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What Matthew Mitchell said after win over Alabama; Photo gallery by Vicky Graff

Matthew Mitchell with guard Chasity Patterson. (Vicky Graff Photo)

Here is what Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell had to say after Thursday night’s win 66-62 win over Alabama in Lexington and photos from the win by Vicky Graff.

KENTUCKY HEAD COACH MATTHEW MITCHELL

Opening statement…

“Well, just a huge victory for us tonight. So proud of the team, total team effort, needed everybody to show up and play really, really hard. We made a ton of mistakes in the game but found a way to win and just so proud on a night where it was tough – Alabama was tough. They played really hard and we played hard and we’re just really happy to win, so excited for our players tonight, they worked hard to earn this one.”

On if this was team’s best overall performance since Rhyne Howard’s injury…

“Well, we had to do it together and with your back against the wall after a really lack luster performance Sunday and so easy for doubt to creep in on you and just a really tough Alabama team, I think it’s an amazing effort for us to bounce back from just that terrible disappointment of Sunday, and they found a way and they came back energized on Tuesday and Wednesday, worked hard, had a good session today and found a way. It was hanging in the balance there so many times and we just found a way to get it done.”

 On how important it is for team to learned to win without Rhyne…

“It’s – the games still count no matter who is playing and their important games and we’re trying to be the best team we can be and so I think we’re learning a lot during this time. I think you’re seeing a lot of players step up and give some tremendous performances where – the last time we played this team, she had 43 and we didn’t win going away. I mean this was going to be a difficult game for us and so for us to find a way to gut it out tonight and just did a tremendous job on the defensive end and critical moments, got some key turnovers and able to convert those into points. I thought that was important. Made our free throws tonight when it really counted. Very, very important, so real proud of the team to try to keep getting better as we await Rhyne’s return, but we got to keep fighting and playing until she does get back.”

On his thoughts on the team’s effort tonight …

“Much better. We had a good opening to the game from a rebounding perspective so, again, we were outrebounded five, but we were +11 on turnover margins. So, if you’re just competitive on the board and then count turnover margins, it’s a good spot and just came out with some energy on the offensive glass tonight, really proud of that and a much better performance but we worked hard at it. We’ve had some tough practices and we’re not the kind of team that can lack focus and energy and effort on the rebounding area and so I thought we played with a lot more energy tonight.”

 On Alabama’s disruptions of big shots to stay in the game …

“We had some good moments on defense, and I thought Alabama had a really good game. I thought they played tough. We were able to get a couple of eight-point leads there that I thought where maybe we were going to build on and kind of get some separation, but they just made some tough, tough shots. They have to be proud of that. Seventeen turnovers to our six and then 21 points for us off the turnovers is just the name of the game. Helps us so much when we’re missing our leading scorer when Alabama played really tough defense and we didn’t shoot the ball that great tonight, but we were able to manufacture some offense from hustle on defense and that’s a great development.”

On Sabrina Haines’ late defensive play…

“That was a huge play for her. A lot of her big moments have been some three pointers, she made some tonight, but that was a huge defensive play. She got in there and just made a crucial point in the game. She was able to get in there and it was definitely in the balance. Any kind of little edge you can get coming down the stretch is important and that was a great play and I’m so proud of her for making that play on defense.”

On KeKe McKinney’s defensive presence…

“She was a great presence. Five blocks, incredible timing, incredible tenacity, just staying after it. They were big plays because their kids were in there and in range to make some layups. Every play in this kind of game where it was so close and the margin for error is so thin, were big plays.”

On the upcoming game against Arkansas…

“They’re a very explosive team. They can put up points and they can put a team out there that can score at all five positions and they really put a lot of stress on your defense so it will be a tough one to get ready for and I’m sure they have a great crowd and they have a very good team this year so it will be a big challenge.”

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