LEXINGTON, Ky. – Seventeen opponents who participated in postseason play last year, including two match-ups against the defending NCAA champion, 16 home games all in Memorial Coliseum, and a Thanksgiving trip to New York City highlight the 2008-09 Kentucky women’s basketball schedule, UK Coach Matthew Mitchell announced Tuesday.
The Wildcats are looking to improve on their 17-16 overall mark and fourth-place finish in the Southeastern Conference last season. UK went 8-6 in the SEC, just one win shy of the school record, and advanced to a school-record fourth consecutive postseason tournament, earning an appearance in the quarterfinals of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT).
“We are excited about another season of Kentucky women’s basketball,” Mitchell said. “We’ve put together a challenging schedule and one that will allow us to play quality competition and prepare for our tough Southeastern Conference slate.”
Seventeen opponents on UK’s 2008-09 schedule participated in the postseason last year, including five conference champions and four runner-ups. Twelve squads advanced to the NCAA Tournament and five appeared in the WNIT. UK also will meet four first-time opponents in Furman, Alabama A&M, UC Santa Barbara and Yale.
The Cats have 16 regular-season home games and unlike the past six seasons where four to five games were played in Rupp Arena, all games will be held in Memorial Coliseum this year.
“We want to try and establish a true home-court advantage and Memorial Coliseum is our true home,” Mitchell said. “The Coliseum is a first-class facility that has been upgraded over the past two years with a new floor, new scoreboard, video board and sound system. We know our fans also love Memorial as they have turned out in record numbers to support us. Memorial gets very loud and it’s an awesome atmosphere for our student-athletes.”
The Wildcats begin with a pair of exhibition games against Division II foes Kentucky State (Nov. 5) and Bellarmine (Nov. 9) before opening the season with a three-game home stand vs. Big Ten member Michigan, Big East opponent Cincinnati and Atlantic 10 powerhouse George Washington. The Colonials of George Washington, under first-year coach Mike Bozeman, advanced to the NCAA Regionals last season and boasted a 27-7 overall record. They will visit the Bluegrass for the first time in their program’s history.
Thanksgiving will be celebrated in the Big Apple (Nov. 28-29) when the Cats participate in the Turkey Classic hosted by Long Island University in Brooklyn, N.Y. The Ivy League’s Yale and America East Conference member, New Hampshire, round out the tournament field with UK and LIU. UK will face first-time opponent Yale in the opening game on Nov. 28.
“Traveling to New York City gives us the chance to play against tough competition and vs. teams we normally don’t get to see,” Mitchell said. “It will be a great experience for our team to travel to the Big Apple for the Thanksgiving holiday and we are very excited about it.”
Kentucky remains on the road after the Thanksgiving break for a brutal stretch that has the Cats playing three games in five days. UK travels to the Queen City to take on defending Atlantic 10 champions Xavier on Dec. 2 followed a matchup against Western Kentucky just two days later on Dec. 4. The Cats return to Memorial on Dec. 6 to meet Furman of the Southern Conference. After a short break, home games with East Tennessee State (Dec. 12) and Alabama A&M (Dec. 19) sandwich the annual instate rivalry game with Louisville in Freedom Hall (Dec. 14).
To close out the calendar year UK welcomes UC Santa Barbara (Dec. 21), last year’s Big West champion, and IUPUI (Dec. 30) to Lexington for back-to-back home games. The Cats also ring in 2009 in Memorial as they play host to North Carolina A&T on Jan. 1. The final non-conference tune-up is Jan. 3 when UK travels to Oxford, Ohio, to take on Miami, the Cats’ first matchup against the Red Hawks since 2003.
Kentucky begins SEC play on the road, traveling to Knoxville, Tenn., to face defending NCAA champion Tennessee on Jan. 8. UK will return the favor when it plays host to the Lady Vols in Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 19 in the WBCA Pink Zone game. All fans will be encouraged to wear pink and assist in raising breast cancer awareness on the court, across campuses, in communities and beyond.
The Cats again meet Final Four participant LSU in a home-and-home series this season - Jan. 25 in Memorial for UK’s second annual “Pack the House” game and Feb. 22 in Baton Rouge, La. Other highlights of the league schedule include Alumni Day on Feb. 8 vs. Vanderbilt and Senior Day on Feb. 26 vs. Georgia. The 2009 SEC Tournament moves to Little Rock’s Alltel Arena and the four-day event takes place March 5-8.
Kentucky begins formal preparations for the season with Big Blue Madness on Friday, Oct. 17, in Rupp Arena.
Fans interested in season tickets for UK’s 16 exciting home games can purchase them for just $45. Tickets are on sale at the Joe Craft Center ticket office from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., ET Monday through Friday and printable season ticket applications are available online at www.ukathletics.com/tickets. Season ticket renewal forms will be mailed within the next two weeks. Fans also can call the ticket office at 859-257-1818 or 1-800-928-CATS (2287) for more information.