Friday, January 06, 2017

Video/Transcript: UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell Pre-Texas A&M Press Conference Interview


Video courtesy of kywildcatstv

Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening Statement…

“I was really proud of the team last night. We did so many things well and everything that we really worked on defensively gave us a chance to win the game. That is a really good offensive team that Missouri has. They played a great game, so really happy to get that victory. We clearly did not handle the end of the game as well as we would’ve liked to but I think that will improve with some time spent on that. We will give our players a chance to work on that in practice some and I believe that will improve. Every time we work on something with this group them improve. Texas A&M is a very difficult team for us to play. They are well-coached and have explosive athleticism and can really be dynamic offensively and defensively. They can really turn the pressure up defensively. They turned their conference opener vs. Vanderbilt around with a really strong full-court press, which we struggled with a little bit of pressure last night at times. So we will have to bring our full attention to practice these next couple of day and see if we can put in some great preparation and earn a victory over Texas A&M. It will be a tough game.” 

On Makayla Epps and what was causing her slow play …
“It was certainly both, but I think what teams were doing to her affected her and she wants to win so badly and she loves her team and loves Kentucky. She really wants her senior season to be special. That desire and that hunger and that burning desire she has in her heart for that to happen started to go down the wrong way. She started to look at that and saying, ‘what if we don’t do this and cannot get this done or what if this doesn’t happen’ and projecting into the future instead of really dealing what is right in front of you. And that is how they are playing you. Let’s get our head into this one and figure out how to solve that instead of only going by heart and feeling our way through it. We really have to think our way through it. To her credit, she did that and listened and was coachable and everybody was trying to play underneath her and she had not been shooting the 3 well. What we have always known with Makayla is that repetition is her greatest friend when it comes to 3s. Just think, last year she had a real slump there and we got back into the gym and she really started to shoot better. You think again, if you think of what reality is, exam week, trying to focus in and getting that done and not a bunch of time in the gym. Then five days off for Christmas, quick turnarounds. Now we are back on a schedule and will get 3s up every day outside of practice and she is ready to do that. She will come around. But last night, she had the kind of attitude that we needed and she attacked them in a technical fashion that allowed her to be successful. So it was how teams were playing her and how she reacted to it. She did a much better job with it last night.” 

On them going to breakfast together …
“Well, she has a huge heart and so she needs connection with people. She doesn’t just need stats and facts. We spent a lot of time during her suspension just trying to talk to her about what kind of person she wanted to be and what kind of direction she wanted to take in her life. I was able during that time, I thought we really connected and I was able to share some of the struggles that I have had in my life and have had as a young person and why I didn’t want her to go down some of the roads that I had to go down. I had to learn some tough lessons. Ever since that time we have had a strong connection and I know when she is struggling that she needs that and needs time when we can sit and talk. It was good for both of us. Listen, both of us love Kentucky and want this to be a great season and we have had such a tough schedule up to know that we have to stay the course. We are not going to do well if we are all not thinking clearly and doing what we need to do. We just have to stay focused. So it was a good meeting for us.” 

On the seniors importance on the team …
“Well, when we win it seems like either one of them has a good game of they both have a collective game like last night with 30 points between both of them. And really they make winning plays, both of them do. So they are important to us. Our other players are again unfamiliar roles. So there is a big difference in what is expected of Taylor between her freshman and sophomore years. Maci is probably in a more similar role but shoulder more of the burden that was avoided when Janee left. Alyssa is certainly in a different role. So everybody, whether they were here last year and played or not, everybody is in an unfamiliar role. Those two seniors can help steady us when they do their job and both of them have to stay focused and be our emotional leaders. Like last night, I thought that Evelyn started to get a little bit down because a couple of things happened and she has promised she would not do that. I had to remind her during the game. Those two have to be making plays, smiling and having fun because it just settles everybody else down because it gives them confidence that they can do their job.” 

On if that is why he called Evelyn over during a timeout …
“I cannot remember what happened, but it was a negative play that went against us or we didn’t do anything and she is walking off the court and that looks comes on her face and we have to hustle off the court and hustle on the court and just have to play with an edge at all times and not give in to negatively. Like I said in the press conference last night, we just have too many kids that get down on themselves too quickly because they feel like they are letting the team down. You cannot have that. You have to access the play, if I make a mistake in dead ball see if I can fix it there, but you have to keep going. We just don’t have enough time to mess around with going or thinking about our personal sorrow. We have to get going here. That is exactly what I was telling her. I try not to yell and scream at her because it doesn’t do a good job, but she has to know that you have to step up here and be the energy and enthusiasm for us. We are all having a better time when she and Epps are making plays and have smiles on their faces.” 

On Makenzie Cann wearing a mask and how long that will last …
“I think we are trending out of it, but I am not sure. On all the list of ailments right now I am not for sure on that. I will have to talk to Courtney about that today. I do know that is not going to be permanent throughout the rest of the season. She will get out of that. It is uncomfortable and but I think she is doing a good job handling it. She hit one 3 last night and it was a two-point game and you just have to look at it that way. She made a 3, Poffenberger made a 3, Jaida had five points. Your time out there is so important for us collectively as a team. Your stat line might not look like a big deal, but every single possession for us is important and everybody’s contribution is important. We will just continue to work with her as she is battling a big piece of plastic bashed into her face. It is just not the way that any of us grew up playing basketball or learning how to play the game. It is uncomfortable, but credit her for getting out there and contributing to the victory last night. Really proud of the team for finding a way to win.” 

On Taylor’s finger and if it is healing properly …
“On the road to recovery. Everything is lined up nicely and we have it braced. It is healing every day. That is another thing, we just have to hang on here and find ways to win games until we hit our stride. I don’t think at any time this year we have really played a masterful 40-minute game against the opponents you are going to have to beat to be the team that we want to be. So Taylor is basically out there certainly not as comfortable as she would be if her pinky weren’t injured. We are just going to keep battling but that is trending in the right direction and hopefully the next couple of weeks or so that brace will be off and she will be back full speed. She is doing a great job right now too. We are all a little banged up, but that is alright. They are great kids and work hard and have great attitudes and get down on themselves too easy and we have to fix that and that is all part of growing up and becoming the person they can be. But they are doing a good job right now.”

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