Big Weekend Ahead For Cats After Golden Trip To Cali

Big Weekend Ahead For Cats After Golden Trip To Cali

The Kentucky women's basketball team plays two games in three days at Memorial Coliseum following a week-long trip to California.
The Kentucky women's basketball team plays two games in three days at Memorial Coliseum following a week-long trip to California.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 7/6 Kentucky women’s basketball team has returned from its holiday break, looking to keep its home winning streak intact when it plays host to Alcorn State on Friday, Dec. 28 at 7 p.m. EST in Memorial Coliseum.

General admission tickets are available for $1 on Ticketmaster.com only by using the code DOLLARDAYS. Tickmaster.com stops accepting online requests three hours prior to the event.

The Wildcats’ 27-game home winning streak is the second-longest in school history and ties for third nationally with Ohio State. With two home games this weekend vs. Alcorn State on Friday and Marist on Sunday and the Southeastern Conference opener vs. Florida on Thursday, Jan.3, the Wildcats have a chance to tie the school record of 30 consecutive wins set from Feb. 12, 1980 until Jan. 31, 1982.

“We have two important games coming up this weekend,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “It’s another great opportunity for us to handle that situation of playing two games back-to-back with just one day in between of preparation. It’s a tough challenge for our team coming back off of the holidays. They were able to get home for four days and I have been really pleased with how they have come back. We have had some good practice sessions. I hope we have a big crowd in Memorial tomorrow. We will look forward to trying to earn a victory over Alcorn State.”

UK has posted a 10-1 overall record this season and has stretched its overall win streak to nine games after defeating Pepperdine and UC Santa Barbara last week. The Wildcats took an 80-62 victory of the Waves in Malibu, Calif., and a 66-38 win over the Gauchos. The nine-game winning streak ties the sixth-longest winning streak in school history and ties the eighth-longest nationally.

Junior center DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) looked impressive in the return to her home state of California as she led the Wildcats over Pepperdine with a season-high tying 17 points. Sophomore Bria Goss (Indianapolis) also recorded a season high, netting 16 points.

Against the Gauchos, All-America candidate A’dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) scored a season-high 19 points and tied a season best with four 3-pointers. Junior Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) followed with her third double-double of the season, recording 12 points and 10 rebounds. Stallworth also scored 12 points to go along with seven rebounds and a team-high four assists against UCSB.

Overall, Mathies leads UK in scoring with 13.9 points per game this season. The reigning SEC Player of the Year has compiled 1,584 career points and ranks No. 6 on UK’s all-time scoring list. She needs just 14 points to tie Pam Browning (1974-78) at No. 5. She also ties for fourth on the all-time steals list with 272 and needs six more to tie Leslie Nichols (1982-86) at No. 3.

Leading rebounders this season are Walker and Stallworth who average 7.8 and 5.3 rebounds per game, respectively. The post duo combines for an impressive 21.2 points and 13.1 rebounds per game.

Once again, the Wildcats are displaying their defensive prowess by limiting their opponents to 51.1 points per game and forcing 27.2 turnovers per game. UK has forced at least 21 turnovers in all 11 games this season and currently ranks third nationally in turnover margin at +11.2.

Alcorn State, located outside Lorman, Miss., is 0-8 after falling to Southeastern Louisiana 59-54 on Dec. 21 at home. Overall, senior guard Carolinsia Crumbly leads the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 11.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. She also leads the team and ranks second in the Southwest Athletic Conference in steals per game with 2.5. Junior guard Tierro Frost follows with 8.3 ppg.

The Braves are coached by former Tennessee standout Tonya Edwards who is in her fifth season. Edwards, who captured two NCAA Championships with the Lady Vols in 1987 and 1989, scored 1,309 points for a 10.5 per game average during her four-year career and was named the Most Valuable Performer in the 1987 NCAA Tournament.

This will mark the first meeting between the teams.

Kentucky Women’s Basketball
Pre-Alcorn State Press Conference
Memorial Coliseum – Lexington, Ky.
Dec. 27, 2012

Head coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening Statement…
“We have two important games coming up this weekend. It’s another great opportunity for us to handle that situation of playing two games back-to-back with just one day in between of preparation. It’s a tough challenge for our team coming back off of the holidays. They were able to get home for four days and I have been really pleased with how they have come back and we have had some good practice sessions. . I hope we have a big crowd in Memorial tomorrow. We will look forward to trying to earn a victory over Alcorn State.”

