LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Kentucky women’s basketball team returns to Rupp Arena Thursday, Feb. 7 to take on Ole Miss at 7 p.m. EST. The game will be televised live on FSN South as the SEC Game of the Week and also broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio) with Neil Price.
Single-game general admission tickets are available for purchase $5 adults/$2 senior citizens and children 6-18. Ages five and under are admitted free. UK students, faculty and staff also are admitted free with valid identification based on availability. For ticket information, log on to ukathletics.com or call the UK ticket office at 859-257-1818 or 1-800-928-CATS (2287).
After back-to-back road games against nationally-ranked opponents last week, the Wildcats (11-11, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) return home in search of their sixth win in league play and their first victory in Rupp Arena this season. UK is 6-6 at home, 0-3 in the downtown venue. Not only does UK look to start a new win streak but it must also find a replacement for injured freshman point guard Amber Smith (Winter Haven, Fla.) who suffered an ACL and lateral meniscus tear in her right knee in the first half against No. 2 Tennessee on Sunday. Things were looking uncertain enough early in the season when veteran point guard Carly Ormerod (Louisville, Ky.) was sidelined with sesamoiditis and turf toe. Ormerod has missed 14 games, including 12 straight and her return date remains uncertain. Smith, a true freshman, stepped in for Ormerod and helped catapult the Wildcats to a 5-3 league mark while ranking second on the team in scoring (9.4 ppg) and rebounding (5.4 rpg) in SEC play. Smith is expected to undergo season-ending surgery in the next few weeks.
“Ole Miss is going to be a tough game for us,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We had a rollercoaster of a week with a big win over Georgia on the road, the loss at Tennessee, and obviously the injury of Amber Smith. Her injury is going to affect our team in a major way and when something like that happens we need to pull together as a team. The players need to step up their game and fill that void that has been created by her injury. Ole Miss poses some difficulty for us because they are an aggressive defensive team. They will come out in a lot of traps and multiple looks out of their zone. It will be a tough game, especially with us trying to adjust to the loss of our point guard.”
With both true point guards out, Mitchell will have to rely on a committee of players to step in at the point. Seniors Chanté Bowman (Detroit) and Samantha Mahoney (Detroit) both have experience at the position and are likely replacements.
“It will be difficult because Sam Mahoney is the player equipped to handle that position,” Mitchell said. “We call on her to score most of our points so it makes it tough and we think Chante’ Bowman is a player who is going to have to step in there and handle some minutes. We looked at Carly Morrow (Chattanooga, Tenn.) yesterday in practice and she did a good job. We are just going to have to come together collectively and pretty much do it by committee and that’s tough, but I think our players are ready to do it.”
Mahoney is UK’s leading scorer, averaging 13.0 points per game (8th in the SEC). Senior center Sarah Elliott (McKee, Ky.) follows with 11.0 points and leads UK in rebounding with 6.4 rpg. Freshman forward Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) is close behind in the rebounding column with 6.2 rpg.
The Rebels (9-11 overall, 3-4 SEC) are coming off a 76-47 win over Alabama in Oxford on Sunday. Three players scored in double-digits, led by senior forward Carla Bartee’s double-double (16 points/10 rebounds). Sophomore guard Shantell Black and junior center Shawn Goff followed with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Goff paces the Rebels in scoring this season with 13.2 points per game and is second in rebounding with 7.5 rpg. Sophomore guard Alliesha Easley follows close behind with 13.0 ppg. Black averages 10.2 ppg and has dished out a team-leading 111 assists this season.
The Rebels lead the overall series 19-9, including a 9-4 advantage when playing in Lexington. UK is 0-2 all-time against Ole Miss in Rupp Arena. However, UK has won five of the last seven meetings. Both of its losses came in overtime. UK and Ole Miss split games on each other’s home courts last season. Ole Miss upset Kentucky in Memorial Coliseum in overtime on Jan. 14 (67-65) and the Wildcats took revenge in Oxford a few weeks later, defeating the Rebels (69-61) in the Tad Smith Coliseum.