Challenging Non-Conference Schedule Awaits 2017-18 Wildcats


LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky women’s basketball team played the second toughest schedule in the nation last season and head coach Matthew Mitchell has not strayed from wanting to play the best teams in the country as a challenging 2017-18 non-conference slate awaits the Wildcats. 

Of its 14 scheduled non-conference games, seven will come against teams that finished last season inside the top 100 of the NCAA RPI, including four that finished inside the top 50. The schedule is highlighted by home games against Louisville and California and challenging road trips to Washington State, Baylor, Florida Gulf Coast, Miami (Fla.) and Middle Tennessee.  

“Our goal every year is to use our non-conference schedule to prepare our players for the grind of a full SEC slate and that is exactly what we have done this season,” Mitchell said. “We played one of the toughest schedules in the country last year and I believe this season’s schedule will be similarly difficult. The balance of this schedule is what sticks out with quality opponents coming to Memorial Coliseum and some very challenging road trips all over the country. We have been very pleased with the work our team has put in so far this summer and cannot wait for full practices to get underway this fall.”  

The demanding slate includes games against 2017 NCAA Tournament participants Baylor, Florida Gulf Coast, Miami (Fla.), Louisville and Cal. Four of those teams were either ranked or receiving votes in last year’s final ranking with Baylor finishing sixth, Louisville finishing 12th, Miami (Fla.) finishing 19th and Florida Gulf Coast receiving votes. In all, seven non-conference opponents won 20 or more games last season. 

Kentucky will hold its lone exhibition game Sunday, Nov. 5 at 2 p.m. against Southern Indiana before officially starting the regular season Friday, Nov. 10 at home vs. Sacramento State as part of Morehead State’s multi-team event called the Matthew Mitchell Classic. UK’s second game in the event will be against Gardner-Webb on Sunday, Nov. 12 before concluding the event a few weeks later on Wednesday, Nov. 22 against Morehead State inside Memorial Coliseum. 

Kentucky’s first road trip of the season will start out west against first-time opponent Montana on Thursday, Nov. 16 at 9 p.m. before returning a home-and-home game at Washington State on Sunday, Nov. 19. Last season, the Cougars battled injuries but earned a bid into the Women’s National Invitational Tournament and advanced to the semifinals of that event. 

Kentucky concludes November with a Nov. 26 contest against Marshall inside Memorial Coliseum before traveling to national championship contender Baylor on Thursday, Nov. 30 to compete in the annual Big 12/SEC Challenge. This is the second year Kentucky has participated in the Big 12/SEC Challenge after defeating Oklahoma in Memorial Coliseum last season. Baylor record 30+ wins last season and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. The Bears return 6-7 post Kalani Brown, who led the team in points scored (15.4) and rebounds (8.2) last season. 

Mitchell’s squad begins December with a two-game home stretch starting with Tennessee Tech on Sunday, Dec. 3 and Evansville on Tuesday, Dec. 5. Kentucky’s third road trip of 2017 could be its toughest as the Wildcats travel to face two NCAA Tournament teams from a season ago. The trip starts Friday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. at Florida Gulf Coast, who returns a majority of their talented 2016-17 roster that won 26 games and nearly defeated Miami (Fla.) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Hurricanes are UK’s final stop on the trip, returning a home-and-home game on Sunday, Dec. 10. Last season, Miami spent a majority of the season in the top 25 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. 

The non-conference schedule will not get any easier as UK returns to Lexington the following weekend to face in-state rival Louisville on Sunday, Dec. 17 at 2 p.m. inside Memorial Coliseum. The Cardinals finished the 2016-17 season with a No. 12 RPI and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament after winning 29 games. Pac-12 foe Cal will make its first ever trip to Memorial Coliseum on Dec. 21 at Noon before the Wildcats break for the holidays. Cal made the NCAA Tournament a season ago after winning 20 games and is expected to return its top two scorers. UK completes non-conference play on Wednesday, Dec. 28 at Middle Tennessee, who brings back its top scorer in Alex Johnson, who scored over 20 points per game last season. 

A complete breakdown of all 14 non-conference opponents is below. Game times are ET and subject to change while TV selections are still to be determined. The Southeastern Conference schedule is set to be released at a later date. More information regarding season tickets will be released in July/August, while all single-game tickets will go on sale in October.  

Kentucky, which is entering its 44th season of varsity women’s basketball and 11th under Mitchell, is coming off its school-record eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. The Wildcats finished with a 22-11 record last season, marking its 18th 20-win season and its eight straight under Mitchell. UK finished No. 18 in The Associated Press Top 25 and No. 25 in the USA Today/Coaches Top 25. It was the eighth straight season the Wildcats have finished inside the top 25 of both national listings.

