LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky women’s basketball team is set to face a tough non-conference schedule in 2012-13, one that features nine home games, including a matchup with DePaul in Rupp Arena, and road games at Baylor and Louisville. The Wildcats, who will face eight teams that advanced to postseason play, will also travel to southern California for two games in mid-December.
UK Hoops, entering its 39th season of varsity women’s basketball and its sixth under the direction of 2012 Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year Matthew Mitchell, will open with an exhibition match against Bellarmine University on Nov. 5, a Division II program from Louisville, Ky. Bellarmine will have special interest to Wildcats fans as former assistant coach and director of operations Pam Stackhouse (2003-2007, 2007-2011) is entering her second year as the associate director of athletics for the Knights.
“The first thing we have in mind when we construct the non-conference schedule is to make certain it helps us prepare for the SEC schedule so we always want to make it challenging and I think we have certainly done that this year,” Mitchell said. “It is very challenging and we will be tested in every way a basketball team can be tested. I’m really pleased with what we have ended up with and it’s definitely one of the most challenging non-conference schedules we have ever had.”
The Cats will open the 2012-13 regular season at home against first-time opponent Delaware State on Nov. 10. Kentucky then goes on the road to battle the 2012 NCAA champions of Baylor in the State Farm Tip-off Classic. It will mark the first meeting between the teams.
“The game is a great opportunity for our players to go against what will certainly be one of the best teams in the country and to go on the road and play a talented team like Baylor is a very big challenge early in the season but we’re excited,” Mitchell said. “Also, the State Farm Tip-off classic is a very prestigious event and the opportunity for our program and our players to participate in that is a sign of real progress that has been made in the UK Hoops program.”
When the Wildcats return to Lexington, they will have four-straight home games in Memorial Coliseum, beginning with High Point on Nov. 17. UK has had great success at home under Mitchell, going 48-2 over the last three years, including an impressive 18-0 mark last season. The Wildcats are currently riding a 20-game home winning streak, which ranks as the school’s third-longest streak and ties with Ohio State for the nation’s fourth-longest winning streak. UK has won 31-consecutive non-conference games at home, dating back to Dec. 19, 2008.
“We really try to start over and treat each year as being special because it’s the only time these particular group of players will get together, but I think one of the few things that carries over from year to year is a pride factor in our program,” Mitchell said. “Our players understand that we have had tremendous success at home
over the last three seasons. Having an undefeated season and having one of the longest home-court winning streaks in the country are things our players will be excited to try to add to and we should credit our fans for helping us make Memorial Coliseum such an energetic place. It’s just really an electric atmosphere and our fans make it that way. I think the nine home games in the non-conference portion will be very, very important and we will certainly want to do everything we can to make Memorial a really tough place to play.”
Always a date circled on the Wildcats’ schedule is the annual matchup with intrastate rival Louisville. The Wildcats will face the Cardinals in the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky., on Dec. 2 before returning home to meet DePaul in Rupp Arena on Dec. 7. The Blue Demons, who advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, will travel to Lexington for the first time since Feb. 15, 1984.
After a home matchup with Middle Tennessee on Dec. 9, the Wildcats will travel to sunny, southern California to face Pepperdine on Dec. 18 and the University of California – Santa Barbara on Dec. 21. The trip to the West Coast will allow the Wildcats to play in the home state of senior forward/center Brittany Henderson (Pasadena, Calif.) and junior forward/center DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.).
“In addition to getting our team prepared for conference play, we try to provide our players with some great experiences that they might not normally be able to have and the California trip provides a great experience especially for our two California players who will get to play in front of their families and friends,” Mitchell said. “It’s also a great experience for the rest of our players because they get to go to such a beautiful place and be exposed to southern California. Everything it has to offer is just a tremendous experience for our players.”
UK closes out its non-conference schedule with home games against Alcorn State of the Southwest Athletic Conference on Dec. 28 and Marist of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference on Dec. 30.