LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky women’s basketball team is set to face another challenging nonconference schedule in 2013-14, which features eight home games, including a matchup with Duke in Rupp Arena, a road game at DePaul and a battle with Baylor in the newly named AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Wildcats will face six teams that appeared in the NCAA Tournament last season and five first-time opponents.
“Since I’ve been the head coach, we think it’s the most challenging nonconference schedule that we’ve ever had and also the most exciting,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We think it’s going to prepare us for the Southeastern Conference which is the No. 1 goal always. Then, we want to make it as exciting as possible for our fans.”
UK, which is entering its 40th season of varsity women’s basketball and its seventh under Mitchell, will begin with an exhibition match against Eckerd College, a Division II program from St. Petersburg, Fla., on Nov. 3. Kentucky thrives in the friendly confines of Memorial Coliseum under Mitchell, going 64-3 over the last four seasons, including a 16-1 mark last season. UK has won 40 consecutive nonconference games at home, dating back to Dec. 19, 2008.
The Cats will open the 2013-14 regular season in New York as they travel to Marist on Nov. 8, followed by a trip to face first-time opponent Wagner on Nov. 10. Marist, located in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., has won eight straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championships. Kentucky then plays host to two more first-time opponents in Georgia Southern on Nov. 13 and Central Michigan on Nov. 17. Lipscomb makes the trip from Nashville, Tenn., to Lexington on Nov. 21 to wrap up the three-game homestand.
“We have tough road games against Middle Tennessee State and DePaul,” Mitchell said. “Marist will be a very difficult challenge, which is who we open the season with on the road. They are one of the winningest programs in the last 10 years. It’s going to be a difficult start to the year, but we are excited about it.”
Following a visit to Middle Tennessee State on Nov. 24, Kentucky returns home to face Bradley on Nov. 27 and in-state rival, Louisville on Dec. 1. The Wildcats have won the last two meetings in the rivalry with the Cardinals, including a 48-47 victory last season in the KFC Yum! Center.
“We have an extremely exciting game in Memorial against Louisville, who we’ve always had terrific games with and they are coming off a great year,” Mitchell said. “I would have to think that will be a highly anticipated matchup.”
A date with the Big 12 champion Baylor Lady Bears also looms large for the Cats on Dec. 6 in Arlington, Texas, at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium. The matchup will be part of a doubleheader that also features the UK men’s basketball team and Baylor men’s squad. UK wraps up the road portion of the nonconference schedule at DePaul on Dec. 12. The trip to the Windy City will allow the Wildcats to play in the home city of sophomore guard Janee Thompson and freshman guard Linnae Harper.
“The event in Dallas at AT&T Stadium is going to be something very unique for our fans and I think the event organizers are anticipating that it will be the largest crowd in the history of women’s college basketball, so that is something we are excited about,” Mitchell said. “It’s a difficult schedule, but it will prepare us and be exciting for the Big Blue Nation.”
Rounding out the schedule features home games with East Tennessee State out of the Atlantic Sun Conference on Dec. 15, Duke on Dec. 22 in Rupp Arena and finally Grambling State of the Southwestern Athletic Conference on Dec. 29. Duke will make the journey to Lexington as the defending Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament champions.
“The Duke game in Rupp Arena, we feel like we have a chance to break the UK Hoops attendance record and sell out Rupp Arena for the first time in the program’s history,” Mitchell said. “We feel like that will be an exciting portion of the home schedule.”
Kentucky, which is fresh off its third Elite Eight appearance in the last four years, returns 10 letter winners, including four starters in Kastine Evans (Salem, Conn.), Jennifer O’Neill (Bronx, N.Y.), first-team All-SEC selection DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) and second-team All-SEC honoree Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio). New additions to the roster this season include freshmen Makayla Epps (Lebanon, Ky.), Kyvin Goodin-Rogers (Lebanon, Ky.) and Harper (Chicago).
All game times are still to be determined. The SEC schedule is set to be released at a later time.