The Wildcats took down three ranked opponents during the year, defeating then-No. 14 Miami (Fla.), then-No. 12 Oklahoma and then-No. 3 Mississippi State. UK also earned wins over Belmont, Missouri, Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Florida, who were either ranked or receiving votes at some point during the season. Mitchell’s squad, which finished with the No. 14 overall RPI in the final NCAA RPI report, played the second-toughest schedule in the nation in 2016-17 with 25 of its 33 games being played against teams that finished in the top 100 of the NCAA RPI report. The Wildcats played 13 games against top-25 RPI teams with four wins, while it had six wins against RPI top 50 teams.

A key task entering the 2017-18 season will be replacing the All-America production of Makayla Epps and Evelyn Akhator, who combined to average 33.0 of the team’s 70.9 points last season. The Wildcats do return juniors Taylor Murray and Maci Morris, who both averaged double-figures last season, and key reserves Makenzie Cann, Alyssa Rice, Jessica Hardin and Jaida Roper, who each averaged 12 or more minutes last season. 

In all, the Wildcats return nine of 11 eligible players and will add Stony Brook transfer and 2016 America East Conference Rookie of the Year Ogechi Anyagaligbo, who practiced with the team last season. UK also adds five newcomers in true freshmen Dorie Harrison (6-2, F/C, Nashville, Tenn.), KeKe McKinney (6-1, G/F, Knoxville, Tenn.), Kameron Roach (5-6, G, Hopkins, S.C.) and Tatyana Wyatt (6-3, F, Columbus, Ga.), and junior college transfer Amanda Paschal (5-6, G, Brooklyn, N.Y/Gulf State College).

For more information on the Kentucky women’s basketball team, visit UKathletics.com or follow @KentuckyWBB on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, or Kentucky Women’s Basketball on Facebook.

Sacramento State
Head Coach: Bunky Harkleroad (Fifth season)
Record at Sacramento State: 60-65 (.480)
2016-17 Record: 10-20 (Big Sky Tournament First Round) 
Top Returner: Maranne Johnson, G, 5-7, Jr. – 15.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.9 spg, 1.4 apg
Notes: Under Bunky Harkleroad, the Hornets have been a 3-point shooting team as they have led all NCAA Division I teams in 3-pointers made and attempted each of his four seasons at the helm of the program. Last season, Sacramento State attempted 36.5 3s per game and made 10.7 per game from long range. The Hornets lost three of their top four scorers from last year, but do return Maranne Johnson, who led the team in points per game with 15.0. 
Series History: 2017 will be the first meeting 

Gardner-Webb
Head Coach: Rick Reeves (14th season) 
Record at Gardner-Webb: 197-205 (.490)
2016-17 Record: 12-19 (Big South Tournament Second Round)
Top Returner: Tierra Huntsman, G, 5-8, RSr. – 15.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2.0 spg
Notes: The Runnin’ Bulldogs finished the 2016-17 season with a 12-19 record and ended their season in the second round of the Big South Tournament. Gardner-Webb had only one senior on the 2016-17 team and is expected to return its top five scorers and top two rebounders. Big South honorable mention performer Tierra Huntsman leads the returners after averaging a team-best 15.2 points per game last season. 
Series History: 2017 will be the first meeting 

Montana
Head Coach: Shannon Schweyen (Second season)
Record at Montana: 7-23 (.233) 
2016-17 Record: 7-23 (Big Sky Tournament First Round)
Top Returner: Taylor Goligoski, G, 5-8, So. – 10.7 ppg, 3.3 apg, .349 FG%, .277 3FG%
Notes: Head coach Shannon Schweyen lost two quality players to injury last season in Kayleigh Valley and Alycia Sims, both expected to be back and add a great deal of experience to the Griz’ 2017-18 team. On top of those two, the Griz return their top seven scorers from last season. Montana allowed 10.6 more points last season than they scored, and allowed teams to hit 41.5 percent from the field and 31.7 percent from 3. 
Series History: 2017 will be first meeting