On the highlights of the California trip…
“It was great just the way the team handled themselves out there. We were able to mix some real important basketball with some really fun opportunities for them and the way they handled themselves, I was really impressed with their maturity levels. When it was time to really focus and practice and work hard, they did that. Then they had really good attitudes when it was time to go have some fun. It was a very beneficial trip and we are really grateful the athletic department would give us the resources to take a trip like that. It was a lot of fun and a great experience for the players and we were able to go and take some tours of Warner Bros. Studios and we were able to go watch the Hornets and Clippers play. Some really neat stuff for us and also it’s a beautiful area. It was a great trip right before the holidays and really proud the way the team handled themselves.”

On December being such a busy schedule…
“There is a lot going on with building a schedule and what you have to realize is not only are you working with your schedule but everyone else’s, too. Sometimes you just have to play games when you can play them. We had a long break in between our second and third game and for this team I thought that was important early in the season because we had a veteran team but we had some new parts that we needed to bring together and then the California trip you just had to take during a time when they weren’t in school. Some things just dictate the necessity where the games come on the schedule from a time standpoint. December was a real challenging month for us and I am looking for us to finish it strong. We need to try to earn these victories this weekend.”

On where the team has improved over the month…
“I thought the big challenge early in the month was the three-game stretch with Louisville, DePaul and Middle Tennessee. I thought our team really did a good job that week of kind of winning three different types or styles of games. That was good to see you can function in different styles and different ways and still win. I’ve just seen an overall progression of the team. We have really started to blossom in our post game, especially our two starting posts are starting to play off of each other really well and get a feel for each other and that’s an exciting combination. I thought A’dia (Mathies) really asserted herself on the California trip and that was good to see. I’m just pleased with the talent level that we have and right now we just need to fall in love with working hard and preparing and getting ourselves mentally ready to play each and every game. If we do that I think we will have a good season.”

On the excitement the players have to play at home again and what the fans can expect…
“I think they will see that we have made some improvements and if we can play like we practiced today I think they will be excited, we’ve made some dynamic plays in practice. I tell you what’s so important for our team right now is their mental preparation and them getting themselves ready to play. If they can get themselves ready to play tomorrow I think our fans will see some dynamic plays. We just have some talented players that can make it a lot of fun to watch but you just can’t show up and do that and go through the motions. We are really on our team about that right now, it’s real important that they prepare well mentally to be ready to play and I’m sure they are excited to come out and play in Memorial Coliseum, it’s just a great place for us to play, we’ve had a lot of success here and we need to keep it rolling.”

On the relationship between DeNesha Stallworth and Samarie Walker…
“On the court, they are starting to get a real good feel for each other’s game and they are talking a lot more to each other on the court. They seem to be very close and supportive and encouraging of each other off the court, which I think is really the key is the team connecting on a deep level, where they really care about each other on and off the court. A lot of that, you spend more time together off the court than you do on the court. I think they have a really good friendship and relationship and I think that helps them know that each other is playing hard for the other player and a lot of good things from that. They are passing the ball well, one thing that is happening is they are both really good athletes, they both have long arms and can get up to the rim and when they are challenged sometimes they are able to get the ball up off the back board and the other is able to kind of get in there and finish and tip it in. You are just seeing some good play between the two post players and I think that will bode well for our team if that continues.”

On how the California trip has helped the team bond…
“Sometimes you spend too much time together and you worry about that and that’s what I was so impressed with our team. That was a long time, we were out there five or six days and I think they did get closer. I think they enjoyed being around each other and that’s going to be important. We need to really stick together as a team and work really hard and I think when we do that we can have a good season.”

UK Hoops Players
#11, DeNesha Stallworth, Jr., Center

On if getting back to Kentucky after the trip to California?
“We’re definitely excited to be back at home just playing in front of Big Blue Nation and just having home-court advantage.”

On going back to her home state of California …
“It was beautiful. I had such a great time even spending it with my teammates and my family was there. It felt really good just to play in front of my family.”

