LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Kentucky women’s basketball team heads to Nashville, Tenn., on Valentine’s Day Thursday, looking for a little more love than they’ve received on their last 11 trips. The Wildcats hope to snap an 11-game losing streak in the Music City and capture their first road win over No. 25 Vanderbilt in 22 years. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Radio Network with Neil Price from Memorial Gymnasium at 8 p.m. EST.
UK’s last win in the Music City was in 1986 when the Cats defeated Vanderbilt, 79-70, on Feb. 5. Overall, the Wildcats have lost 11 consecutive games to the Commodores, their last victory coming on Jan. 7, 1999 in Lexington.
“Memorial Gymnasium has a unique setup and it is a tough place to play,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “It is going to be important for us to get off to a good start. We have to knock down shots in order to make their defense less aggressive. They are a very good defensive team and it certainly will be a challenge for us.”
The Cats have won four of their last six league games and have proven to be impressive on the road this season in SEC play as they are 3-1 away from home. Their only road loss came at No. 2 Tennessee.
UK currently ranks fourth (12-11, 6-3 Southeastern Conference) in the SEC standings, while Vanderbilt (18-6, 7-2 SEC) is third.
With both true point guards (Carly Ormerod and Amber Smith) sidelined with injury, Mitchell has been relying on a committee of players to step in at the point. Seniors Chanté Bowman (Detroit) and Samantha Mahoney (Detroit) did a solid job in the 59-54 win over Ole Miss last week.
“Being without a true point guard is concerning at Vanderbilt because it’s tough to communicate with your team during the first half,” Mitchell said. “I think we’ve had a good week of practice and our play in the Ole Miss game proves that we can handle the pressure if we are patient.”
Mahoney is UK’s leading scorer, averaging 13.6 points per game (7th in the SEC). Senior center Sarah Elliott (McKee, Ky.) follows with 11.1 points and leads UK in rebounding with 6.6 rpg. She is coming off a double-double vs. Ole Miss with 14 points and 12 rebounds. The reigning SEC Freshman of the Week and Nashville native, Victoria Dunlap, is close behind in both categories, averaging 7.8 points and with 6.3 rebounds per game.
Vanderbilt has won nine of its last 11 games, including five straight. Like Kentucky, the Commodores’ only conference losses came against nationally-ranked Tennessee and LSU. They are 12-2 on their home court, 4-0 in SEC play.
Consistent with Vanderbilt teams of the past, this year's Commodore team is capable of piling up a lot of points, as its 73.4 points-per-game average demonstrates. The Commodores shoot a blistering .474 percent from the field (1st in the SEC) and lead the league in three-point field goal percentage (.382). They also are an impressive defensive team this season, ranking second in field goal percentage defense (36.2).
Junior guard/forward Christina Wirth leads VU in scoring, averaging 13.6 ppg. She is shooting a SEC-high 42.1 percent from beyond the arc, hitting 51-of-121 three-point attempts. Senior center Liz Sherwood follows with 12.3 ppg and is netting a league-leading 65.7 percent from the field. Junior guard Jennifer Risper is the team’s leading rebounder with 5.9 rpg. She also leads the team in steals (70) and ranks second in the SEC in that category, averaging 2.96 per game.
The Cats return to Memorial Coliseum Sunday, Feb. 17 to “Think Pink” vs. Alabama at 1 p.m. EST. Fans wearing Pink can purchase a general admission ticket for just $1 while supplies last.
The “Think Pink” initiative is a global, unified effort for the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association's (WBCA) nation of coaches to assist in raising breast cancer awareness on the court, across campuses, in communities and beyond. All of UK’s coaches, players, and staff will be donning Pink to help raise money for breast cancer research. All single-game ticket sales will be donated to UK’s Markey Cancer Center.
Sunday also is Alumni Day for Kentucky as over 20 former Wildcats return to Memorial Coliseum. They will be recognized at halftime.