Thursday, February 23, 2017

Video/Transcript: UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell Post UK Hoops 78 vs Mississippi State 75 Senior Night Press Conference Interview


Video courtesy of kywildcatstv

Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening Statement ...

"This win is a big one, for a lot of reasons, but the one that matters most - for me and our team - we did it together and it's a great gift to our seniors. They were huge in the game. Our team pulled together tonight. We won on Senior Night, and that's a special thing. I'm proud of our players. They battled, hustled, and found a way to win against a really good team."

On Makayla Epps’ put-back to win the game … 
"It was a great hustle play. She just kept playing. She just kept battling and found a way to get it in the bucket. A lot of times when people see a shot miss, they're loafing back and not going to the boards. She just hung in there, and it was a huge play in the game. I thought she and Evelyn (Akhator) really stepped up on Senior Night. It's pretty amazing." 

On Taylor Murray's performance ...
"She's becoming quite the floor general. She's starting our offense and defense. She's all over the place making plays and pressuring the ball. When she came to us, she didn't talk very much. I can't get her to stop talking now during the game. I try to get her to sit down and rest for a second, then she calls me back over to the sideline to talk to her to make sure we're doing what we need to do. She's doing a great job as a floor general. Really proud of her."

On Mississippi State and Akhator's focus for the game ...
"With the way that they play, they give you some driving opportunities. They're probably the only team in the league that we've seen do that. We thought we had an advantage there if we could get the ball to her. We worked hard over the last couple of days to try to get in our mind what we needed to do to win. One of the keys for her was to not post up, sit on the block, and try to play a power game with them. Try to step off the block, get to the high post, and try to step out on the short corner. It was an incredible performance from her." 

On if he told Akhator anything before the fourth quarter to try to get her going ...
"At halftime, we were just trying to keep our poise and composure. (Mississippi State) shot the 3 well in the first half. We were right there where we needed to be. We get it and tie it up in the third. We said, 'We're right here.' We were trying to talk to Evelyn and the kids that were being guarded by the players in foul trouble - they seemed to be a little tentative, so we were trying to drive it at Mississippi State in the fourth quarter."

On his message to the team at halftime ...
"I'm telling you guys it wasn't a real fired up or impassioned locker room. We were poised and in control. We felt like we had hustled in the first half. I think (Epps) did not want to lose tonight."

On the Wildcats' hustling tonight ... 
"I'm really proud of how our kids hustled. I thought Mississippi State played fantastic. How could you get a better game than that other than being on the winning side? We could barely stop them. We made one more play than they made. I don't know how much we outhustled them. I think we just made one more play at the end of the game. We're fortunate to make that play, but our kids did hustle tonight. I'm proud of our players and Mississippi State has a fantastic team. 

On how big forcing turnovers was for Kentucky…
“It was probably the game. Victoria Vivians is so explosive. All their players are just really, really good players. Really talented team. We had to flip something in our advantage in this game. We had to play real tough. We had to play real tough. Definitely had to take care of the ball. With them they have great rebounding margin and great turnover margin. We were able to get in there and disrupt and hustle. I thought the kids did a good job. That’s a good night's work, 22 turnovers.”

On fighting back in the first quarter…
“Well I thought we were a little disjointed offensively. I thought we were forcing a couple things. I didn’t feel terrible about the 10 points, two of them were 3s. Vivians’ was really deep, although we need to try and close that, that was really deep. I think it was (Ketara) Chapel that made the other one, she can shoot the 3 but I don’t think that’s how they’re running their offense most of the time. So I wasn’t overly concerned with our defense but I thought we needed to settle down a little bit and we did. Makayla got the good steal and got her first two points and then Maci drove the ball and got to the free throw line. I thought that settled us down. It was really good when we started getting the pace where we wanted to.”

On what this win means to the program and where the program is now from a year ago…
“Well, just a lot of negativity swirling around the program. I didn’t understand why. I didn’t understand what all was going on. I thought we had a great program. I thought we treated people with respect and had an opportunity to grow as a person. It was very tough, difficult time. People were leaving left and right and there was a point where I just didn’t feel like I could get it stopped. When those six finally said ‘we’re in’ we finally had a point where we could march back forward. So I don’t know how many months it’s been, nine or 10, or whatever it’s been. But to be on a night where we had to hustle, fight, work and you know we won that game over the course of 106 practices. I mean we’ve been practicing, working hard and so it means a whole lot. Thank God for giving us strength to hang in here and play and win an important game down the stretch. Now we’ve got a bunch of basketball left. We’ve got to keep going. We got to bounce back and get ready to compete against a really talented South Carolina team. For tonight, I think for me, the best feeling for us is Makayla and Evelyn will always have tonight. You only had one chance at it and now that they have it you can’t take that from them ever. To have that moment with them at half court with just a jam-packed building. Just thank the fans for coming out and honoring those kids. That will be one we don’t soon forget if we ever do. I don’t think we ever will.”

On winning on eight straight senior nights…
“I’m just so grateful for that. A lot of kids, you know, it’s not a guarantee. On year we made a layup against LSU and save Victoria (Dunlap) and that crew’s senior night. It’s not a guarantee you’re going to win on senior night. You’re thrilled they can walk out of the building in their last regular season game and know they did well on senior night so it’s a big moment for these kids.”

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