On if she acted like a tour guide on the trip?
“Unfortunately not. I’m from northern California. That’s (Brittany Henderson’s) part so she was kind of helping us. But I have been in (Los Angeles) so I was telling them what to order at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles.”

On her relationship with Samarie Walker …
“Samarie had a little more experience than me just transferring from Connecticut to Kentucky with her playing before me so it was really good. She was very helpful with helping me just transitioning and getting back to playing in Kentucky’s style.”

On how Walker has helped her most in the transition …
“The biggest thing was probably just the game pace. It was the game pace and just my confidence because I wasn’t too sure and I was just thinking too much and she just told me, ‘Something just clicks and you realize that you just have to play.’ And when it did click, everything became a lot easier and it just flows better.”

On if they are setting the pace for the rest of the team …
“We’ve definitely created a very fast pace. With me running the floor and Samarie running the floor, we know that somebody’s going to trail. We always look for the high-low with various dives so Samarie and I read each other very well throughout the plays.”

On the difference between the two players?
“I think we’re different just in the sense that Samarie is more like going power through you. She’s going to get an offensive foul before somebody blocks her shot because she’s just going to bulldoze. Me, I’m kind of ‘Oh, settle for a little hook shot.’ But at the same time, I think we complement each other because, as she’s bulldozing through people, I’ll sit there and wait for the high-post jumper if she kicks it out. Or if I’m getting double-teamed, she always looks to cut and I hit her for the dive. So although we’re different, I think we complement each other very well.”

On if spending time with family has reenergized the team …
“I’m from California and I barely get a chance to see my family. So I really appreciated it and I really had a great time at home. I was definitely looking forward to coming back and spending with my teammates just because I know SEC is starting to come about and it’s fun playing games.”

#23, Samarie Walker, Jr., Forward

On what she will remember about the trip …
“Honestly everything. That was my first time being in southern California. I went to northern California two years ago playing against Stanford. But I think just staying at the resort on the beach and then spending time with my teammates going on the (Hollywood Walk of Fame) with the stars and stuff and seeing those. Seeing the Hollywood sign, I was so excited to see it I almost started crying honestly. I was excited to be out there, and the warm weather.”

On if the team is building a sisterhood away from basketball …
“I think we are. We all are friends off the court. I know I can text any one of my teammates if I needed something no matter what time it is and vice versa. We’re all really close off the court and I think sometimes it shows on the court.”

On the importance of the DePaul game and how that helped with confidence …
“It was very important for us. Coach (Matthew) Mitchell always reminds us that no one will ever beat DePaul by 32 again and that DeNesha and I helped with that. A’dia also had 17. I don’t know how many of us scored in double figures but it was a great game for all of us and I think that it’s helping us move forward. We have to remind ourselves that we can do that again and continue to push each other.”

On her relationship with Stallworth and whether the two finish each other’s sentences …
“Almost, on some days. But DeNesha and I had the chance to really build our relationship when I was sitting out the first half of last season and her sitting out last season. We obviously shared something in common which was transferring. Our relationship on the court, we got to build that when we are on the practice team and then once we got to play with each other finally on Blue squad. It’s still continuing to build and I think we’ll always continue to build our relationship on and off the court until we graduate.”

On Stallworth adjusting to the pace in games …
“I tried to tell her the pace of the game’s going to be completely different after sitting out for a year and she didn’t want to believe me. She was all, ‘Oh, I’ve been in college for two years, I’ll be OK. It’s nothing.’ Lo and behold, her first game, the first exhibition game, (she said), ‘Samarie I’m tired.’The first two minutes.”

Is the fact that she and Stallworth are so different the reason why the combination works?
“She’s the Ying to my Yang. Yes. I think that because we are different it does work. If she’s out and I’m getting double-teamed, I’ll kick it out. If she’s getting double-teamed, I’m diving. So it just works. If she misses a shot, I’m rebounding. I miss, she rebounds. It just works.”

On looking ahead to SEC play …
“We’re more concerned about our next two games coming up and then once that time comes, we’ll prepare for it. But the whole preseason, we’ve been preparing for SEC play.”

On whether spending time with family has reenergized the team …
“For me, I was ready to get back and get back to business. I love being at home, I love my family, but I see them every other day when they come to my games. So I was ready to get back with my teammates, ready to get back on the court and ready to start playing again.”

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