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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Knowing the foe...UK coach Matthew Mitchell and his team


-Jenny previews the Lady Kats

-What we far...on game viewing via Television

-Mitchell leads undefeated Wildcats with his "winning tools" philosophy

Dunlap was a star at UK
The Lady Cards (7-1) head into Sunday's competition against the Lady Cats (7-0) to face a team that lost its best player to graduation and the WNBA last season. Victoria Dunlap was the 11th. pick in the WNBA Draft in 2011.

Rest assured, though, the Cats have plenty of weapons to bring to the court.

The Cats play in Memorial Coliseum, which seats around 9000. So far, Kentucky has played one road game, and six in Memorial. Average attendance thus far is 4568. Sunday's game is a sell out. With twice the usual turnout for the UofL many in the crowd will be rooting for Louisville? The Lady Cards are no stranger to playing in front of 9000+ fans, the question is how will Kentucky react to the sudden influx of people?

Samarie Walker will have an impact at UK.
The Cats have picked up two transfers. De Nesha Stallworth transferred from California and will sit out the 2011-12 season. Samarie Walker came in from UConn last year and will be eligible to play at the end of the semester. Both girl play in the post and UK will likely benefit greatly when Walker eventually gets onto the court.

Jennifer O'Neill is a sophomore guard who is currently recovering from a toe/foot injury. She's a sharp-shooting, All-American...whose presence on the court improves the Cats long range bombing threat. Currently practicing with the team, from what I've heard, she's a hopeful return for them in mid-December. Like Louisville, UK has had to deal with injuries and ineligibility's this year..

The Wildcats are very similar to the Lady Cards - they are a high pressure, defensive oriented squad. Lots of high energy and they like to apply the full court press. Capable of creating a high amount of opponent turnovers. They create an average of 35.7 turnovers a game...17.8 of those coming from steals. This is a high-pressure defense. Repeat...35.7 turnovers created a game...this is NOT a typo.

One would think with a turnover number so high...there would be a lot of fouls. Not so. Once once this year has a UK player fouled out. UK also finds their way to the line. They are averaging 26.7 free throws a contest and making 16.8..which is a less than spectacular 63%.

Offensively, the Lady Cats are distributing the ball very, very well. Amber Smith and A'dia Mathies are the leaders here. UK averages 17 assists per game. With a heavy guard lineup - sometimes starting four guards a game- they can move and shoot the ball rapidly. They've been scoring a lot of points and their smallest margin of victory has been 18. Their shooting can take a night off, though...failures to convert on layups and around the rim. 

Adia Mathies played her high school
ball at Iroquois High School.
To prepare for this game, Louisville head coach Jeff Walz will take Louisville, KY native and Iroquois High School guard A'dia Mathies heavily into account. The junior entered the season as the leading returning scorer with 16.3 ppg.  The Lady Cards will have to take A'dia out of the game offensively to take home a win.

Keyla Snowden is another talented UK guard. The senior comes off the bench and can put up big-time numbers when she's hot. Sophomore center Samantha Drake is also putting up some respectable numbers. Meagan Conwright, Kastine Evans and Bria Goss are also serious scoring threats. The firepower is there. Containing UK's guards will be Louisville's biggest challenge. Like Louisville, they're deep in that department, so stopping them will be no small feat.

Of the UK freshmen, Bria Goss is the most touted. From Indianapolis, she was Indiana's Miss Basketball in 2011 and was the Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year. Azia Bishop has tremendous ability and unbelievable potential. Bra'Shey Ali rounds out the freshman class and is a combo guard that head coach Matthew Mitchell states is the most aggressive ball defender on the team.

Samantha Drake played at Nelson County
What appears to be the greatest weakness for the Lady Cats, presently, is the inside game. They are young in this area and currently do not have a great deal of depth. Drake usually gets the nod at center...but admittedly needs to work on her strength and finishing around the rim. Drake is 6'3" and averages 8.6 grabs per game. She is the only true center currently on the roster. Mitchell speaks very highly of freshman Azia Bishop and the potential there. She could be a very good paint player as she adjusts to the college game and logs more minutes. The Cats will greatly benefit when Walker joins the team for the SEC schedule. Exploiting the current lack of depth in the paint will be a key to victories over the Cats by Louisville and other opponents. 

Jenny put a lot of time and research
into her breakdown of UK. Good job!
Kentucky has had decisive victories every game this season. They have been putting up big offensive numbers and the margin of victory large. They force an incredible amount of turnovers. Their effort this year, so far, has been very good and deserves respect. That being said, they haven't played a top ranked team yet. Louisville will be the first top-10 opponent UK has faced this year. Additionally, they have not faced the rigors or stress of playing back-to-back away games. Their only away game was at Morehead, about an hour from the UK Campus. A soft schedule, good results and they'll face numerous challenges from the road-tested, multi-talented Lady Cards.

