LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky puts its undefeated record on the line when it travels to Louisville, Ky., Sunday to take on intrastate rival Louisville at 2 p.m. EST in the newly built KFC Yum! Center. The 47th “Battle of the Bluegrass”.
“Each game up to this point in the season has presented a unique challenge and this game certainly is unique because it’s the “Battle of the Bluegrass,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “Our opponent will be very motivated to win and we are very motivated to win. I’m sure it will be a very challenging atmosphere for our team to go on the road and earn what I know will be a tough victory to get. We have a lot of work ahead of us on Sunday and we’ll continue to prepare to have our team in the best position to win.”
Fresh off wins over Murray State and Southern Miss in the Lady Eagle Thanksgiving Classic, the Wildcats are looking for their second straight win over the Cardinals and first victory in Louisville since 1999. UK defeated the Cards last season in Lexington, 101-67, marking the largest margin of victory for the Cats since a 38-point win in 1975.
Kentucky brought home its 28th regular-season tournament title last weekend while improving to 5-0 on the season. The Cats are one of 32 teams nationally and one of just two squads in the Southeastern Conference (Arkansas is the other) currently undefeated.
The Cats’ impressive start to the season has once again been a direct result of their defensive prowess. UK has forced 24 or more turnovers in four of five games and double-digit miscues in 53 consecutive games, dating back to the 2008-09 season. The Cats lead the nation in turnover margin at +11.6 and are scoring 27.8 points off turnovers.
Three players are averaging double-digit scoring led by Louisville native and reigning SEC Freshman of the Year A’dia Mathies. She averages a team-high 16.0 points per game followed by All-American Victoria Dunlap and junior guard Keyla Snowden with 15.5 and 11.0 points per game, respectively. Dunlap is UK’s leader in rebounding (9.8), steals (3.3) and blocks per game (2.8).
Louisville (5-3) is riding a two-game winning streak after defeating IPFW (100-79) and Mississippi Valley State (96-37). The Cardinals are defeating their opponents by a +26.0 margin and are shooting almost 50.0 percent from the floor this season (.477). They also own a +7.5 advantage on the boards, led by 6-foot-2 center Keshia Hines’ 5.9 rebounds per game. Sophomore forward Asia Taylor follows close behind with 5.4 rebounds per game. Offensively, junior forward Monique Reid and freshman guard Shoni Schimmel pace the Cards, averaging 15.9 and 13.0 points per game respectively.
“Louisville is statistically very tough defensively and they do an outstanding job of dictating what type of shots you take,” Mitchell said. “Their defense is structured to get you into a hurry, to not only turn you over, which they’ve done a good job of but force poor shot selection. So that takes a lot of discipline for a young team like ours.”
The Cats lead the overall series with Louisville 29-17 but trail 9-12 when the game is on the road. UK’s last win in Louisville was Jan. 20, 1999 (69-56) in Freedom Hall.
UK snapped a five-game losing streak to the Cardinals last season, winning 101-67 in Memorial Coliseum, the largest margin of defeat since a 38-point UK win in 1975.
The series between UK and U of L is the second-longest for the Cats. UK has met only Tennessee (53) more than the Cards.