Memorial Coliseum to host NCAA Women's opening rounds

The Kentucky Wildcats play the Florida Gators during the second half at Memorial Coliseum. Kentucky won 76-69.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – For the first time in program history, the University of Kentucky has been selected to host the First and Second Rounds of the 2014 NCAA Tournament in Memorial Coliseum, the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Committee announced on Wednesday.

In addition to Lexington, other cities chosen include Ames, Iowa; Baton Rouge, La.; Chapel Hill, N.C.; College Park, Md.; College Station, Texas; Durham, N.C.; Iowa City, Iowa; Knoxville, Tenn.; Los Angeles, Calif.; Seattle, Wash.; Storrs, Conn.; Toledo, Ohio; University Park, Penn.; Waco, Texas; and West Lafayette, Ind. The four selected regional sites are Lincoln, Neb.; Louisville, Ky.; Notre Dame, Ind., and Stanford, Calif.

"I am thrilled to hear the NCAA Tournament is coming to Memorial Coliseum,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “This gives our players the incredible opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament at home in front of the loyal and passionate members of the Big Blue Nation. We will have to prepare properly and work extremely hard to qualify for the NCAA Tournament so we can take advantage of this awesome opportunity. I know our fans would love to watch the Wildcats play in the tournament in Memorial Coliseum. I want to thank Mitch Barnhart, Sandy Bell, Candice Chaffin, Ukari Figgs, Kevin Saal and the entire Kentucky administrative team that did the important work necessary to make this happen."

This marks the first time in program history that Memorial Coliseum (capacity 8,000) will serve as the site for a women’s basketball NCAA Tournament game. However, Memorial has been the site of 10 NCAA Tournaments in women’s volleyball and is set to host the NCAA Regionals later this season on Dec. 13-14. Kentucky served as the host of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four in Rupp Arena in 1986.

“The growth of this program over the last five years has warranted our participation in every way possible to host the post season in women’s basketball,” UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. “The consistent appearances on a national stage, the support of an incredible women’s basketball fan base, and the enjoyable style of play that this team brings is a perfect combination for the growth of the game in women’s basketball in Lexington.

“Matthew and Jenna provide incredible leadership for our program and are great ambassadors for our community. They deserve, as does this program, to host this kind of an event on a regular basis. We are very excited to bring the NCAA Tournament to Memorial Coliseum.”

The nationally ranked Wildcats return 10 letterwinners and four starters from last season’s squad that won a school-record 30 games and advanced to its third NCAA Elite Eight in the last four years. Kentucky will be led by All-Southeastern Conference performers DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.), Bria Goss (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) and NCAA Tournament Bridgeport Regional All-Tournament Team honoree Jennifer O’Neill (Bronx, N.Y.). New faces to the roster are a trio of freshmen who come to Lexington with loaded resumes. McDonald’s All-Americans Linnae Harper (Chicago) and Makayla Epps (Lebanon, Ky.) join Kyvin Goodin-Rogers (Lebanon, Ky.) to form the fifth-ranked recruiting class, Mitchell’s fourth straight top-15 class.

The NCAA Tournament First and Second Rounds will be held March 22-25. Games will either be played on March 22 and 24 or March 23 and 25. Ticket information will be announced at a later date.

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