Matthew Mitchell Previews Southern Indiana - LEX18.com | Continuous News and StormTracker Weather

Matthew Mitchell Previews Southern Indiana

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Opening Statement…

“Well, we’re heading into the season now and this is our first time to play somebody in front of other people besides whoever might be in the gym at certain times. So it’s always really good experience to play an exhibition game and what we’ll be looking for out of this game is to see where we are and what kind of progress we’ve made this week. We had a chance to scrimmage last week, and we really came out of that seeing some areas we needed to work on as far as our tempo, our pace and our effort, and that’s where we’re wanting to see some progress made against Southern Indiana. Southern Indiana is a really good team coming back. They’re picked to win their (conference), and Coach (Rick) Stein’s always done a great job there, so it’ll be a really good game for us. It will be a tough game and we’re looking forward to seeing what we can get out of it.”

On how eager he is to get the team on the floor…

“Yeah, it’s been a long preseason camp from the standpoint of not playing outside competition and having to go against each other every day. There comes a point in time where they’re really chomping at the bit to go play somebody else, so this will be a great test for us. We’re still trying to figure out exactly what we’re going to be good at, but I’ve liked our effort and I would expect that we’re going to come out with a lot of excitement Sunday evening.”

On what he’s wanting to see most out of his team on Sunday…

“I think, right now, for us to have success this season and become the team we want to be, there has to be no question in our minds about how hard we have to play, so then that has to be visible on the court. Really, the goal that I have for the team is for it to be evident that we’re playing harder than Southern Indiana. I mean, I think with so many young players we’re not going to be, you know, a work of art out there execution wise. But what we do have is some depth and some athleticism and some great young people who, when they keep their focus, can really hustle and make some things happen. Even if it’s not just perfect. We had some bright moments in our scrimmage last weekend, and then we had some moments where you can clearly say, ‘Hey, the other group’s out-hustling us.’ So, you’ve got to keep it simple at this point in time because it’s just going to be a matter of repetition before we really are firing on all cylinders from an execution standpoint. So, right now the name of the game for us is hustle and we’ll be doing everything we can to explain that to the players that we really need to exceed Southern Indiana’s effort on Sunday night.”

On how tough it is for newcomers to adjust overall…

“Well, you think about it, they’ve been so successful up to the point that they’re at the University of Kentucky playing in the greatest conference in the country and school’s getting paid for and thousands of people are going to come watch them play. And you know, in their mind (they’re thinking), ‘I’ve been so successful as a basketball player.’ And they have, and I think that’s the most challenging thing. It’s not terribly challenging for us because we have such intelligent freshmen. They’re really, really intelligent young women that are gifted and that have displayed great attitudes. Now, they’re not perfect and I do think there’s a time where it does get to them mentally. You know, ‘Gosh, he wants me to play harder. This isn’t good enough. I’ve got to go another step.’ So, we’ve talked about that. I’ve explained it to them in those words. You’ve been so successful. Most of their careers they’ve been one of the best players on the floor, if not the best player on the floor, and now they are just trying to keep up with the pace and little things start to matter now at this level. So, where you could just kind of play and it didn’t so much matter how you played. It mattered more about what you did and did you score a bunch of points so your team could win. Now it’s really into the how and I think that is, probably for every freshman, is tough, but for us, three of our four freshmen are front court players and I think that’s even more of a transition than for the guards. You know, Kameron Roach is working hard and making some good plays and a lot to learn, but she may not stick out as maybe a post player goes up against Alyssa Rice, and Alyssa Rice knows how to play and Dorie or Tot or KeKe are kind of thinking what just happened there? So, it’s all part of putting the team together. So that’s why I’m really trying to  get them focused on don’t worry about the mistakes, technical mistakes, think about your effort. And they’ve responded well and are working really hard. So, it’s just not going to be real pretty early on but I do think they’re capable of giving great efforts every night.”

On the grind of the season and the newcomers having to go through that …

“I think for the team in general, it is always more mental than physical, especially for the freshmen. Going back to what John (Clay) was talking about, there is a lot they have to learn that they didn’t know. It is not that they cannot learn it, but if I am learning something brand new it takes me a while. I just have to stay at it and stay at it and stay at it and sometimes I catch on to things faster than others, but there are so many different things that they are trying to learn that I think they hit more of a mental level of exhaustion and I think that’s where we as coaches have to make sure that we are clearing their mind as much as we can and making it about effort and entrust that the reps will help catch them up and you will be doing great. We have got plenty right now to play good basketball. Our veterans have done a great job in camp. Alyssa Rice is doing well. Maci and Taylor and Makenzie are really doing a good job. Jaida Roper has made an incredible improvement and you can go down the line that our returners are doing a good job and helping us lead. We tip it up there Sunday night and see what happens. We are going to be working with our main focus on trying to outhustle and be the team that has more effort Sunday night.”

On if one newcomer has struggled more than the others at the adjustment …

“No, I think they are all handling it really well. This is a really exceptional group of people from a character and intelligence standpoint and catching on to things. They are doing great, it is just hard. It is a hard transition to make and basketball is so dynamic you have to be able to transition well and quickly from one end of the floor to the other. The freshmen are doing great and I am extremely excited about them. There will be some rough days and there always is for freshmen, but I am very optimistic about their progress and what they are doing. I think you are going to enjoy watching them play Sunday night.”

On how deep he will go rotation wise …
“Not exactly yet. I probably get to that maybe a little bit slower than other coaches. I want to give players a chance to do their very best and see how they can help the team. Maybe this is a year where a lot of players help on a given night. We will just see how that unfolds. I am optimistic that we will be able to play a lot of players and each one of them at some point in time will be able to make a contribution, some more than others obviously. Everybody has worked really hard so far.”

On playing a more high pressured defense and what that will look like early this season …
“Well, Sunday night will be great because Southern Indiana has the capability to spread you out and go four-out, one-in and they are good players and well coached. They have a very experienced team coming back. It will be great to kind of see where your pressure is. Even with last year’s team and we didn’t have a ton of depth, we started out with the mindset that we were going to apply pressure. When we talk about pressure defense, we talk about being in the passing lanes and being one pass away and trying to smother the ball and maybe trapping some whether it be full court or half court and trying to create a pace and trying to hurry a team up. Last year, we were trying to be very aggressive on the ball, we weren’t in the passing lanes and what was referred to as a packed defense and not out in the passing lanes. We have been like most years seeing if we can get up and down the floor. I like that as a coach, that is what I like coaching. I have fun watching a team get out there and turn a team over a couple dozen times and run up and down the floor. I enjoy that. It is fun. That is what we are teaching right now. But when the lights come on and the games are for real, you want to give your team the best opportunity to win. We are going to go out and play some pressure man-to-man no doubt about it and see where that is. That is the beauty of the exhibition games. You get to try some things and see where you are and I think we have a better idea of what we are going to do offensively right now. They are doing a good job of that. I never take it for granted, it is hard to be a good pressure defense team. The 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 team were really high pressure defensive teams that turned people over a bunch of times. That did not do it because I said it, it happened because we had the kids that could do it and the talent and their desire was off the charts. I see some of those same qualities in this team, but you do not know until you go out there to do it.”

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