UK women's head basketball coach Matthew Mitchell says his Cats could struggle with DePaul if they play the way they did in the win over Louisville.
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Matthew Mitchell said on Thursday that his No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats could find themselves in trouble against DePaul Friday night in Rupp Arena if they have a repeat performance of Sunday's win over Louisville.
"We did not play very cohesively at Louisville. So, we are so fortunate to have won that game," Mitchell said. "We made a bunch of outstanding individual plays, but that will eventually catch up to you. We have to play much, much better than how we are playing and we are going to have to play very well to win.”
The No. 7/6 Kentucky women’s basketball team puts their 25-game home winning streak on the line when it plays host to DePaul in Rupp Arena on Friday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. ET in their annual “Pack the House” game. The game will be televised live on the UK IMG Sports Network and FSN South. It also will be available on ESPN3.
“We are excited to play in Rupp Arena and we want to thank anyone who has bought a ticket already,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We are really appreciative of that. It is going to be a record-setting night for us attendance wise, so that is exciting for our players. We want to encourage anyone who doesn’t have a ticket to get out there and we would love to make this the most well-attended women’s basketball game in the country this year. We have a chance to do that. We are really trying to impress upon our players the importance of a sharp, focused and aggressive effort tomorrow night to honor the folks who have put so much into getting out and watching this game. We are really looking forward to it.”
Last year in the “Pack the House” win over No. 6/5 Duke in Rupp Arena, UK set a new single-game attendance record of 14,508. As of Thursday afternoon, over 17,000 tickets (and counting) have been sold.
General admission tickets are still available for just $1 on Ticketmaster.com only. Just use the code DOLLARDAYS.
At the door, 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.
Overall, the Wildcats (6-1) have won five straight games this season after a thrilling come-from-behind victory over intrastate rival Louisville on Sunday. Trailing by 14 points with 15:08 to go in the game, UK outscored the Cardinals 18-6 in the final 10 minutes. Despite not seeing action in the first half, freshman point guard Janee Thompson (Chicago) became the most valuable player after hitting three straight critical free throws down the stretch and nailing the go-ahead 3-pointer with 8.5 seconds to play. Sophomore center Azia Bishop (Toledo, Ohio) also had a key play when she blocked a driving layup attempt by Louisville’s Bria Smith with just one second remaining. It marked the Cats’ first win over the Cards on the road since 1999 and their first win over a top-10 foe on the road since defeating No. 8 Western Kentucky in 1991. It also tied for the largest comeback in the Matthew Mitchell era.
Thompson ended with 13 points in just 16 minutes of action, while junior DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.), who needs just three points on Friday to total 1,000 in her career, led UK with a game-high 14 points.
Through seven games, senior guard and All-America candidate A’dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) leads a very balanced scoring attack, averaging a team-best 13.3 points per game. After Mathies, nine different players average between 9.9 and 3.5 points per game. Stallworth is second on the team with 9.9 points per game, while sophomore guard Bria Goss (Indianapolis) and junior guard Bernisha Pinkett (Washington, D.C.) average 8.9 and 8.3 points per game, respectively. Junior forward Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) follows with 8.0 ppg and a team-high 7.6 rebounds per game.
DePaul travels to Lexington for the first time since 1984 with a 6-2 record after defeating Northwestern 89-61 on Sunday. Sophomore guard Megan Rogowski scored a career-high 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 4-of-9 from behind the arc. She was named to the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll for her efforts.
Overall, sophomore guard Brittany Hrynko leads four players in double-figure scoring with 14.4 points per game. Junior forward Jasmine Penny and Nicholasville, Ky., native and former Lexington Christian Academy standout Anna Martin, follow with 13.9 and 12.1 points per game, respectively. Senior and 6-foot-3 center Katherine Harry averages a double-double with 11.1 points and 11.0 rebounds per game.
DePaul, which is receiving votes in both national polls, returns six of seven players from last season including four starters in Martin, Harry, Penny and Hrynko. The Blue Demons finished 23-11 overall, 9-78 in the BIG EAST.