Washington State
Head Coach: June Daugherty (11th season)  
Record at Washington State: 120-197 (.378)
2016-17 Record: 16-20 (WNIT Final Four)
Top Returner: Alexys Swedlund, G, 5-11, Jr. – 11.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.2 bpg, .385 FG%, .347 3FG%
Notes: The injury bug hit Washington State again last season as each of their top two scorers missed significant time due to injury with Borislava Hristova only playing nine games, while Chanelle Molina only played 17. Both averaged over 12 points per game. Alexys Swedlund and Molina were the stars for the Cougars in their trip to Lexington last fall with Swedlund scoring 20 points after hitting six 3s, while Molina had 17 points and five assists. WSU put together a good postseason run, winning four straight WNIT games to make it to the WNIT Final Four. 
Series History: UK leads 2-0 
Last Meeting: W, 69-67, Dec. 21, 2016 (H)

Morehead State
Head Coach: Greg Todd (Fourth season) 
Record at Morehead State: 43-48 (.366)
2016-17 Record: 21-10 (WNIT First Round) 
Top Returner: Miranda Crockett, G, 5-8, So. – 11.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.7 spg, .495 FG%
Notes: Head coach Greg Todd had a historic season with the Eagles in 2016-17, leading the squad to only its seventh 20-win season in program history and the first appearance in the WNIT Tournament. MSU will miss its leading scorer in Brianna McQueen, who averaged a team-best 13.7 points per game with 79 assists and hit 39.8 field-goal percentage. The Eagles do return Eriel McKee, who averaged 11.1 points per game and Darianne Seward, who averaged 9.3 points per game. 
Series History: UK leads 29-4, including 19-1 in games played in Lexington 
Last Meeting: W, 74-47, Nov. 23, 2016 (H) 

Marshall
Head Coach: Tony Kemper (First season) 
Record at Marshall: First season as head coach 
2016-17 Record: 13-17 (Conference USA First Round)
Top Returner: Shayna Gore, G/f, 5-8, Jr. – 17.5 ppg, .443 FG%, .372 3FG%, 2.9 apg, 1.8 spg 
Notes: Although Tony Kemper has been with the Marshall program for five seasons, the 2017-18 season will be his first as head coach. He welcomes several talented newcomers to this year’s roster on top of the Herd returning leading scorer Shayna Gore, who averaged 17.5 points per game. Also returning is Taylor Porter, who averaged 8.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. Marshall started last season 12-7 before losing 10 of its last 11 games to miss postseason play. 
Series History: UK leads 13-2, including 8-0 in games played in Lexington 
Last Meeting: W, 73-55, Dec. 12, 2004 (A)

Baylor
Head Coach: Kim Mulkey (18th season)
Record at Baylor: 506-96 (.841)
2016-17 Record: 33-4 (NCAA Tournament Elite Eight)
Top Returner: Kalani Brown, P, 6-7, Jr. – 15.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.9 bpg, .679 FG%  
Notes: One of the best teams in the nation last season, Baylor is expected to be a national championship contender again in 2017-18 behind Kalani Brown, who returns and led the team in scoring last season at 15.4 points per game. However, the Bears’ next four top scorers will not return, which accounted for 46.6 points per game last season. The Bears averaged 89.5 points per game last season and limited opponents to just 56.3 points per game. 
Series History: UK leads 2-1, including 1-0 in games played in Lexington 
Last Meeting: W, 79-58, March 21, 2016 (H)

Tennessee Tech
Head Coach: Kim Rosamond (Second season) 
Record at Tennessee Tech: 10-20 (.333)
2016-17 Record: 10-20 (OVC Tournament First Round) 
Top Returner: Yaktavia Hickson, G, 5-11, Sr. – 16.9 ppg, .435 FG%, .323 3FG%m 4.0 rpg, 1.6 apg 
Notes: Tennessee Tech returns three of its top-five scorers from last season, including guard Yaktavia Hickson, who averaged 16.9 points per game last season. The 2016-17 assist leader, Akia Harris, returns as well after averaging 4.0 assists per game last season. Second-year head coach Kim Rosamond will add eight newcomers to her 2017-18 roster that includes six returnees. 
Series History: UK leads 8-6, including a 6-0 record in Lexington  
Last Meeting: W, 77-53, Dec. 7, 2010 (H) 

Evansville 
Head Coach: Matt Ruffing (Second season)  
Record at Evansville: 10-11 (.476)
2016-17 Record: 14-17 (Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Second Round) 
Top Returner: Brooke Dossett, G, 5-6, Sr. – 9.3 ppg, 3.2 apg, .371 FG%, .314 3FG% 
Notes: Evansville head coach Matt Ruffing took over the helm of the program in December of last year and nearly guided the Purple Aces to a .500 record after a 4-6 start. The Purple Aces lost their top two scorers from last year in Sara Dickey, who averaged 14.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, and Camary Williams, who averaged 13.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Evansville does return Brooke Dossett, who averaged 9.3 points last year, and Kerri Gasper, who averaged 8.0 points per game and hit .384 from 3. 
Series History: Evansville leads 2-0, including 1-0 in games played in Lexington
Last Meeting: L, 66-70, Dec. 4, 2002 (A)

