LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Southeastern Conference’s top two teams meet in Knoxville, Tenn., when the No. 16/14 Kentucky women’s basketball team takes on the fourth-ranked Tennessee Lady Volunteers Thursday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. EST in Thompson-Boling Arena. The game will be televised live on FSN (Fox Sports South, Fox Sports Southwest and Sun Sports), ESPN360.com and broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Radio Network and UKathletics.com with Neil Price.
UK Hoops fans can also get score updates as well as team scoring and rebounding leaders sent to their cell phone via a text message by signing up for Wildcat Alerts at UKathletics.com.
Kentucky, which has been making history all season, hopes to continue re-writing the record books as the Wildcats look for their first win in Knoxville since 1985 and first-ever win in Thompson-Boling Arena. UK’s last win in Knoxville was Jan. 23, 1985 in the Stokely Athletics Center.
“This will be an exciting game for us to go play,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We have played a tough schedule up to this point and it just seems like every game test you differently and this one will probably be the ultimate test that we’ll face. They are fourth in the country and really, really good at home, the only other team in the conference that hasn’t lost at home, besides us. So, obviously, they play very well there and [they] are just a very talented, powerful, big, strong, tough Tennessee team. It’ll be a big test for us and I think our players are excited to go see how they stack up.”
The Wildcats have climbed to No. 2 in the conference standings after winning 10 of their last 11 games, including two over ranked teams. Despite being picked to finish 11th in the preseason polls, UK Coach Matthew Mitchell has led his squad to a remarkable turnaround, going from 16-16 overall, 5-9 in the SEC last season to 23-4 overall, including a school-best 11-3 mark in conference play this year.
Anchoring the turnaround is SEC Player of the Year and All-America candidate, Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.). The 6-1 forward ranks in the top 10 of seven different SEC statistical categories and is the only player in the league to rank in the top four in scoring and rebounding (all games). She also leads the SEC in steals (3.2), ranks fifth in blocks (1.9) and is seventh in field goal percentage (.517).
SEC Freshman of the Year nominee A’dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) also has been a key catalyst in the Cats’ success as she ranks second behind Dunlap in scoring (12.7 ppg), steals (68) and blocks (14). She has scored in double figures in 10 of 14 SEC contests, including seven in a row. All three of her 20-point scoring outings were against SEC competition.
With two games remaining in SEC play, the Lady Vols currently lead the league at 13-1. They are coming off a 70-61 win over No. 20 LSU on Monday in Knoxville and hold a two-game lead over Kentucky. UT was picked to finish second in the SEC behind LSU.
Four players average in double figures for UT, led by junior guard Angie Bjorklund’s 14.6 points per game. Sophomore guard Shekinna Stricklen follows with 12.4 ppg while sophomores Glory Johnson and Kelley Cain add 11.0 and 10.4 ppg, respectively. Cain and Johnson lead the battle of the boards, averaging 8.0 and 7.7 rebounds per game, respectively. Cain ranks second in the SEC in field goal percentage (60.5) and leads the league in blocked shots (3.6). She set the school record on Monday with 12 swats against the Lady Tigers.
“Clearly, she (Cain) creates problems for us,” Mitchell said. “It’s well documented that we’re not the tallest team around, so, she will be somebody that we have to play well against and try to play as tough as we can. There are going to be some plays in the game that she’s going to be able to make on you and you just can’t get down on those. You just have to go. You have to play and keep going and try to make it as tough on her as you can.”
Thursday will mark the 52nd meeting between the border rivals, the 22nd matchup in Knoxville. UK has met UT more times than any other UK rival. The Cats trail in the all-time series 44-7, including a 19-2 deficit when playing in Knoxville. UT, which fell to Kentucky last season in Memorial Coliseum, has won the last 14 meetings in Thompson-Boling Arena over the Cats.