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Matthew Mitchell “grateful” to be in Lexington Region

Matthew Mitchell (Vicky Graff Photo)

Matthew Mitchell (Vicky Graff Photo)

Kentucky Women’s Basketball

Pre-NCAA Tournament News Conference

March 14, 2016

Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening statement…

“I am just really proud of our team for making the tournament this year. It is never a guarantee to make the tournament, you have to go earn it and our team really worked hard starting last June. So it is a great reward for a lot of hard work and we are excited to be in the tournament again. Our administration stepping up and supporting women’s basketball and having the tournament here without any guarantee that we would be here and still supporting it is really a credit to them. Then for our team to work hard enough and be able to earn a top-16 seed and host in Memorial Coliseum is great. So they had to earn that and I am grateful the committee put us in Lexington. We are going to have to really work hard to get a victory in the first round, but the prospects to get to play in Lexington for the Sweet 16 is exciting and our team needs to work out. Our community really needs to come out and buy some tickets and support it no matter who is in the regional.”

On the Big Blue Nation showing up …

“Yeah, they normally do and we are looking forward to that. We had great attendance in our two years hosting in Memorial and that will be great. I think that Rupp Arena is going to be a great experience for all fans no matter who is playing. It is such a great downtown venue and a lot of people will be able to go see our great downtown and all the great restaurants and entertainment down there. I think it is going to be a great, great regional.”

On Memorial Coliseum being a special place for Kentucky …
“Well, I love the women’s tournament and that is something that makes it special and the regular season meaningful. It is something that you have to earn. You think about where we were on February 3, sitting 4-6 in the league and this team fought back and won eight straight against Southeastern Conference opponents and got a No. 12 RPI and clearly one of the top 12 teams in the country, it is a great reward for really a good regular season. We will try to use Memorial to our advantage.”

On the tough competition in the Lexington Regional …
“Yeah, just watching it and reacting it is a very tough regional, but it should be it is the NCAA Tournament and you shouldn’t have any easy path no matter what region you are in. I am just so grateful for the opportunity to try to make it to Rupp Arena and really grateful to have that opportunity. I think it is going to be great for our city if we can get that done and really grateful for our team to play another chance to play another game at Memorial. Senior Night was great for Janee and she had such a great fourth quarter and put us on her back and really did a great job there but for her to get another chance to play in Memorial is very exciting.”

On if he knows anything about UNC Asheville…

“Well, I know their coach.  And Brenda (Mock Kirkpatrick) was a top assistant at Florida for a long time, and I’ve known her for a long time.  She’s doing an outstanding job.  I’m not real familiar with their personnel, but we’ll get up to speed on them tonight.  But I do know she’s an outstanding coach.

On if he was surprised to get into the Lexington Regional…

“I’ve been in so many of those meetings, and we’ve been trying to move the game forward.  I was on the executive committee of our coaches association.  So, we’re trying to grow our tournament.  We are in a spot where the tournament needs to grow, and we need to do some things to have some success.  I think the overall goal of the tournament is to be very competitive, but also be more successful financially.  I’m not surprised from that standpoint.  But that’s what they wanted, people that wanted women’s basketball and wanted these regionals.  They wanted you to step up and bid, and that’s what the University of Louisville did a couple years ago, that’s what we’ve done now.  I just think it’s communities that love women’s basketball and want to support it.  So from that standpoint, I think it’s a really great venue.  It’s (Rupp Arena) not our permanent home court.  Clearly, if we were down there, it would  be a great, great advantage for us to get to play in front of our hometown fans.  It was a great advantage when UConn was playing in Bridgeport, I can attest to that.  We’ve been on the other end of it too, so I would love to experience the alternative.”

On his takeaways from the SEC Tournament…

“We had a great week down there.  The kids went down there, we lost the tiebreaker with Florida so we had to play on Thursday, which was not a bad thing.  We played a really outstanding 35 minutes against LSU, but that last five minutes helped us understand how you can’t stop hustling.  The next day we came out and really hustled hard and beat a team that had really taken it to us about a month early.  So you could really see some progress.  And then we just ran into a bustle on that Saturday.  From the standpoint of how the players prepared and what they expected out of each other, I really, really had a great experience down there.  I wish we could have played better on that Saturday, but we’ve had a really good season.  We’ve played well, we’ve played hard, we’ve overcome a lot of adversity.  I’m excited for them to see what they can do in this tournament.”

On how big of a benefit the Lexington Regional is for the Kentucky community…

“Well, it can be if our community will get out there in support.  And I believe they will.  I believe that they are, Rupp’s a great venue, and I can assure you four really good teams are gonna be down there in a couple weeks.  The community support of our program has been unbelievable the last nine years, and I’m grateful for that.  It’s important to women’s basketball that we support this.  It’s a big commitment that the university’s made and the city’s made, and it would be outstanding if we would just really show overwhelming for this.  I don’t think people would be disappointed; no matter who they go down and watch it will be some great basketball.”

On if the Lexington Regional would have economic impact…

“It can be, yeah.”

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