Mitchell wants Kentucky focused on Wildcats more than Dayton
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell is taking little from his Wildcats’ 45-point rout of Tennessee State in their NCAA Tournament opener and spending just about as much time worrying about Dayton.
Oh, he’s happy his second-seeded Wildcats survived to play another day, and now he wants to see them continue their balanced scoring Sunday in their second-round game against No. 7 seed Dayton.
“That is the beauty for us in this tournament, we try to keep the focus on Kentucky and what we need to do,” Mitchell said.
“We just need to do the things that we do well and try to find a way to win the game by one point and keep advancing. That’s the mentality right now. No distractions for our players, just make sure they are focused so their minds can understand their responsibilities in the game and go out and execute. That is our mantra right now.”
These schools will meet for the second time in three seasons with a Sweet 16 berth in Albany on the line. Kentucky won that second-round game 84-70 in 2013. Mitchell remembers that game well.
“A lot of those same players are back and so it’s a great program and team,” Mitchell said. “We will have to play well to win.”
Kentucky (24-9) is seeking a school-record fourth straight regional semifinal and fifth in six seasons Sunday.
Dayton (26-6) comes in off a 78-66 defeat of Iowa State that also featured plenty of offensive contributions.
“Well, at the end of the day, we’re going to have to be who we are and they’re going to try and take that away from us, so my concern is the University of Dayton, not the University of Kentucky,” Dayton coach Jim Jabir said. “They’re going to trap, they’re going to press, we understand that. We have to stay poised, and we can’t turn the ball over.”
Here are other things to look for Sunday:
HOBBLED, BUT PLAYING: Kentucky senior guard Jennifer O’Neill hurt her ankle in Thursday’s practice, but it didn’t seem to bother her against Tennessee State as she scored 13 points. “My ankle was fine, it is fine, and it’s going to be fine,” said O’Neill, who finished 5 of 7 from the field including three 3-pointers. “I’m going to make sure I take care of it. We have a great staff here that is doing their job around the clock, but I am not concerned about it at all.”
BENCHMARK: Kentucky’s bench scored 50 points against Tennessee State, including a career-high 10 by freshman Jaycee Coe, who made both long-range attempts in 14 minutes. Sophomore Linnae Harper led the way with 16 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals, but teammates talked more about Coe’s breakout performance. “Jaycee is very important to us and a big key to our game,” senior guard Bria Goss said. “When she goes out there and puts up 10 points, we get really excited.”
LONG MEMORIES: Dayton’s Andrea Hoover remembers the Flyers’ 14-point loss to the Wildcats in the tournament two years ago. She also recalls Kentucky’s trademark fast pace that the team must gear up for once again. “They still have the same style, they’re athletic, they have a lot of athletic kids that like to get to the rim and I think it’s going to be the complete opposite of the game we just played (against Iowa State),” she said. “We’re really going to have to contain them.”
AP Freelance Writer Ashley Scoby contributed to this report.