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No. 9/7 UK Hoops meets No. 16/14 South Carolina Thursday in Play4Kay game

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 9/7 Kentucky women’s basketball team returns to Memorial Coliseum for the second-to-last time this season when it plays host to No. 16/14 South Carolina on Thursday, Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. EST in its annual Play4Kay game. The game will broadcast live on the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price. A live streaming video is available to members of All Access (the subscription video portion of www.UKathletics.com).
Fans can follow the UK Hoops team on Twitter at @UKHoopCats and use #UKHoops to comment on the game.

Single-game reserved tickets cost of $9 for all ages. General admission tickets for adults are $8 while single-game general admission tickets for seniors and children (ages 6-18, 65 and over) are only $5. UK faculty, staff and children ages five and under are admitted free in the general admission seating area, while supplies last.

The Wildcats will don pink NIKE uniforms, socks and shoes in an effort to increase awareness for the Play4Kay initiative and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.

“We’re excited for our Play for Kay game,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “Kay Yow’s had a huge, huge impact on breast cancer awareness. The money that goes to the Kay Yow fund goes directly to breast cancer research, so it is very important for us to bring awareness to that. It is very important for us to raise money for that. We appreciate anybody who wants to come out to the game tomorrow night and help us with that effort.”

The Wildcats also look to avenge a 55-50 loss to the Gamecocks earlier this season in Columbia, S.C. Kentucky went almost nine minutes without a point in the first half, and scored just one bucket in six minutes as South Carolina built its biggest lead of the game at eight points late in the second half. The Wildcats shot 32.8 percent (19 of 58) from the field and turned the ball over 18 times - two more than South Carolina. The loss snapped UK’s school-record 17-game winning streak.

“South Carolina is one of the great teams in our league and is very, very tough, very, very tenacious on defense,” Mitchell said. “They really hustle a lot and are a great offensive rebounding team. We will have to play much harder than we did in Columbia (S.C.) to have any success in the game tomorrow night. It’s an important game and we’re looking forward to getting on the court and seeing if we can earn a victory.”

The Cats (21-3, 9-2), who currently sit in third place in the Southeastern Conference standings, are coming off an impressive 22-point win over Vanderbilt on Sunday. Senior guard and preseason SEC Player of the Year favorite A’dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) put on quite the show by charting a season-high 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting, including 5-of-9 from beyond the arc. She also dished out a game-high five assists and three steals. The 28 points moved her up to No. 3 on UK’s all-time scoring list with 1,815. Sophomore Bria Goss (Indianapolis) once again shined off the bench as she notched 15 points. Redshirt sophomore point guard Jennifer O’Neill (Bronx, N.Y.) added 10 points and junior forward Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) recorded her 11th career and eighth double-double of the season with 10 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.

Overall this season, Mathies leads UK and ranks second in the league (conference games only) in scoring, averaging 18.8 points per game. The preseason SEC Player of the Year currently ranks in the top 10 of 13 career lists at UK, including third in scoring (1,810) and steals (289). In the front court, junior center DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) and Walker are giving Kentucky a dynamic inside presence this season. The duo combine to average 22.5 points and 14.7 rebounds per game and both are shooting over 50 percent from the floor.

No. 16/12 South Carolina enters Thursday’s game at 20-4 overall, 8-3 in the SEC. The Gamecocks are tied for fourth in the league standing with Georgia after falling in a hard-fought, two-point game to Texas A&M on Sunday.

Like UK, USC is a balanced scoring team. Seven players average between 11.9 and 4.0 points per game. Sophomore forward Aleighsa Welch leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 11.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.

South Carolina has one of the top defenses in the conference again this season as it allows just 47.8 points per game to go with a field goal percentage defense of 34.5 percent. The Gamecocks also lead the league in rebounding margin at +9.4.

USC is coached by three-time Olympic gold medalist Dawn Staley, who is in the midst of her fifth season at the helm of the Gamecocks program. Staley has a career record at South Carolina of 82-61.

Thursday will mark the 50th meeting in the all-time series vs. South Carolina. UK leads the all-time series 30-19, including an 18-5 mark in Lexington. UK has won the last eight meetings against the Gamecocks in Memorial Coliseum. The Cats’ last loss at home was a 65-57 setback on March 2, 2008 in Rupp Arena.

Five of the last seven matchups with South Carolina have been decided by eight points or less, including four in a row. The Wildcats went 2-3 in those games.


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