“We have a really tough opponent tomorrow night,” Mitchell said. “We are going to have to play really well to win. They are extremely talented on offense. They are well coached, Coach (Doug) Bruno has a great program. They are a perennial top-25 NCAA Tournament team and watching them on film has really gotten our attention that it is going to be a tough, tough game. We are going to need to be really in sync defensively to be able to slow DePaul down.”
Friday marks just the third matchup in school history against DePaul. UK leads the series 2-0. The first meeting was in 1983 at DePaul on Jan. 26. UK won 72-48.
The Wildcats’ 25-game home winning streak is the second-longest in school history, and currently ties with Ohio State for the nation’s third-longest longest home winning streak. UK is 21-12 all-time in Rupp Arena (since 1977).
More from Mitchell:
“We have a really tough opponent tomorrow night. We are going to have to play really well to win. They are extremely talented on offense. They are well coached, Coach (Doug) Bruno has a great program. They are a perennial top-25 NCAA Tournament team and watching them on film has really gotten our attention that it is going to be a tough, tough game. We are going to need to be really in sync defensively to be able to slow DePaul down. It’s going to be a huge challenge for us, we are excited to play in Rupp Arena. We want to thank anyone who has bought a ticket already, we are really appreciative of that. It is going to be a record-setting night for us attendance wise, so that is exciting for our players. We want to encourage anyone who doesn’t have a ticket to get out there and we would love to make this the most well-attended women’s basketball game in the country this year. We have a chance to do that. We are really trying to impress upon our players the importance of a sharp, focused and aggressive effort tomorrow night to honor the folks who have put so much into getting out and watching this game. We are really looking forward to it.”
On DePaul’s Anna Martin who played at Lexington Christian Academy and whether he recruited her…
“We did recruit Anna and tried to get her to come to Kentucky. We got to know her and her family, they are outstanding people. Anna has had an outstanding career at DePaul and a lot of those players during that time knew there wasn’t a whole lot but a dream to go on here so we understand different people want different things. We did recruit her and wish she had come to Kentucky and wish we weren’t playing against her tomorrow night because she is a great player but I think it has worked out well for her and it has worked out well for us in the four years we have been playing here. We have much respect for her game and her ability. She has had a terrific career and we hope she doesn’t play well tomorrow night (laughter).”
On whether Kentucky has an established point guard…
“We are seven games in, this will be our eighth, and it’s not where I’d like it to be. There is nothing we can do about it except for go into practice every day and coach a little bit better and see if our players can play a little better. We are just going to get this thing figured out together. By committee could work out, we have done it before. I would prefer for my own comfort to have one person that I knew going into the game wanted to do a great job at the position and there is a lot of things that go into that. I think everybody playing that position right now would like to do well but I am having a hard time having people that really want to play the position the way it needs to be played in my opinion. Can we win games how we are right now? We have, but I would like to see further development in that area.”
On the last play of the game against Louisville…
“I called a play initially and it went very similar to most possessions in the game where we did not execute the play. Janee (Thompson) was being totally honest when she said she didn’t know the plays and didn’t know what play to get in. That’s a very accurate assessment and that’s why we are in the shape we are point guard-wise because they don’t. That’s really a major problem and challenge we are facing. That tells you a little bit about where we are at point guard. We don’t have a lot of plays. I’ve been here before when Carly (Ormerod) and Victoria (Dunlap) were talking at pregame their junior year and sat and counted up the sets we had and it was up in the 40s. We couldn’t run those great but most people knew them. We are really, really struggling in that area. We did not play very cohesively at Louisville so we are so fortunate to have won that game. We made a bunch of outstanding individual plays, but that will eventually catch up to you. We have to play much, much better than how we are playing and we are going to have to play very well to win.”
