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Matthew Mitchell Talks Ahead of Auburn Game

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AP Photo/James Crisp AP Photo/James Crisp

Kentucky WBB Pre-Auburn News Conference

Memorial Coliseum – Lexington, Ky.

Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018


Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening Statement …

“Well, we have a big challenge ahead tomorrow night. Auburn is a team that plays so incredibly hard. They’ll pressure you for 40 minutes. So, we’re in for a real battle tomorrow night and huge opportunity for us to see where we are in our effort and our energy because Auburn brings that for 40 minutes and they’re very disruptive. It’ll be a big challenge for us, but we’ll have some real satisfaction if we can walk off the court and say we played harder than Auburn, because they play so hard. And that’s what we need to do tomorrow night and see if we can earn a victory.”

On whether he expects Tatyana Wyatt to play …

“She’s available, unless something goes wrong in practice today but she’ll be practicing full speed. We’ll see how that goes. It’ll be the first time she’s gone full speed in quite some time, so glad to have her back and we’ll just try to work her back in as she seems to be able. It’s good to have her back in practice today.”

On what the situation is with Jess Hardin injury wise …

“She has battled some leg pain. She was out for a while as far as games go, but she’s modified practice and we’re just trying to work her back in. It’s a situation where she hasn’t been able to get a lot of reps, but she’s progressing and getting better. So, we hope we can get her on the court soon.”

On what Dorie Harrison’s improved free throw shooting can be attributed to …

“Well, we’ve been working hard just on Dorie’s progress and just trying to help her become a better player and I think a lot of it is confidence. She’s had some success, been able to get out of her own way, not overthink things. We have been working on her free throw shot, just a little bit on her pre-shot routine. You’d have to ask her whether that was a big factor or not. I think it’s more just her general outlook on how to come to practice every day and how to work. Then, also you get a spot where finally the reps begin to show up in a game. So, you know, it didn’t happen overnight. She’s been working hard since she got on campus, but you know, the results are slowly but surely starting to reveal themselves.”

On other players stepping up since Maci Morris was injured …

“Well, I think when we didn’t have her at Vanderbilt, I thought we sort of pulled back from the opportunity and people didn’t put their best foot forward that night. So, we benefited from not having a game that Thursday and were able just to try to see where everybody was. Try to see where everybody was mentally and try to get everything verbalized to a spot where we knew what people were thinking. Had a lot of folks who, after that, were able to embrace the role that we needed them to fill and I think that was more than anything was just being able to understand where you can impact the team and what you needed to do and trying to help them define roles and trying to just say, ‘Hey, listen, this isn’t going to get better unless you start doing certain things,’ So, you look at someone like KeKe (McKinney) who just thought her value to the team was to try to make 3s, and she’s a stretch four and she had to make 3s and if she didn’t make 3s she was really of no value to the team. That’s an example of just trying to fix that thinking that you don’t have to make 3s for us to be successful, but you do have to go to the boards and you do have to move the ball and you do have to be tough and show effort and show energy. So, to her credit and to a lot of player’s credit, they came out of that and decided they were going to embrace the role, and that’s just not in games, that’s in practice every day. What you do in practice is what’s going to show up in games. So, I think that’s been the biggest help is just the mindset. The mindset, we were able to as a team change the way we were thinking, and that’s hard to do. That’s a real credit to the players. That’s really hard to do, especially in the midst of a lot of disappointment that was on the verge of turning into discouragement, and to their credit they didn’t let that happen. So, really proud of them and we’ve been enjoying some benefits from that mindset change and we’ve got to stay at it.”

On a specific moment in the last few weeks where he’s saw the change in mindset …

“I think the poor shooting started to weigh on everybody’s shoulder and had them discouraged. You know, the South Carolina game was really, really poor transition defense and focus and the second quarter that really, kind of, where they distanced themselves. And, I thought that we showed a little bit of fight there in that second half. But still, you know, the defense wasn’t great but we did start making some hustle plays and showed some fight. And, while we couldn’t stop them in the third quarter they couldn’t stop us either. So, I thought that was maybe, or hopefully the point where we sort of turned it back going in the right direction. And then, although we lost that game I just thought the young players, having some success in that game, it led into some good practices last Tuesday and Wednesday and then you know, the good result versus Alabama. It’s so hard to tell right now, you know, we are so focused on trying to beat Auburn, which is going to be a really tough task. But, I would say that last week was a really good week of practice.”

On the short turnaround from the Arkansas game …

“Yeah, it’s just a part of where the schedule makers put you and you have zero control over that. There are things you don’t have control over… how they make the schedule. You don’t have control over officiating, you don’t have control over the weather when you travel, I mean you just don’t have control over these things so, it’s a challenge, yes, but you know the team understands they need to go out and practice well today and we need to see if we can do that. The key to this game is if you can take care of the ball and attack and be real aggressive and tough, you have a chance to win. It’s easier to sit up here and talk about than it is do. They’re so prolific at forcing turnovers and that’s been a real key here in the last couple of games of trying to take care of the ball and win that turnover battle. It’ll be another huge key in this game tomorrow night. And also you’ve got to make some shots against Auburn. Sometimes you get some open looks because they’re a little bit out of whack, but they have rushed and have forced you into maybe a shot that you didn’t want to take, so you just have to try your best – try your very best to be aggressive and tough and make good decisions and keep your poise and we’ll try to practice that today.”

On the impact winning a few games in a row has on this team …

“Well you know the physical effort has always been pretty steady and pretty good to their credit. We haven’t had a lot of just laziness going on in practice. It was more just a mindset of kind of getting beaten down and not believing in yourself and feeling like things were happening to you and so that has been the biggest challenge and I think it’s certainly more fun to win than it is to absorb those losses, and so you certainly hope that it’s going to be something that helps us. But, we have I think, tried to stay really focused on what we need to do to improve as a team. So, from my standpoint right now and the coaches standpoint, we still go into practice with a pretty clear message of we need to get better today because we’re certainly not a finished product and there’s a lot to improve. But, you have to believe that it’s a lot more fun to come to practice after you’ve put a couple wins together. But, we have to stay at it right now. It’s a tough, tough road ahead.”

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