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Mitchell sees progress on offense and defense

Jessica Hardin (UK Athletics Photo)

Here is what Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell had to say today after his team’s 59-36 victory over Radford in Memorial Coliseum.

Opening statement …

“This was a good win for our team. Really happy, really proud of how hard they played together. Big blow for us not having Taylor Murray. She had been playing probably the best basketball of anyone on our team. She broke her finger in the Arizona State game, so she was out today and probably out on Wednesday and then we will have to re-asses it when we get back from the holidays. I was very concerned about this game. Radford had played some really good basketball and just beat Wake Forest before they came over and they have some really great athletes on the interior. Our team really worked hard this week handling academics well. They had a great semester academically and we did really well on our finals and also getting better defensively this week. We really tried to get better defensively this week after that disappointing loss last Sunday. So, happy for our players and this was a good win today.”

 On the defensive effort …

“You look at our numbers and we didn’t shoot the ball well today. I thought we got in good positions offensively to make things happen, but we just couldn’t finish today. I saw some real progress with our offense as far as some decisions that our players made and we just have to finish a little better. I was a little concerned. Listen, Taylor has been the heart and soul of our defense so to see our two freshman Jaida Roper and Paige Poffenberger come in really gave us some energy was good. I thought we had some good movement in our zone today, and listen, we have a ways to go before we play our best basketball, but this was a difficult week for us. We had a really disappointing loss on Sunday, they had to get super focused on their exams, we’ve been high achievers in the classroom and there is a lot that goes with that. They are trying to make As in everything that they do, so they had that balanced, and then trying to get better as a basketball team. This was a very busy week, I was really concerned about this game, so thrilled to hold them to 36 points and thrilled to find a way to win under difficult circumstances without Taylor.”

On Jaida Roper stepping up in place of Taylor Murray …

“Well, what I love about Jaida is that Jaida has intangibles that you can’t teach. Jaida is a very confident young player, Jaida believes in herself, Jaida believes in her ability to get things done, and she’s got a ways to go before sharpening and rounding into the player that she wants to be, but that’s part of the process and part of being a freshman. She will not shy away from responsibility. She will take the bull by the horns and go play. I was concerned about if they would do things that would be difficult for her to handle in the game, but I was not concerned about whether she would be able to go in there and compete. We had the confidence she would go in there and do a good job and so that’s a credit to her. She’s just got a great feel for the game, she gets her hands on the basketball a lot, she makes some plays, she just has to learn like all freshman do of how to work and she has to maximize her ability. She has to be in the very best shape she can be in, she is not the biggest in stature, so she’s got to be in great shape, concentrate, practice great, be real coachable and she’ll be a fine player for us.”

On the game Paige Poffenberger had …

“What Paige did today was come in and gave us a jolt and really got after it defensively and really harassed their point guard and really got after their point guard. She was really comfortable and didn’t turn the ball over offensively, made an open 15-footer, just kept it real simple and played terrific today. And so what you look for in Paige, is she really hustles. She’s a willing defender and though she’s going to be in some matchups that don’t’ benefit her physically, she’s going to give you everything she has. Right now – however long we don’t have Taylor – for those two kids to get in there and hustle and give us something defensively that makes the other team work and then not turn the ball over offensively, it’s a huge thing. I thought Paige really got in the right place at the right time and had some really, really smart, intelligent plays. Proud of those two kids for coming in and helping us out today. Those minutes were big.”

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