Senior forward Azia Bishop, who was suspended for what turned out to be her final game at Kentucky for a curfew violation, issued a statement through UK Athletics on Monday afternoon.
“I had an amazing four years at the University of Kentucky. My season did not end the way I wanted it to, as I was suspended for Sunday’s game due to a curfew violation. I had a lapse in focus and it’s a decision I will regret for the rest of my life. However, it’s a lesson learned, and I respect Coach Mitchell’s decision. This will only better me as a person in the future and shape me to become a woman of substance and who Coach Mitchell has taught me to be.
“I would like to thank the Big Blue Nation for all of their support and love that they have shown me over the last four years. I love everyone associated with the Big Blue Nation and the University of Kentucky, and I want to thank you all.”
Bishop was one of four seniors who went to Coach Matthew Mitchell after the Cats’ late-season three-game losing streak and asked him to hold the players to higher, stricter standards moving forward.
When asked about the suspension after the 99-94 loss to Dayton in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Mitchell said this:
“We would have lost a bunch in the future if I don’t uphold the standard,” he said.
After a really good practice with Bishop on Saturday, he said he was sad that he wouldn’t get to coach her for a week or two longer.
“I hate that that was the way her career ended,” he said. “I know she feels terrible about the situation. I feel terrible about the situation. But if you’re in my shoes, you must do the right thing or if you don’t have integrity, you don’t really have a program.”
During UK’s short NCAA Tournament run, Janee Thompson was back on the bench and walking in a boot without crutches or her scooter.
The junior guard, who broke her leg at South Carolina on Jan. 11, said she’s been cleared to put some pressure on it and is on schedule for a return to team workouts this summer.
“The doctor said my bone is healed, I’ve just got to keep rehabbing and getting my strength back in my calf, my ankle and my leg in general,” she said in the UK locker room after the loss to Dayton in the second round. “So far everything’s going well.”
Thompson has been working a lot on the underwater treadmill and doing strengthening exercises on her injured leg to help speed up the healing process.
The point guard will be Kentucky’s only senior next season.
“Next year we have to listen to the leadership of Janee Thompson and see where we can go from there,” sophomore Makayla Epps said after the loss.
Epps and Thompson will be back to lead a UK team that returns 61.7 percent of its offensive production, 66 percent of its rebounding, 62.7 percent of its assists, 57.9 percent of its steals and 50.7 percent of its blocked shots.
“We can’t settle for this feeling because this right here hurts,” Epps said. “This hurts worse than last year’s Sweet 16 loss did especially because we were at home.”
Kentucky senior forward Azia Bishop has been suspended one game for “failure to uphold team standards,” Coach Matthew Mitchell told the Herald-Leader before the Cats’ second-round NCAA Tournament game on Sunday at Memorial Coliseum.
The seniors asked him to uphold the standards of the program, which Mitchell said is what he is doing.
“It’s nothing criminal, nothing sinister, just not following the standards,” Mitchell added of his most experienced post player.
Bishop has started the last six games for the Cats and is averaging 6.3 points and 5.5 rebounds this season.
But the 6-foot-3 forward from Toledo, Ohio, could have been a key factor in Kentucky’s game against Dayton, which has six players standing at 6-foot or taller, including two starters who are 6-foot-4.
Bishop had six points and six rebounds in the Cats’ opening round win over Tennessee State. She was given a technical foul for a shove in the back after a play ended in the second half, the first of her collegiate career. The forward returned after the incident.
Iowa State fell behind by as many as 17 points against Dayton before chipping the Flyers’ lead down to seven points late, but Dayton held on to win 78-66 and advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday at Memorial Coliseum.
The Flyers (26-6) advance to face the winner of the second game between No. 2 seed Kentucky and No. 15 seed Tennessee State on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Four different Dayton players finished in double figures, led by 20 points and six rebounds from senior guard Andrea Hoover. Ally Malott added 18 points and 12 boards.
Iowa State (18-13) was led by Nikki Moody’s 17 points and five assists.
When Larry Joe Inman retired from Eastern Kentucky University, he thought he was hanging up his whistle for good.
Turns out, the Tennessee State coach and longtime Colonels coach wasn’t quite finished.
Coming out of retirement and taking over at Tennessee State, he now has led three different teams to the NCAA Tournament, and for the Tigers this is their first trip in 20 years. Inman also coached Middle Tennessee State and EKU to NCAA appearances.
To do it with this team and returning to Central Kentucky while doing it made it extra special for Inman.
“I spent 20-something years up here in this neck of the woods,” he said. “It’s always very special. … It’s always special to be here and to be playing. I said that if I was going to go anywhere, I was hoping here to be able to share this great memory with my family and friends. It’s always special for anybody that goes back home in any situation.”