Florida Gulf Coast
Head Coach: Karl Smesko (16th season)  
Record at FGCU: 404-82 (.831)
2016-17 Record: 26-9 (ASUN Tournament Champions, NCAA Tournament First Round)
Top Returner: Rosemarie Julien, F, 5-11, Sr. – 11.0 ppg, .476 FG%, .347 3FG%, 1.3 apg
Notes: Coming off their fourth appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last six years, Florida Gulf Coast returns almost all of its production from last year’s squad that went 26-9 and nearly upset Miami (Fla.) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles lost just 13.2 points per game last year and return six of their seven leading scorers, including Rosemarie Julien, who averaged 11.0 points per game and hit .476 from the field and .347 from 3. FGCU was the WNIT runner-up in 2015-16 and has won the ASUN Conference Tournament four of the last six years. 
Series History: UK leads 1-0  
Last Meeting: W, 79-77 2ot, Dec. 18, 1975 (N)

Miami (Fla.)
Head Coach: Katie Meier (13th season)
Record at Miami (Fla.): 231-152 (.603)
2016-17 Record: 24-9 (NCAA Tournament Second Round)
Top Returner: Laura Cornelius, G, 5-8, Jr. – 8.0 ppg, .405 FG%, .373 3FG%, 2.8 apg
Notes: Head coach Katie Meier lost her top-three scorers from last season that all averaged double figures, including guards Adrienne Motley (13.3 ppg) and Jessica Thomas (13.0 ppg). Laura Cornelius is the top returner averaging 8.0 points per game along with Erykah Davenport and Emese Hof, who combined to averaged 13.3 points per game and 9.0 rebounds per game. The Canes concluded last season at No. 19 in the USA Today/Coaches Poll and are expected to add a talented list of newcomers for 2016-17. 
Series History: UK leads series 6-1
Last Meeting: W, 82-66, Nov. 11, 2016 (H)

Louisville
Head Coach: Jeff Walz (11th season)
Record at Louisville: 263-93 (.739)
2016-17 Record: 29-8 (NCAA Tournament Sweet 16) 
Top Returner: Asia Durr, G, 5-10, So. – 19.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.8 apg, .424 FG%, .405 3FG%  
Notes: Louisville returns a majority of its 2016-17 roster for this upcoming season and will add a talented list of newcomers. The Cardinals return their top three scorers in Asia Durr (19.2 ppg), Myisha Hines-Allen (13.9 ppg) and Mariya Moore (12.0 ppg). UofL went to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament before falling to Baylor and finished the 2016-17 season ranked 12th overall in the final USA Today/Coaches poll. 
Series History: UK leads 34-19, including 22-4 in Lexington  
Last Meeting: L, 69-67ot, Dec. 4, 2016 (A)

California 
Head Coach: Lindsay Gottlieb (Seventh season)  
Record at Cal: 194-104
2016-17 Record: 20-14 (NCAA Tournament Second Round) 
Top Returner: Kristine Anigwe, C/F, 6-4, Jr. – 21.0 ppg, 9.3 rpg, .566 FG%, 2.1 bpg
Notes: Cal is expected to return its top two scorers from last season in Kristine Anigwe (21.0 ppg) and Asha Thomas (8.9 ppg). Anigew, the 2016 USBWA National Freshman of the Year, was named Associated Press All-America honorable mention last season ranking top 50 nationally in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocked shots. The Bears lost Courtney Range and K.C. Waters from last year’s squad as Range was third on the team in scoring at 8.8 points per game. 
Series History: 2017 will be the first meeting  

Middle Tennessee 
Head Coach: Rick Insell (13th season)  
Record at Middle Tennessee: 299-96 (.756)
2016-17 Record: 24-9 (WNIT Third Round) 
Top Returner: Alex Johnson, F, 6-0, Jr. – 20.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, .537 FG%, 1.6 apg  
Notes: Middle Tennessee under hall of fame coach, Rick Insell, return a majority of its 2016-17 roster with one major exception in guard Ty Petty, who put together a fantastic four-year career with the Blue Raiders. Petty averaged 18.4 points last season and led the team with 186 assists and 74 steals. MT does return junior Alex Johnson, who led the team with 20.2 points per game and 5.4 rebounds per game. 
Series History: UK leads 15-4
Last Meeting: W, 61-48, Dec. 9, 2016 (H)