking for them, whether it is on the road or at home, to mentally focus on executing on what we need to execute, trying to stay really committed to our shooting footwork so that we can shoot a high percentage. I would like to try to make some 3s at Alabama. I think that helps our team when we can do that. So, they have been a great group to travel with. I don’t think it is the road. I think it is the teams we’ve played, the mistakes we have made. We have got to clean that up, but we made some of those mistakes here at home against Texas A&M. So I am not fearful that we are going on the road and I don’t think the gym will do it tomorrow. I either think that Alabama beats us or we find a way to beat Alabama. I don’t think it will be Coleman Coliseum or the hotel that we are in. I think it will come down to the 40 minutes we have to play in the game. ”

On the team being down from comparing themselves to past Kentucky teams…
“I am speculating on that. I am saying we seem way down because we have to compete for the championship or we have to make it to the NCAA tournament or we have to win 25 games or whatever that may be. I am just saying that we have a disproportion of reactions to where we are at right now. We are in games and it is a two- or three-point game and we look deflated and down for whatever reason. I don’t know what that is. I am speculating that there is some reason our players are being so hard on themselves because it certainly isn’t the coaches. We are trying to teach and encourage and get them going. So, I am just trying to make sure that they don’t feel like they have to measure up to anything other than giving their all every single day in practice. If they don’t, that is the reason that something is not going well. Not because something is happening to us. We are participating in this. So, just trying to get them to focus on one practice at a time, one moment at a time and not project into the future. Don’t say, ‘Oh, we are 10-6. That’s not good. That’s not usually where we are.’ Whatever that may be. Whatever conversation they are having in their head. It needs to be, ‘This is my role on this team. I need to hustle. I need to take a charge. I need to get a rebound. I need to go out and practice and focus and really show out today.’ That is what I am trying to say. I don’t want anything else clouding their mind.”

On if there’s any news on Jessica Hardin…
“Met with her yesterday. She feels better. She’s still not cleared and won’t be cleared for the Alabama game. We’ll check back on Friday and see if she’s ready for the game on Sunday. You know, I doubt the track’s going to be she’s cleared and then she plays in the game. I would say that now we’re looking at a couple weeks where we’re going to have to try to get her back into some conditioning. But we’re hoping to have her back. We feel like she’ll bounce back. She feels like she’s getting a little bit better. So, we hope we can get her back. She gives us valuable minutes. But one of the best things there is that it’s daylight and dark from where the rest of the team who’s trying to get those minutes and help us that they’re really improving. I think in the end it’s got a possibility of making us stronger down the stretch so we just have to keep plugging here and working hard and see if we can earn some victories. We’re really banged up right now. We are not certainly at full speed. So, it’s just the rigors of the conference and you just have to find a way to scratch out some victories. I feel like they’re wanting to do that, have a strong desire to go do that at Alabama.”

On whether anyone else will be missing the game because of being banged up…
“No, just you know, Taylor doesn’t feel great. Makenzie’s got a piece of plastic mashed to her face. Alyssa sprained her ankle. There are aches and pains there that I’m sure a lot of teams are dealing with. But for us right now, I’m really proud of how hard they’re working as I know they’re not 100 percent. Like Alyssa Rice just went at it yesterday and she is not 100 percent. She’s just practicing her guts out. So I’m really proud of that. We’ve just got to hang in here every single day, play as hard as we can and know good things will happen if we do that.”

On if he’s pleased with how Maci and Taylor have elevated their leadership roles this season…

“Yeah, definitely. You know, met with both of them yesterday and just really impressed with their mindsets and where they are. Their willingness to take responsibility where they’re not doing what they can do and committed to correcting mistakes and just playing with poise. Some of those folks who have lost confidence at times put Maci in a bad spot and she’s stepped up and she just keeps shooting and keeps playing and keeps going and I’m real proud of that. She’s doing really good work and Taylor too. So, both of those are at the very core of our leadership group and as sophomores that’s saying a lot. I’m real proud of them.” 

On if he’s confident in his leadership group for next year’s team…
“Yeah, that certainly helps and then a person like Alyssa Rice, who’s not tremendously vocal but who understands what Kentucky’s about and is really the epitome of the kind of character person we want in the program. She’s just improving so much as a player. Those people know and have been through a lot at Kentucky and know what we’re about. So, I feel really, really confident in the future and I’m really, really excited about that part of it as far as from a leadership perspective. I think we’ll be in good hands with those kids going forward.”

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