Sports
10:10 am
Mon March 24, 2014

UK Women Prepare For Showdown Against Syracuse

The Kentucky Women’s quest to get to the Final Four resumes tonight with a showdown against Syracuse.

UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell
Credit UK Athletics

Here's what Matthew Mitchell and his players had to say prior to the matchup:

On Syracuse and what they do well …
“Well, we had a great day yesterday and we had a significant advantage in personnel. This
game, the difference in personnel is not as great, the advantage is not as great and we have to
be ready to play. We really need a good day of preparation here to get ready for Syracuse.
What I see with them is a team that is able to create some turnovers in a different way than we
do. They full-court press you, three-quarter court press you, they’ve got some half-court traps
that we’re going to have to deal with and then the 2-3 zone, which we’ve had some success
against, but it certainly hasn’t been automatic this year. There have been times where we’ve
struggled against the 2-3 zone. When you think about us offensively, we really just really need
to be sharp during our practice session today and see if we can transfer from yesterday, which
was all man-to-man, and now tomorrow is pretty much all a zone look unless Syracuse changes
something up. (I’m) trying to get the players to switch gears and their preparation is going to be
important today. And then offensively, they certainly have some explosive players that pose
some problems for us. They have a big presence there with (Shakeya) Leary in the middle, and
she had a big day yesterday in Chattanooga and we were impressed with her. (Tasia) Butler is
a great shooter and I don’t know about (Brittany) Sykes and what her health is, but she is an
unbelievable player. She is very, very high-level and just explosive. It’s a really good group of
players there that are talented and have won some big games, so we’ll have to be ready for
them.”

On how he prepares for Syracuse with the injury concern of Brittany Sykes …
“Well, with this short period of time, we’re just going to prepare like she’s going to play. I don’t
know if this point in time with our team that we make it totally about the opponent. We really try
and have a good plan that we can execute whether she’s playing or not. You may change it
slightly. You may and try and do some things in the game a little bit differently if she’s not there.
She’s a huge part of their team and she is a very explosive player and so certainly their dynamic
will change. As far as our preparation. I think its wisest if we prepare like she’s going to play
unless something comes out and they make some type of statement that she is definitely out
and there’s no way, no how that she’s playing. I don’t think we’re going to get that word before
practice, so we’ll prepare for Brittney Sykes.”

On the team’s performance against Wright State …
“I don’t know if there was anything in the game yesterday that I didn’t believe we were capable
of. I was saying yesterday, that I was trying to go into yesterday’s game with the expectation
that we needed to win and as a coach, I needed to be there as a coach to encourage them to do
whatever they needed to do to win. I didn’t go in thinking we were going to win by 20, or 40, or
anything like that. I sort of showed up with the mindset yesterday of let me do my part for the
victory, let me coach the best that I can and lets see what happens. Nothing that they did really
surprised me, but I was extremely pleased and grateful to the players that they came out and
executed the gameplan. I think one thing that’s helping us right now is that we have a pretty
good level of focus, so then that allows someone like Azia Biship and Jelleah Sydney to come in
and you don’t have that big drop off from DeNesha (Stallworth) and Samarie (Walker) if they’re
focused and energetic. Now we can get back to running and running players at you in waves
and trying to ware you down and trying to make it a game of attriticion. Back in January, we
weren’t focused and we weren’t confident and we weren’t able to throw a lot of people at you
because we weren’t playing that well. I think the biggest takeaway for me yesterday is that if we
can be in that mental place tomorrow, it can be really good fir us because I think we need this to
be a fast-paced game, we need this to be a game where depth becomes a factor, and the only
way that you can make depth become a factor is if your bench plays well. Yesterday it was good
to see everybody in the same spot mentally where you didn’t have a big swing defensively when
people came off the bench and replaced each other. That was one of the really good things
about yesterday.”
On if he’s worried about a shooting letdown after Saturday …
“I tried my best to get into a positive place. I worry about a whole lot of stuff and then I try and
stop myself and I try and get to a spot to where I don’t worry about it. What we’ll focus on today
is we’ll try to focus on what we can control. We try to talk to the players all the time that you
can’t let good execution, on-balance shots that don’t go in, you can’t let that affect you. We try to
not and focus and put a big number on percentages and I would think that the team would only
have that kind of game if they showed up tomorrow for some reason thinking that because we’re
in Memorial (Coliseum) that it’s automatically going to happen. That would be the thing as a
coach that as I coach, I’ll try and make sure that mentally they’re sharp and know that we’ve got
to go out and play tomorrow night, and we’ve got to play tomorrow night. Saturday really doesn’t
really come into play. We’re not going to shoot 57 percent because we did on Saturday. And we
didn’t shoot 57 percent yesterday because we fooled around. We did some really good thing.
We went to the offensive glass, we got some put-backs, things like that. I’ll be trying to get the
team to a spot to where they come out with great focus and trying to do the right things that will
help them shoot well.”

KENTUCKY PLAYERS

Samarie Walker, Kentucky Forward

On the precise game against Wright St. Saturday…
“I wouldn’t say I am amazed, I am proud of my team we have come out and played hard. It’s
something that we’ve been working on all season but were finally starting to click and we knew
that was what we were supposed to do and that’s what we did.”
On her play against a 2-3 zone …
“Yeah it’s a little frustrating for inside players because we don’t know where were going to get
the ball, we have to work just a little bit harder than man. We might not always get the ball on
the block which is where we want to get the ball, it’s a lot more movement for us but I think by
now we should be used to it because that is what we got played most by in the SEC.”
On rebounding against a 2-3 zone…
“For me I wouldn’t say it’s either, I don’t think we crash the boards as hard when teams play
zone on us/ We’ve been working on that a lot. For us playing zone, we have learned triangle. I
don’t know if other teams do that, but yeah, it’s a little different.”

Jennifer O’Neill, Kentucky, Guard
 

On the 2-3 zone of Syracuse …
“Yeah I perk up a little bit but I think it should be easier for us because it’s just one thing we
have to focus on, it’s the 2-3 zone. We don’t have to worry about them playing man or trying to
switch it to a 3-2 or stuff like that. We know what they’re going to play and now we just have to
go out and perform and execute.”
On being a 3-point shooter against a 2-3 zone …
“I have the same feeling when the team is going to play man.”
On watching the second game and their impressions of Syracuse …
“Yeah we got to watch some of the game and I feel like we could get the ball into the middle of
the paint and short corners and then we’ll have success with scoring the ball.”

The Wildcats and Orange square off at 6:40 Monday night in Memorial Coliseum.  The game will be televised on espn2.