LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky women’s basketball team is set to face a tough 2011-12 schedule that features three nonconference opponents who finished last year ranked in the top 20, 18 home games – including one in Rupp Arena – and a pair of games on ESPN2, UK head coach Matthew Mitchell announced Tuesday.
UK Hoops, entering its 38th season of varsity women’s basketball and its fifth under the direction of Mitchell, will open with an exhibition match against Coker College on Nov. 6, a Division II program from Hartsville, S.C. Coker College will have special interest to Wildcats fans as former guard Jenny Pfeiffer Finora (2003-2004, 2006-2007) is entering her second season as the head coach of the Cobras.
The Cats will open the 2011-12 regular season on the road against Morehead State on Nov. 11. Kentucky then comes home for a nine-game home stand, including its home opener against Jacksonville State on Nov. 15.
“We have some very solid non-conference home games that we think will be very exciting for our fans early in the season,” Mitchell said. “We are excited to play Duke in Rupp Arena. We haven’t played down there in several years and I think our fans will be excited about that. Memorial Coliseum is our home venue and has proven to be one of the toughest places to play over the last two seasons. We look forward to our 18 home games and playing in front of the Big Blue Nation.”
The Wildcats have had great success at home under Mitchell, going 30-2 in the last two seasons, including 21 consecutive nonconference wins. UK will look to build on that mark with back-to-back “Pack the House” games. The Wildcats will play host to intrastate rival Louisville on Dec. 4 in Memorial Coliseum followed by a matchup with Duke in Rupp Arena on Dec. 8. The Blue Devils, who finished last season as the No. 7 team in the country, travel to Lexington for the first time in school history. UK is 20-12 in Rupp Arena, with its last matchup coming March 2, 2008 against South Carolina.
UK will face 2011 national runner-up Notre Dame on Dec. 18 in South Bend, Ind. The Fighting Irish fell to Texas A&M by six points in last season’s national championship game, two days after defeating UConn by nine points in the Final Four. It will mark UK’s first-ever trip to Notre Dame and just the second all-time meeting between the teams.
Kentucky closes out its home nonconference schedule against Samford on Dec. 21 before going on the road to face Middle Tennessee State on Dec. 28.
As adopted two years ago by the Southeastern Conference, there will be a 16-game conference schedule, but, in contrast to the men’s 16-game schedule, the women are not playing the traditional divisional schedule and will not have divisional standings.
The system increased the existing 14-game schedule by adding an additional rotating team from the East and West divisions. Kentucky’s permanent partner is South Carolina, and for this season, UK will face Alabama and Mississippi State as its Western home-and-home opponents. The Wildcats’ Eastern division partners are Florida and Tennessee. This is the first year of the new rotating opponents.
“I think we have the opportunity to have a very good team this year,” Mitchell said. “I’m excited about our personnel and the schedule is one that can help us accomplish all of our goals. When you play in the Southeastern Conference it’s always tough and I think there is no better conference to prepare a team for post season play than the SEC.”
Kentucky opens league play on the road against Florida on Jan. 1 before playing three straight games at home against Arkansas on Jan. 5, Mississippi State on Jan. 8 and Tennessee on Jan. 12.
Highlights of the conference schedule include a date at Tennessee on Feb. 13 that will be aired on ESPN2 and a home game against Vanderbilt on Feb. 20 that also will be on ESPN2.
The Wildcats’ three seniors – Crystal Riley (Memphis, Tenn.), Amber Smith (Winter Haven, Fla.) and Keyla Snowden (Lexington, Ky.) – will be honored prior to Kentucky’s last home game against South Carolina on Feb. 23.
Kentucky’s final game of the regular season will be on the road against Mississippi State. For the second consecutive season, four of the Wildcats’ final six games are road contests.
Following the regular season, Kentucky will head to Nashville, Tenn., for the 2012 SEC Tournament in Bridgestone Arena. It is the second consecutive season Nashville has hosted the women’s tournament.
“Nashville is my favorite site for the SEC Tournament,” Mitchell said. “People there are always very excited about women’s basketball. I always look forward to the SEC Tournament every year but especially when it’s in Nashville. The Big Blue Nation loves to travel down to the Music City and they always paint the town blue.”
Season tickets for UK’s entire 18-game home schedule are on sale now for $45 except lower-level chair back seating, which is anticipated to be sold out, for $60.
Single-game tickets may be purchased online or by calling the UK Ticket Office at (800) 928-2287 or (859) 257-1818 in late October. Tickets may be available in the reserved seating areas and in the general admission upper-level bleachers. Prices are as follows: $7 reserved seats (all ages), $7 adult general admission, $4 youth/senior general admission (18 and under, 65 and over). Children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge in the general admission seating area.
Fans interested in season tickets can go to UKathletics.com or call the UK ticket office at 1-800-928-CATS.
Follow UK Hoops on Twitter at @UKHoopCats and on Facebook by searching University of Kentucky Women’s Basketball.
All UK Hoops games can be heard live on the UK IMG Sports Network and UKathletics.com. The entire television schedule will be announced at a later date.