Kentucky’s Mitchell was happy to be facing off against a legend and friend.
“I have the utmost respect for him, and he’s one of the great coaches in women’s college basketball and one of the real legends of Ohio Valley basketball, and this is the third school he’s done it at,” he said of Inman. “Probably hasn’t been anyone better.”
Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2015/03/19/3756570_uk-womens-basketball-notes-mitchell.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy
A little bit of rest went a long way for Makayla Epps, who has been slowed in recent weeks by an Achilles’ tendon strain and soreness in her foot.
The nearly two weeks between the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament have been therapeutic for the first-team All-SEC player, who has gone off for 42 and 31 points in games this season.
“She looked really explosive today, looked good,” Mitchell said Monday after the selection show.
After playing three games in three days, Epps said she could feel a difference that having couple of days off made.
“Everything has been better,” the point guard said. “The rest really helped me a lot. I haven’t had any extreme pain, no pain here lately. A lot of it’s been real solid. I’ve been going real strong. Coach said I was real explosive in practice. … I’m feeling good right now.”
ABOUT TENNESSEE STATE
Nickname: Lady Tigers
School colors: Reflex Blue and White
Head coach: Larry Joe Inman (43-45 in third season at Tennessee State and 523-362 in 30 seasons overall); Inman formerly coached at Eastern Kentucky.
Conference: Ohio Valley (Tennessee State finished third in the regular season, then won the conference tournament over Tennessee Martin)
All-time series: Kentucky leads all-time series 4-0
Most notable victory this season: In OVC championship game, Tigers knocked off top-seeded Tennessee Martin 64-60 in overtime to get to NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995.
Single session tickets for the NCAA Tournament first and second rounds to be held at Memorial Coliseum on Friday and Sunday are now on sale.
Tickets may be purchased online at www.ukathletics.com/tickets, in person at the Joe Craft Center Ticket Office or by calling the UK Ticket Office at 800-928-2287.
Single session reserved tickets are $22 for adults, $15 for youth and for seniors. The group rate (10 or more people) for a single session is $10 on the bleacher side of Memorial Coliseum.
Tickets for all sessions are $36 for adults, $24 for youth and seniors.
To buy tickets in person, the Joe Craft Center Ticket Office will open at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.
Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell said a big turnout will be key for the Cats. He pointed to UK’s second-round game against Syracuse last season when the crowd helped carry the team to the next round.
“It was a major advantage for us,” he said. “Our fans have been so loyal and faithful, we really just need them to come out in strong numbers and make sure it’s a great home-court advantage for us.”
For more information on the NCAA Tournament First and Second Rounds go to: http://www.ukathletics.com/ncaawbb/index.html.
It only seemed fitting that Kyvin Goodin-Rogers would hit the go-ahead three-pointer in Kentucky’s comeback win over Mississippi State on Friday just 33 seconds after Makayla Epps nailed the game-tying three from the opposite corner as part of a huge run.
“I loved it,” Epps said with a massive grin. “It just brought back Marion County.”
It was there that Epps and Goodin-Rogers worked as a tandem to lift the Lady Knights to a perfect 39-0 season and the 2013 Sweet Sixteen title, becoming the first undefeated state champion since 1984.
Shortly after Goodin-Rogers nailed her three-pointer from the left wing, the two stood together while another teammate shot free throws. Epps turned to her high school running mate and said, “We’re not losing this game. It’s just like high school.”
“I knew exactly what she meant,” Goodin-Rogers said. “We don’t lose at tournament time, so I told her, ‘Let’s go!’ When I said that, she scored back to back. I knew she needed some words to go, that’s how she works.”
Epps also was happy to have Goodin-Rogers, who has been struggling with a broken thumb on her shooting hand for a couple of weeks, be in the game at crunch time.
“Just to see her scoring and playing with me, she’s a big reason I came to Kentucky; I always wanted to play with her,” Epps said. “And just to see her out there doing what she did in high school really makes me joyous inside.”
If this Kentucky team doesn’t cause Matthew Mitchell to go gray, it’s hard to imagine what team could.
The Cats, who came back from 15 points down with 15:18 to play, to knock off Mississippi State 76-67 on Friday night in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, have now clawed back from double-digit deficits in four games this season.
It marked Kentucky’s largest second-half comeback of the season.
UK has battled back from down nine points or more and won six times this season, including three times against ranked opponents in Baylor (down 14 in the second half), Louisville (down 16 in the first half and 15 points in the second half) and now the Bulldogs (down 15 in the second half).
Knowing that they had battled back before was key to the Cats doing it again, said Makayla Epps, who had 31 points in the comeback.
“We’ve been here before,” Epps said was the talk of the second-half huddles. “There’s been plenty of times we’ve been in that situation and we’ve prevailed and showed we can get out of that situation.”