NCAA women: Dayton 'not intimidated' by smothering Kentucky press

jsmith3@herald-leader.comMarch 25, 2013 

NCAA Kentucky Navy Basketball

Navy's Jade Geif (21) is defended by Kentucky's Janee Thompson (3) during the first half of a first-round game in the women's NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 24, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

FRANK FRANKLIN II — ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • NCAA Tournament

    Kentucky vs. Dayton

    When:7:15 p.m. Tuesday

    TV: ESPN2

    Where: Queens, N.Y.

    Records: UK 28-5; Dayton 28-2

    Series: UK leads 12-3

    Last meeting: UK won 73-69 at home on Dec. 6, 1997

    Radio: WLXG-AM 1300

QUEENS, N.Y. — Kentucky's coaches sat courtside as Dayton gave up a big 13-point lead to St. John's in the NCAA Tournament first round on Sunday.

They saw the young Flyers, whom they will face Tuesday night for a chance to advance to the Bridgeport Regional, fall apart under defensive pressure in the final five minutes of regulation.

That must've had the UK coaches salivating. The Cats, who lead the nation in turnover margin, rely on a crazy pace and potent pressure defense to win games.

"They're going to be after us from the jump," Dayton Coach Jim Jabir said at pre-game news conferences on Monday. "They're going to smell blood right from the beginning."

Aside from their first game of the season when they had 30 miscues and another game with 28, Dayton (28-2) has taken relatively good care of the ball. The Flyers, who have the sixth youngest roster in the country, average only 16 miscues a game while forcing 19 a game.

The Dayton plan against Kentucky (28-5) is simple: Be aggressive.

"Half of the reason they press is to intimidate you, to get you on your heels," Jabir said of UK's defense, which forces 24 turnovers a game. "We don't want to contribute to their plan and be complicit in it. We have to attack.

"It's up to us to beat them at their pressure and score against their pressure, and they'll take it off."

It might help a bit that Dayton and UK have scrimmaged in the pre-season the past couple of seasons.

"We're definitely not intimidated," guard Sam MacKay said.

New York, New York

This trip to New York City is much more business than pleasure for Kentucky, but the Cats did get a chance to have a huge Italian dinner in Manhattan on Sunday night.

"It wasn't a real taxing trip, not a sight-seeing trip, but there's a lot to see on the ride down and the ride back," Mitchell said.

The food got rave reviews, but the bustling city got mixed reviews.

"I probably wouldn't move here," senior guard A'dia Mathies said. "Too many people. Maybe I'm claustrophobic, I don't know."

Azia Bishop said she took tons of pictures in front of all the big televisions in Times Square and even danced in a big group with teammates Bernisha Pinkett and Brittany Henderson.

"It was exciting. It's really busy," she said, adding: "I don't think I could get used to that."

For Bronx native Jennifer O'Neill, it was funny seeing her teammates play tourist in her hometown. For forward Samarie Walker, it was a chance to reacquaint herself with one of her favorite cities.

"I love New York and it's probably some place I'd like to move," Walker said. "Just seeing some of the sights and being in Times Square was fun."

'Going to bounce back'

There were questions for Kentucky star Mathies about her uncharacteristic poor performance in the opening round of the tournament on Sunday. For the first time in her storied UK career, the senior star didn't make a basket.

"It's just one game, and one game can't define me or our season," the two-time Southeastern Conference Player of the Year said. "I'm definitely going to bounce back, and we're going to have a great shot of beating Dayton, and that's what I'm going to focus on."

Mitchell seemed not at all concerned about a repeat performance from his star, who is just 55 points shy of eclipsing the 2,000-point career mark.

"A'dia Mathies will play an outstanding game tomorrow. I'm confident of that."

Commonwealth connections

Dayton and Kentucky have plenty of connections. The Flyers have two players from the Commonwealth in Bre Elder (Marion County) and Brittany Wilson (Manual), and the Cats have two players from Ohio in Samarie Walker and Azia Bishop.

The Flyers also have former Harrison County and Western Kentucky star Camryn Whitaker on their coaching staff. She talked about wanting to be a coach since she was small, watching her father, Mac, coach at Harrison County.

"He's always really supportive," she said. "He's actually on his way up right now. He and mom jumped in the car and they're driving up. ... He's ready to come up and support me."

No split TV time

The regionalization map released by ESPN for its coverage plans for women's basketball on Tuesday shows that the UK/Dayton game will be shown in its entirety in both Kentucky and Ohio markets, starting at 7:15 p.m. The game directly conflicts with the Louisville versus Purdue game, which starts in Louisville at 7:10 p.m., but that game will be shown exclusively in Indiana and the Chicago metro area.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: UKwomen.bloginky.com.

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