I will share my thoughts on how Louisville wins this top-ten matchup and Battle for the Bluegrass tomorrow. Stay tuned!

-Jenny O' Bryan, CARDINAL COUPLE correspondent.

(Thanks for the informative and detailed information of "our next non-conference opponent", Jenny!  After reading Jenny's comprehensive report, I feel like I could go suit up and shut down the UK offensive attack. Okay, maybe a bad idea...)


In case you are unable to attend Sunday, here's the TV info we have. FOX SPORTS SOUTH will have the broadcast. Here's the channel information we have here in the Louisville area.

Insight: Channel 70 or 35-8 for those without a box

DirecTV: Channel 646

Dish: Channel 420


The year was 2007. Mickie DeMoss had resigned as UK head women's basketball coach and Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart needed to move quickly to quiet the buzz surrounding UK women's basketball and speculation about the successor. Turns out his answer and hire were about an hour away on I-64 East...Morehead State head coach Matthew Mitchell.

The UK WBB squad now plays their home games
(for the most part) in 9,000 seat Memorial Coliseum.
Unless it's Duke...who UK may even hate more
than the Cards. Christian Laettner, anyone?
Mitchell was no stranger to the program. He had been an assistant under DeMoss at UK before accepting the Eagles' job. The job was his if he wanted it, and he did.

In his first year as Lady Wildcats skipper, he coached the team to a 17-16 record. They finished fourth in the SEC with a 8-6 performance. He drew 10,000 into Rupp Arena to watch his team play Angel McCoughtry and the Lady Cards...Louisville winning their fourth straight in the series...a Cardinal team coached by a young, first year coach named Jeff Walz. Later in the season, he got the Lady Kats to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament and won two games in the WNIT before bowing out to eventual champ Marquette.

2008-09 was about the same. A 16-16 mark, another loss to Louisville, this time in Freedom Hall...another trip to the WNIT and a second round loss. He was building the program his way, though...utilizing his "winning tools" philosophy - honesty, hard work and discipline. 

Mitchell is in his 5th year
as UK WBB head coach.
In 2009-10, the philosophy and the rebuilding paid off. Mitchell was named SEC Coach of the Year and his Lady Kats posted a 28-8 record and 2nd place finish in the SEC. A powerful but undersized center named Victoria Dunlap and lightning-quick guard out of Louisville named A'dia Mathies had the Kats rolling and they made it to the NCAA Tournament. They blew out a hobbled Jeff Walz Lady Cards team in Memorial Coliseum by 34 points.

Last year, the Lady Kats returned to the "Big Dance" and complied a 25-9 mark and second place finish in the SEC. They were the #4 seed in their NCAA Region and advanced to the second round. They were handled by a fired up Louisville team in a sold-out, 22,152 attending KFC YUM! Arena crowd by 26 points during the regular all-time high attendance figure for Lady Cards basketball.  

Mitchell is 7-0 this year and he's fourth on the all-time list of winning-ist UK women's basketball head coaches with a record of 92-49. His team is fast and talented, they score early and often and the game Sunday will be a fun chess match to watch between two brilliant strategists. Even though the Lady Kats have been "filling up on creme puffs" so far this year...they'll be pumped up to sit down for a full-course meal with the Cards.


  1. Very informative and in depth report by your writer Jenny, P-Man. As always, hopin' my Lady Cards, git 'er done!

    -Big Al

  2. Mad props to all the coverage CARIDNAL COUPLE is giving the UL v UK game. U guys rock!
    Cards 77
    Cats 71

  3. Stacks up to be one of the best games in the rivalry. Actually like and root for UK women as long as they aren't playing my girls. Mitchell and Walz are easily two of the best young coaches out there. Think the Cards get out of there with a victory, they have played a more demanding schedule, should handle UK's pressure and add a little of their own. Looking for a big game from Warren, Vails, and Dyer, and even Jude is looking more and more comfortable, but it will be Shoni, Mo, and Becky who carry this team.
    GO CARDS!!!

  4. Can't disagree with the words, Stark. We have superior "bigs" and Mo and Becky are definitely on a mission their senior year.

  5. Cards will play well but I expect UK gets the win. We're tough in Memorial.

    Cat Scratch Fever

  6. Looks like you can pick up streaming video of the game from ESPN3
    -PDX Phil


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