Kentucky women's basketball coach Matthew Mitchell says he has an award he hands out after every game which named after the late, former pro wrestler The Junkyard Dog.
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Kentucky women's basketball head coach Matthew Mitchell hands out "The Junkyard Dog" award after a game - which is named after the late, former pro wrestler.
“This was about getting them to have the right mindset in the league," Mitchell said. "They’re just going to have to be ferocious and aggressive on defense. And if we want to be the best that we can be, everyone is going to have to have that mindset. This team has the talent and the gifts to make that happen. My job right now is just trying to give them something to think about as far as defensive intensity.”
The fifth-ranked Kentucky women’s basketball teams looks to keep its overall and home winning streaks intact when it returns to the friendly confines of Memorial Coliseum on Thursday, Jan. 17 against Mississippi State. The game will be carried live on the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price at 7 p.m. EST.
Fans can follow the UK Hoops team on Twitter at @UKHoopCats and use #UKHoops to comment on the game.
Single-game reserved tickets cost of $9 for all ages. General admission tickets for adults are $8 while single-game general admission tickets for seniors and children (ages 6-18, 65 and over) are only $5. UK faculty, staff and children ages five and under are admitted free in the general admission seating area, while supplies last.
“We are awfully excited to be back in Memorial Coliseum tomorrow night,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We have had great, energetic crowds. We really appreciate our fans’ dedication and loyalty coming out to these games and we’ll need another big, energetic crowd tomorrow night because we are playing a very aggressive, tough, hard-nosed, defensive team in Mississippi State. We have a lot of respect for them. They have some really good players so it will be a great challenge tomorrow night. It’s really great that we are going to be at home. We are looking forward to getting back into Memorial and seeing if we can earn another victory.”
Kentucky improved to 16-1 overall, 4-0 in the SEC with a 69-43 win over Missouri on Sunday. It was the Wildcats’ pressure defense that sealed the victory and snapped the Tigers’ 11-game home winning streak. UK jumped out to a 23-4 lead early in the game and the Tigers would get no closer than nine points the rest of the way. UK held Missouri to 35.3 percent shooting, including just 10.0 percent from beyond the arc. The Tigers, who came into the game leading the nation in 3-pointers made per game with 9.9, were limited to a season-low two 3-pointers. UK also held Missouri’s Morgan Eye, the nation’s leading 3-point shooter, to just six points and zero treys for the first time this season. Junior center DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) led three players in double-figure scoring with a game-high 17 points, while senior guard A’dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) and redshirt sophomore point guard Jennifer O’Neill (Bronx, N.Y.) added 14 and 11 points, respectively.
“I have been really pleased with how we have hustled to get to 4-0 in the league,” Mitchell. Said. “We couldn’t be in a better position than that. What this time of year is all about is trying to take it one game at a time and really put everything you have into the preparation for each and every game and seeing how many victories you can stack up in that win column. They have done a really good job of that. Last week, on Thursday and Sunday, I thought we hustled in both games for 40 minutes. That’s something we have asked our players to do, so I am really pleased with that. From game-to-game there are some areas that need to be improved and do things a little bit better, but as a whole, I am really happy with where the team is and they continue to come in each day and practice really hard and I think that’s going to be the key for this team.”
The Wildcats are currently riding a school-record 15-game winning streak which ties Duke for the nation’s longest active winning streak. UK’s 31-game home winning streak is the longest in school history and ranks No. 2 nationally behind top-ranked Baylor which has won 48 in a row at home.
Mississippi State (8-9, 0-4 SEC) travels to the Commonwealth looking for its first SEC win of the season. The Bulldogs have lost to Vanderbilt, No. 15/18 South Carolina, Florida and LSU in their first four league games.
Overall, sophomores Kendra Grant and Martha Alwal lead State in scoring, averaging 12.8 and 12.2 points per game, respectively. Alwal, a 6-foot-4 center, also leads the team in rebounding (9.8) and blocks per game (2.4).
The Bulldogs top the SEC and rank 18th nationally in blocks per game with 5.4. Alwal is third in the league with 2.4 blocks per game. State’s defense has held its last three opponents to under 40 percent shooting from the field.
Vic Shaefer is in his first season as head coach at Mississippi State after serving nine seasons as the associate head coach at Texas A&M.
The Wildcats’ “40 minutes of dread” defense has them leading the nation in turnover margin (+10.3), limiting the opponent to 36.8 percent shooting, including 28.4 percent from beyond the arc, averaging 12.1 steals and 5.4 blocks per game.
Overall, Mathies lead the team in scoring, averaging 14.5 points per game. She also has a team-high tying 37 assists and 35 treys. She currently ranks in the top 10 of 12 career lists at UK, including No. 4 in scoring (1,682) and third in steals (279). Junior forward Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) and Stallworth lead the way on the boards, averaging 8.5 and 6.0 rebounds per game, respectively.
Thursday marks the 39th meeting between Kentucky and Mississippi State. UK is 21-17 all-time vs. Coach Mitchell’s alma mater, including a 9-8 advantage when playing in Lexington. The Wildcats have won the last five meetings against State, including an 88-40 win last year in Memorial Coliseum, the largest margin of victory against an SEC opponent in school history. MSU’s last win in Lexington was Jan. 18, 2009 (52-45).