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Here is what Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell had to say Sunday after the UK women rallied to beat Louisville.

Opening Statement …

A terrific game today and a terrific atmosphere, we really appreciate all the fans that came out. The Louisville fans, I thought, showed up and really cheered their team on. Really, really appreciate our fans for coming out and making it a sell out and for providing such a great atmosphere for women’s college basketball. Great day for that. Louisville is such a tough team and we have tremendous respect for them. I thought they played very, very tough and we were extremely fortunate to win. Really excited that we were able to turn around a difficult start and play a tough second half and find some way to win. Good day for us, we need to get better and learn from it and move forward because the road doesn’t get any easier. But I think, at the end of the year, this will be a really valuable win because I think Louisville will have an outstanding season. We are really happy today.”

On the team’s rebounding in the second half …

I just think it was a mindset. I can’t explain to you the first half and Louisville has looked that way on tape, that aggressive and that energetic all seven games that I watched of them. They are an extremely energetic team and we certainly, as coaches, tried to prepare our team but we didn’t have our team ready to go and that is very disappointing. It was a mindset. Nobody got taller at halftime, nobody got faster, we didn’t give anybody anything that got them jumping higher or anything. They had to get their mindset changed. It was a very, very disappointing first half for us. We were so fortunate to only be down nine with the kind of half we played. It was a very, very poor half of basketball. Louisville just took it to us, credit them. They came out the way you need to come out. At halftime, there were two things we can control and that was effort on defense and effort on the boards. Then, we could also offensively, control being aggressive and getting into the paint and start making some plays. Louisville is a very difficult team to play against because they are such a good defensive team.”

On the team being more aggressive penetrating in the second half …

You have to go more than one pass into the offense against them. They do such a nice job on the initial action and you must get the ball reversed and get the ball to the other side of the floor. You have to be very smart and take advantage of opportunities when they are there and they are not always there, but sometimes they are. If you catch the ball one action and then pick the ball up and stand really static it plays into their defensive schemes. We were not aggressive. Our point guards, God bless them, they scored 25 points and I am really happy they did because we would not have won the game without them, but we were nowhere in the first half close enough to what we need to be at Kentucky as far as aggressive and attacking, moving the basketball. It was a lot of coming off a screen, it would be switched, we would hold the ball and look at them. You cannot play U of L that way. They are too tough of a defensive team. You have to be tougher than that. In the second half, I thought we were a little bit tougher.”

On DeNesha Stallworth…

She had two rebounds at halftime? I thought it was zero. DeNesha Stallworth did not have a good first half. And so, we had a very pointed conversation at halftime about her first half. I thought it was a very poor performance. Then you go in the second half, 15 points and (six) rebounds, that is the kind of effort you need in two halves. We just cannot become the team we want to be with her playing with that inconsistency. We all saw what she can do and you can’t wait to get chewed out at halftime all the time. You must take some responsibility and practice really hard and be mentally focused. You absolutely can’t let missed shots bother you. It was a big game and everybody knows we want to win and she missed some shots early and it really, really affected her play. We are fortunate to escape with that kind of effort in the first half. To her credit, she turned it around and we certainly would not have won without her big second half. She is a really good player and I am glad we can learn a lesson out of a win instead of having to learn it through the pain of defeat. We need to learn the lesson, though.”

On Kentucky’s first half 3-point shooting…

Well it was really a team victory and Louisville puts so much stress on you to make decisions both defensively and offensively. They are such a well-coached team. They make you think and you have to be mentally tough. We were not being very mentally tough. Makayla (Epps) being a freshman coming off the bench – I thought the two freshmen in the limited minutes – really came off and gave some production. It’s hard to sustain that over the course of the game because they put so much stress on you. Eight games into their careers they are just not ready quite yet to handle that. I just thought both freshmen made huge contributions in limited minutes. Makayla’s 3s really saved us because we had nothing going at the time, and we were not being mentally tough. That was a huge boost for the victory. Then Bernisha (Pinkett) is shooting the ball so well at practice. Man when those things left her hand, both of them, I was like ‘oh gosh I think they’re going in, they really look good,’ and I was strongly encouraging the ball to go in when she shot it. I wanted that badly. At Kentucky we just try to make sure that we get the win for Kentucky. We don’t care exactly how it happens or who gets the credit or who plays the minutes. I’m really proud of our team today for just finding a way to win. Those two players in particular, we wouldn’t have won without their contributions in limited minutes.”

On DeNesha Stallworth’s second-half performance…

I am trying to grow as a coach, and I’m starting to understand how to talk to different people. You can’t reach everybody the same way. So we spend a lot of time building relationships with our players and trying to figure out how to get to them, but there comes a time in a game like this that there’s only one tone you can use. This is Kentucky-Louisville. This is a big game. If you’re going to come out and not play is just unacceptable. Through the course of the week, and the highs and lows of the week, I will try different types of tones with DeNesha (Stallworth). I try not to jump all over her, that’s not the best way for her to get information, but at halftime of the Kentucky-Louisville game when you’re dragging around and just not playing when your team needs you, there is only one tone to take. That is: you’ve got to get it going here and if you don’t you’re putting your team in jeopardy. This was a huge game today. I don’t care how you slice it. You don’t get many shots at the No. 4 team in the country. You can’t say this is just another game. In my mind you have to go win this game. In our place, we’ve worked so hard to protect our home court, and we’ve done a beautiful job over the last five years. You have to play in this game. Thank goodness she played in the second half. We needed her badly.”

On the growth of Kentucky-Louisville game in recent years …

It’s no fun preparing for this game because Jeff (Walz) is such a good coach. It’s a miserable proposition for me because you have to be prepared. You have to work really, really hard. It’s always so early in the season you don’t know exactly if you can get it done. Personally it’s a difficult game to prepare for. The styles are very different. You will hear often people say it’s hard to prepare for Kentucky because we can’t simulate the pressure. You can’t simulate what Louisville does because their players are so well-coached, so different from what we do, so it’s a very difficult game. Having said all that, I guess I’m going off on a tangent about myself; I need to talk about how good the game is for everybody else. It’s a great game for everybody else. It is an electric atmosphere here; it’s an electric atmosphere over there. And it is tremendous for women’s college basketball that in the Commonwealth of Kentucky two of the best teams in the country are 60 miles apart, and we truly respect them. I feel like they compete really hard against us, which is a sign of respect. It’s a good time for women’s basketball in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

 

 

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