LEXINGTON, Ky. – After a playing its last three games on the road, the 10th-ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team returns to the friendly confines of Memorial Coliseum on Sunday, March 3 for its final regular season game of the season vs. No. 8 Tennessee. The game will be televised live on ESPNU and WatchESPN. It also will be carried on the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price.
Fans can follow the UK Hoops team on Twitter at @UKHoopCats and use #UKHoops to comment on the game.
Tickets are sold out. However, a limited number of tickets will be held for UK students, faculty and staff on game day. Tickets can be picked up at the Joe Craft Center ticket office beginning at 2:30 p.m. EST on March 3. UK students will be offered one free ticket for themselves, while faculty and staff will receive a ticket for themselves and one for a guest, while supplies last. UK students must present their valid UK Student ID and faculty and staff must present their UK Employee identification card in order to receive tickets.
UK will honor seniors A’dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) and Brittany Henderson (Pasadena, Calif.) in a special pregame “Senior Day” ceremony approximately 20 minutes before game time. The duo make up the winningest senior class in UK Hoops history, having totaled a remarkable 105-28 overall record, including a 63-3 mark at home (includes two games in Rupp Arena).
“We want to thank our fans for making this a sell out for senior day,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “It’s obviously an extremely important game for us. We will work hard to prepare and try to end the regular season with a big win here at home.
“There are a lot of things at stake here but none more important to me than just trying to get A’dia (Mathies) and Brittany (Henderson) out of here only losing three times during their career instead of four,” Mitchell said. “Either way it’s going to be a really remarkable run that those two kids have had during their four years at Kentucky. We tried to place a big emphasis on protecting the home court during their career and it’s been pretty remarkable. Two undefeated seasons and possibly, if we can find a way on Sunday too, one loss season there or losing three I guess during their career would be pretty special. That’s to me the biggest thing and I don’t know how we could find a better place to motivate ourselves than trying to get that done.”
It also could be a special day for Mitchell has he needs just one win to become UK’s all-time winningest coach in just six seasons. He currently has 138 wins which ties Terry Hall’s record of 138 wins set from 1980-87. His winning percentage of 69.7 percent (138-60) already ranks first.
“We have so much basketball left to play,” Mitchell said. “I’m really trying to focus on how we can get our team playing at a level that can compete and do well here in the Southeastern Conference tournament and NCAA Tournament and I think there will be plenty of time to reflect on it after the season but I’ve said many times I’m very grateful to be coaching here at Kentucky. I’m very grateful of the opportunity that President Lee Todd and Mitch Barnhart gave me and President (Eli) Capilouto continues to give me to be a part of Kentucky. It’s the most special place in the world to coach basketball and I just feel blessed by God and very fortunate every day to be the coach here. This is a very special place.”
With their win over Texas A&M on Thursday, the Lady Vols (23-5) clinched the SEC regular season championship with a 15-1 overall record. A UK win over the Lady Vols on Sunday will guarantee a No. 2 seed for the Wildcats in the SEC Tournament. UK has clinched a first-round bye. It would also mark UK’s fifth win over a ranked opponent this season, including third over a top-10 team.
“It’s a very important game, no conference championship is on the line but you win this game, I would have to think we would be the top rated team in the conference with the RPI and the polls, and those things I think play some type of role in the NCAA Tournament selection and where you are seeded so a lot is riding on the game still,” Mitchell said.
Overall this season, Mathies leads UK (24-4, 12-3 SEC) and ranks second in the league (conference games only) in scoring, averaging 18.3 points per game. The preseason SEC Player of the Year currently ranks in the top 15 of six SEC statistical categories, including second in scoring (18.3) and 3-point field goal percentage (.443), and third in 3-point field goals made (2.3). She also ranks in the top 10 of 13 career lists at UK, including No. 2 in scoring and No. 3 in steals. Mathies is the first player in UK history (men or women) to accumulate over 1,800 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 250 steals in her career. She need just one more steal to become the third player in school history with 300 or more and 10 more to tie the UK steals record of 309 set by Stacey Reed (1991-95).
Tennessee is led by junior guard Meighan Simmons who averages a league-high 17.8 points per game, including 19.4 ppg in conference play. UT’s leading rebounder is freshman forward/center Bashaara Graves with 8.6 rpg.
Holly Warlick is in her first season as head coach at Tennessee after serving 27 seasons as an assistant under Hall of Famer and UT head coach emeritus Pat Summitt.
Sunday will mark the 58th meeting between the teams, the 28th in Lexington. The Lady Vols lead the overall series 49-8, including a 21-6 advantage in Lexington. UK won last year’s meeting in Memorial Coliseum, 61-60, on a thrilling game-winning shot by Mathies with 4.4 seconds on the clock.