No. 6 Kentucky ready to face No. 1 Baylor in first-ever meeting between the two teams, Mitchell on the matchup

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell talks about facing top-ranked Baylor on Tuesday, November, 13, 2012 in Waco, Texas.
Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell talks about facing top-ranked Baylor on Tuesday, November, 13, 2012 in Waco, Texas.

State Farm Tip-Off Classic: No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 6 Kentucky

  • Nov. 13, 2012 | 6 p.m. ET
  • Waco, Texas | Ferrell Center
  • TV: ESPN2 (Dave O’Brien, Doris Burke and Holly Rowe on the sideline) || Web:
  • Radio: ESPN Central Texas, UK IMG Sports Radio Network
  • Live Stats: Gametracker

Tuesday will mark the first-ever meeting between Baylor and Kentucky. Baylor will be the highest Associated Press-ranked team UK has faced since upsetting No. 1 Tennessee, 66-63, in 2006.

We’re really, really excited for tomorrow and for the university,” said Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell. “What a great, great night for us to have the women play on ESPN2 and the guys come on and play Duke after that so, just a really great night for Kentucky and Kentucky basketball and we’re really proud to be a part of it. We’re proud to be playing in the State Farm Hall of Fame Tip-off Classic against an incredible program. Coach (Kim) Mulkey has done a great, great job there. It is a chance for our team to go out and really compete against one of the top teams in the country so that’s always a good opportunity and we’re really excited to take the floor tomorrow night.”

Baylor is making its fifth State Farm Tip-Off Classic appearance (2004, ‘05, ‘09, ‘10) and claims a 1-3 record in the event, while the Wildcats are making their first appearance in the event that raises money for the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. The Class of 2012 includes Gary Blair (coach), Jim Foster (coach), Peggie Gillom-Granderson (player), Jen Rizzotti (player), Annette Smith-Knight (player), and Sue Wicks (player). The 2013 induction will take place on June 8, 2013 in Knoxville, Tenn.

Baylor holds the nation’s longest active win streak at 41 games.

Last Game

Kentucky beat Delaware State, 90-50
A’dia Mathies led the Wildcats with 16 points while Bria Goss added 14 and DeNesha Stallworth tallied 11, while Samarie Walker and Azia Bishop shared rebounding honors with seven each.

Baylor beat Lamar 80-34
Brittney Griner had 24 points while junior point guard Odyssey Sims, tallied 11 points and senior guard Jordan Madden scored 10. Senior Destiny Williams led the team in rebounding with seven.

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell on facing Baylor

On the schedule and how it will challenge the team this year…

“The schedule contains a lot of teams that will challenge us and tomorrow night is a great example. Being able to go on the road and play Baylor, which is such a great team, is something that will do nothing but help us. We want to be the best program in the country. We want to be the best women’s basketball team in the country and I think you have to play in games like this to get there. It’s very important to have a challenging schedule to test yourself and challenge yourself and to have the courage to go out and play really great teams, so that’s an important part of the process of us growing as a program.”

On the preparing for Brittney Griner and the Baylor team…

“It’s difficult anytime to play Baylor, because Griner is a great player but they are a great team. I’ve been so impressed from watching them, and I didn’t watch them a lot last season. I was just completely busy with our team and then I had the one-year-old running around, she wasn’t one then, so I just didn’t have a lot of free time just to watch college basketball games and I have to keep up with (John Calipari’s) team too, so I just didn’t have a lot of time to watch Baylor. Now that I have had a chance to watch them, I am so impressed with what kind of team they have and how well coached they are.”

“Griner presents unique challenges just with her size, but she is a great player, she’s not just a big imposing figure in there. She can really, really play and her game has developed. So I think at this stage of the season, what you’re trying to do with your team is, we’re trying to build our identity and build on things that will help us be successful over the long haul. This kind of game I think we just have to turn it loose and go play really, really hard and try to stick as close to our identity as we can. Whether that’s going to be a good formula to play Brittany Griner, we’re not sure we will find out tomorrow night. We can’t spend a whole lot of time just trying to take one player away at this stage in the season, because I think that would really impede our progress of trying to build this team for the long haul. It’s a unique time to be facing them. We’re not as sophisticated on defense as maybe we would be two months from now, so that part of it is sort of one of the big unknowns going into the game. How our defense will go up against their offense? It will be interesting to see.”

On how important UK’s full court pressure is going to be in the game…

“Both ways we need to try to put pressure on them, offensively and defensively. Really for us, this will be the ultimate test. We have always tried to take away people’s post play by pressuring the basketball, and talk about playing post defense really far away from the basketball, so if they can’t see her then she’s not open, basically is our philosophy. It’s very important to try to speed them up, get them out of what kind of rhythm they want to be in, that’s no secret going into the game. I’m sure they understand that’s what we’re going to try to do. It’s not so much the person guarding Griner, it’s more of the other people who you are trying to pressure and take away opportunities to have her get the ball. It’s real difficult to stop her once she gets the ball inside, and then you just need to get it out as quick as you can and get it back up the floor. It will definitely be a game that requires scoring. I don’t think you are really going to shut them down. We are going to have to do a good job on defense but I think this is a really important game to score in.”

