LEXINGTON, Ky. –No. 6/7 Kentucky women’s basketball opens its 39th season Saturday, when the Wildcats play host to first-time opponent Delaware State at 1 pm in Memorial Coliseum.
“We are tipping off in Memorial Coliseum tomorrow and we are looking forward to it,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We would like to encourage everyone to come out and watch us play. I believe we have a great year ahead. I think you can look at this team to play with a great attitude, great effort and energy. Delaware State is not a team that we know too much about, because they have a new head coach. But we plan on coming out strong tomorrow and hopefully come away with a victory.”
Delaware State, located in Dover, Del., is led by first-year head coach Tamika Louis. She was hired in May of 2012 after spending last season as an assistant coach at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Overall, she has spent 14 years coaching and recruiting at the NCAA Division I, junior college and high school levels.
The Hornets were picked to finish 11th in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and redshirt sophomore Tierra Hawkins was selected to the MEAC Preseason All-First Team. DSU returns all five starters from a squad that finished 7-23 overall, 4-12 in the MEAC last season.
UK returns 10 letter winners and four starters from a team that went 28-7 overall last season, including a school-record 13 Southeastern Conference victories. The Wildcats advanced to their third consecutive NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history, including their second Elite Eight in the last three seasons.
The Wildcats’ roster is highlighted by the preseason SEC Player of the Year pick in senior guard A’dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.). Also returning is the 2012 SEC Freshman of the Year Bria Goss (Indianapolis) and preseason All-SEC second-team selection Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio). Redshirt sophomore Jennifer O’Neill (Bronx, N.Y.), who sat out the 2011-12 season due to injury, and DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.), an All-Pac-10 selection who sat out last season due to transfer regulations, also will be available this season. New faces to the roster are sophomore junior college transfer Jelleah Sidney (Queens Village, N.Y.) and freshman McDonald’s All-American Janee Thompson (Chicago).
Saturday will mark the season opener for both teams and UK’s first meeting against Delaware State. The Wildcats are 7-0 all-time vs. teams from the current alignment of the MEAC. The Cats are 34-4 all-time in home openers and have won three in a row.
The Cats own a 357-140 (71.8) mark in Memorial Coliseum, including a 67-12 (84.8) record under Coach Matthew Mitchell. The Cats are 48-2 at home over the last three seasons (including one game in Rupp Arena). UK’s current 20-game home winning streak is the third-longest winning streak in school history and ranks tied for fourth nationally. The Wildcats have won 31-consecutive nonconference games at home, dating back to Dec. 19, 2008.