On becoming a team that shares the ball more instead of individual play …
“We want to win at the end of the day and sometimes I get caught up – let me say this, there is a way I would like to play. I would like for it to look like we are intelligent, in-tune, focused basketball players. If that doesn’t happen you better be just a bunch of junkyard dogs and you better be a great offensive rebounding team and you better be a great defensive team and you better be a real tough transition team both offense and defense and we have won that way before, too. What I told the players is, I have been very patient with them offensively. I have spent a lot of time teaching and at some point your pupils have to be willing participants or it doesn’t matter how much I know, it matters how much I can teach them and them absorb. They only have a couple of choices, either get going here and start playing together offensively and focusing and doing each person has a hand in the possession, or we better become the most aggressive offensive rebounding team and I think we could be, but we are not doing either right now and that is a challenge that we face.”
On the challenges of facing two tough opponents in a span of three days…
“We mentioned that to the players when we were getting off the bus from Louisville. This is exactly like a NCAA tournament weekend, it’s two really good teams. This says a lot about your preparation leading up to the first game because the second game is going to be far more mental preparation than physical and it’s a tough weekend but it’s a great challenge. We wanted it this weekend. We wanted our team to have to be in this kind of setting. We have tried to put everything we can into practice this week in getting better and I think our players just need to decide that they are going to be mentally focused and be responsible for what they need to do out there. I think we have too many, right now on offense, that kind of stand and watch. This is a great, great weekend for us to show that mentally, if we can apply ourselves, I think we can have great success but this is a big challenging weekend for us.”
On how the big crowd at Louisville will help the team prepare for the crowd at Rupp Arena…
“That’s one of the impressive things to come out of the Louisville game and coming out with a victory was very impressive because that was a great home crowd for Louisville and that’s the way it ought to be. They made it very difficult on us. They were hostile in a great way, they were really on us when we ran out on the floor it was tough. It was a tough energy in there for the visitor and that’s the way it ought to be. We want it to be that way Friday night for DePaul. We want them to be in a very difficult, tough environment. We need the crowd to be very loud and energetic. I thought our players handled it very well. I thought as poor as our focus was and sharpness on offense we had some very tough defensive possessions. We made some very tough plays in the game to win. I think a great example was when we had the controversy on the 3-point shot. It looked like we had a stop there and the game was three, now it goes to six and I just told them, we have to come back down here and score, we have to come and answer. The crowd was into it and they were excited, they just got that play and we came down and answered and scored. That’s the kind of toughness that we possess and instead of waiting until your back is as totally against the wall, we just need to exhibit that throughout the game. I think there are a lot of great things to take from the Louisville game.”
On why the team doesn’t play every game at Rupp Arena…
“There are a few things going on there with that and I will try my best to answer it. One is, that our record in Memorial Coliseum and the excitement that’s in that building, and our average attendance right now in Memorial, average paid attendance doesn’t exceed the capacity. We used to play five and six games down at Rupp Arena and we would get some very nice crowds of six and seven thousand and that’s a fantastic crowd. We are so fortunate to be in a place where six and seven thousand will show up and watch you play because that doesn’t happen everywhere in the country for a lot of women’s basketball teams and a lot of men’s basketball teams. We are very fortunate but, until you can’t get inside Memorial Coliseum, and that would be a goal of ours is to make it that way where you just cant get a ticket, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to do anything but what we are doing right now. We didn’t go down there for a long time until we felt like we had a team that could get a crowd like we are going to have tomorrow night. I think it might be as simple as math. We had four sellouts down here I think last year, we had the one that would have exceeded anything down here. Five sellout crowds is fantastic but that’s not 17 sellout crowds, until we get to that point, or let me say this, until Mr. Barnhart says we are playing all our games down at Rupp Arena, we will just do whatever he says do, if that’s what he wants to do then that’s what we’ll do. In my mind that’s why we’re at Memorial and the record has been pretty good.”
On giving the fans just one game at Rupp makes it a more hyped up event…
“I think people love coming to Memorial. I think people love coming down here. It’s a great experience. It’s a unique experience. It’s one of the great venues in college basketball. I think a lot of people circle this on their calendar one night a year where they are going to come down and watch the women play at Rupp Arena. I hear it all throughout the summer and all throughout the year. I think it’s a good formula where we are right now. I think maybe the next step would be is to keep one nonconference game and then maybe go one conference game down there and stretch it to two but that would be the only things that would be on my mind right now unless of somebody else has a better idea.”