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No. 17 Kentucky Looks to Extend Winning Streak at No. 7 Louisville

Matthew Mitchell after UK's win over Oklahoma. (Vicky Graff Photo)

Matthew Mitchell after UK’s win over Oklahoma. (Vicky Graff Photo)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky women’s basketball will look to extend its winning streak to four games on Sunday afternoon as it travels to the Derby City to face No. 7 Louisville in the annual “Battle of the Bluegrass” at the KFC Yum! Center.

The game will be shown live at 2 p.m. ET on ACC Network Extra and the WatchESPN app. Now in his 12th season, Neil Price will have the call on the UK Sports Network. Fans in Lexington can hear Price’s call of the game on WLAP 630AM.

“We have another tough game ahead of us with UofL,” UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “They have another really great team again this year and extremely athletic, extremely talented, always well-coached. So, it’ll take everything we have, every bit of grit and moxie that we can muster to go over and try to win the game. It’s a big game for us, always is. It’s just another UofL-Kentucky game.”

No. 17 Kentucky (6-1) is coming off its second top-20 win of the season on Thursday night when the Wildcats downed No. 12 Oklahoma, 82-68 in Memorial Coliseum as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Senior guard Makayla Epps scored 30 points – a new season high – leading all scorers in the game to push UK past the Sooners for the third game in a row.

The Cardinals (6-2) are ranked No. 7 in both the Associated Press top-25 and USA Today Coaches’ Poll. UofL lost on Thursday night to No. 5/5 Maryland at home, 78-72. The Cardinals are in the midst of the toughest part of their schedule, where they have faced No. 3/3 South Carolina, No. 5 Maryland and now No. 17 Kentucky in consecutive contests.

Kentucky has won the last five in the series between the Cats and the Cards, including a 15-point comeback in the second half on the road the last time UK visited Louisville. Sunday’s meeting marks the 53rd all-time meeting between the two teams, with Kentucky holding a 34-18 lead in the series. Last season, in front of 14,425 fans at Rupp Arena, Kentucky defeated the Cardinals 72-54 led by a 24-point effort from Epps.

Epps leads Kentucky on the young season, averaging 19.0 points per game. She is one of four UK players averaging double-figure scoring joining Evelyn Akhator (16.0), Maci Morris (12.0) and Taylor Murray (10.6). Morris had a career night Thursday, scoring 19 points and grabbing eight rebounds – both career bests. The Pineville, Kentucky native went 6-of-12 from the floor and drained three 3’s on her five attempts from beyond the arc.

Louisville has two players averaging in double-figures led by Asia Durr, who is putting up 18.9 points per game and Mariya Moore (12.9ppg). UofL’s Myisha Hines-Allen is averaging just outside of double figures at 9.8 points per game. The Cards are currenty shooting the ball at a .461 clip from the field, including .310 from beyond the arc.

Kentucky Women’s Basketball

Matthew Mitchell Pre-Louisville Quotes

Memorial Coliseum – Lexington, Ky.

Dec. 2, 2016

Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening Statement…

“Well, another tough game ahead of us with UofL. They have another really great team again this year and extremely athletic, extremely talented, always well-coached. So, it’ll take everything we have, every bit of grit and moxie that we can muster to go over and try to win the game. It’s a big game for us, always is. It’s just another UofL-Kentucky game.”

 

On why he thinks his Kentucky teams have had recent success in this series…

“Well, it’s just year-to-year. We’ve been very fortunate to have players make plays. It’s not like they’re blow-out wins or anything, we’ve just been really fortunate to have tough-minded players make plays at the right time. It’s not a series of games. Each game is an individual game, and we’ve just found some kind of way to make more plays in the game. So, it’s players making plays. What you have to do in this game, Sunday we’ll have to make a lot of plays.”

 

On whether he’s worried about the team going on the road again…

“Very worried. Very worried about going on the road and worried about playing at home right now… worried about a lot of stuff right now. I mean, we’re really trying to take shape as a team, and so grateful to be able to win last night because we’re trying to round into form, as I’m sure Louisville is too. It’s early in the season. So, that was a really difficult trip from the travel, just from the logistics of traveling. The travel won’t be difficult, but a much more hostile environment. It’s always rowdy and electric in the Yum! Center. They do a great job of getting their fans in there, so it will be a different kind of road challenge. Where I thought the travel impacted us negatively in Colorado – and they played well, I’m not trying to take anything away from Colorado. They really played well and are continuing to play well. But our challenge on the road will be Louisville’s outstanding player, outstanding coach, outstanding fans. It’s just a really difficult game if we were playing there or here for us right now, it’s a tough game.”

 

On the biggest challenges against Louisville…

“Well, they always play hard in our game. It’s always a really physical, tough game. I think Coach Walz is one of the best coaches at mixing looks and giving you multiple looks, and giving you challenges in the game where you really have to think through things. You just can’t play mindlessly against Louisville. You’ve got to really be sharp mentally because they just are unafraid to mix things up, really a lot of multiple looks. So, you’ve got to try to simplify that for the players the best that you can. But I think the biggest challenge for us is they’re just extremely athletic, very, very deep, have a lot of weapons and the players for Louisville are the greatest challenge for us. They’re just really good basketball players.”

 

On keeping emotions in check for the rivalry game vs. Louisville …

“I won’t tell them anything to not get them too jacked up for this one. We need to get real jacked up for this one because we need to play at a real high level for this one, and we always do. We’ve always enjoyed this competition. It’s always been a tough game and it’s always made us better. I feel like playing Louisville is a challenge that always benefits our team to play against a quality team like they are. I won’t do anything to put out the fire. I’ll try and get them ready to go. We need to play with tremendous enthusiasm. It does mean something because it’s a rivalry game. It’s important for our team right now for so many reasons – to try to improve and to try and get a great road victory. There is a lot on the line here and so we’ll try and be excited when the ball goes in the air on Sunday.”

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