On Baylor point guard Odyssey Sims’ importance in this game…

“If you don’t stop either one of them, you have no shot. You aren’t going to really stop either one of them, but you have to make them work as hard as they can for baskets. Odyssey Sims is unbelievable. She’s a really, really good player. She’s so explosive and she deserves every accolade she receives because she is a top-notch player. She’s so fast with the basketball, so aggressive, so decisive in her movements and she is going to be a challenge. She is really, really important to try to do a good job on, I would say as important as Griner.”

On what a win on national television against the No. 1 ranked team would do for the program…

“I don’t know if I allow myself to think about many things. It’s hard to allow myself to think, thinking is not one of my real strong suits. As I sit here now, I think I will allow myself to think about it. It would be a tremendous thing to win the game, but I think it’s important as you are going through this journey that we are on right now, and we’ve accomplished a lot over the years, I’ve said this many times, there are program issues and team issues. For the team, it would certainly increase their confidence and belief in being good. I think they are going to be good at some point here in the future. I think we are going to have a really outstanding team. For the program I think those moments like winning a game like tomorrow night, would just be what we would add to the great things that have happened in the past, and those are starting to accumulate over time and that helps you eventually. It would be a tremendous win against the No. 1 team, and that would always be something that would be big for you.”

On if the team will be prepared mentally going on the road against the defending national champions…

“I think that is the key to any game where you have two top-level teams. I think they are certainly physical attributes of our team that would allow us to win the game and there are clearly physical attributes that Baylor possesses to win the game. So now, it’s a mental game. Who’s tougher and who can weather the storm? Anytime you go on the road I think you have to be a little bit tougher than normal. We work on that every single day about how important it is for us to be mentally tough because we employ a style of play that leaves itself to some risks out there and anytime you take some risks you are going to make some mistakes and you are going to have some challenges throughout the game, I don’t care who you are playing, that happens. How tough we are mentally will be a huge factor in the game and that will be one of the ways I evaluate our team tomorrow night is how tough we are mentally. There are a lot of things we would like to be able to do tomorrow night but because the youth of the season, it won’t allow us to do probably. I do know that we have been working since last spring after the season, trying to make preparation and over the summer trying to be mentally tough. That is something that I know we are able to do and we will be looking and demanding that the players really work hard at that tomorrow night. Being mentally tough is really an important part of the game.”

On if this is a game the players have really been thinking about over the last couple of months…

“As a coach I think it’s important to try to help your players prepare so it’s been a good motivating factor, or there was an opportunity to be motivated by it. We will find out whether it was or not. Just to pay attention to what you are doing over the summer and getting in the best shape you can get in. Pay attention very closely in preseason practice and get as sharp as you can get and they have all known this was the second game of the year and I think it’s something they have been looking forward to and I think they are excited to get to play in this atmosphere and to have this opportunity. It’s something that I’m sure has been on their mind and as far as I am concerned, your mind definitely kicks to it and you think about it and you think about ways to try to get your team ready to go. It has not been a situation where I have just been consumed with Baylor for months at a time. We always try to keep their focus squarely on us as much as possible, it’s been a good formula for us and we will keep going that way.”

On if anyone has really been a surprise over the offseason with their progression…

“I don’t know if surprised would be the right word but I think that we have clearly made some strides and people have gotten better. You know what I like about this team is that with very few exceptions you can get everybody on the floor and you can get 17 feet from the basket and everybody can shoot the ball and make shots, or have that capability, and it’s not a stretch to think that they can. I think everybody has worked hard to become better players, to become better offensively and get themselves in shape. I would say everybody on the team right now that was here last year, I have been really pleased with their progression.”

On Samarie Walker’s play…

“Samarie is a player that I have really high hopes for this year. She has been shooting the ball really, really well, not only around the basket but her perimeter shot looks really good. I’m not sure that’s a part of her game she has had a tremendous amount of confidence in and I have been watching her shoot the ball and getting away from the basket and I just really encouraged her to continue that part of her game. If we can get that done, then we will be a really tough team. When Samarie understands how good of a shooter she is, when she catches ready to shoot and shoots with confidence, they are really going in. I’m really excited about her game and what she can become this season.”

On if there is a goal for the amount of turnovers UK is trying to force Baylor into…

“We have a formula, a highly scientific formula that we go by, that we try to force 25. If you can ever get in a plus-10 category, so if you turn it over 15 and they turn it over 25, by my calculation that’s plus 10, (laughter), then we have made them turn it over 10 times more. Those are some bench marks. It doesn’t always happen but that is sort of the mentality. You are trying to get them to turn the basketball over and against them (Baylor) you just read out a stat of last year, that’s a tall order. Thirteen turnovers a game is outstanding, especially when they play with great tempo, great pace. It’s one thing if you don’t have a high volume of possessions where you are kind of walking the ball up and down. I think both of these teams really like an up tempo, fast paced game, so 13 turnovers is really good for them. It will be a big challenge because they have good players.”

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