No. 15 Kentucky Hosts No. 24 Missouri Thursday on Senior Night

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Looking to extend a four-game winning streak in Southeastern Conference action, the No. 15 University of Kentucky women’s basketball team will honor lone senior Janee Thompson on Senior Night as the Wildcats play host to No. 24 Missouri on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET in Memorial Coliseum.   

The Kentucky program will honor Thompson prior to the game for her hard work and dedication to the UK program the past four seasons. Thompson has played in 111 career games with 74 career starts with Kentucky, collecting a 99-31 record with her on the roster the past few seasons. The native of Chicago saved her best season for last, averaging 12.2 points per game this year with career highs in field-goal percentage, 3-point field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage and assists. Entering her senior season, Thompson had hit 36 career 3-pointers, while she has hit 43 already this season alone, adding a team-best 128 assists to rank top 50 nationally in assists per game.

The game will be available on the SEC Network+ with Jeff Piecoro and Christi Thomas calling the action. The game can be seen through WatchESPN on computers, smartphones or tablets. The SEC Network will show parts of all seven conference games played on Thursday as part of the SEC Network Whip Around Coverage. 

Now in his 11th season, Neil Price will have the call on the UK Sports Network. Fans in Lexington can hear Price’s call on 630AM. Live stats and free audio will be available online at ukathletics.com. 

Single-game tickets are $9 for all ages, while adult general admission single-game tickets are $8. For those aged 6-18 or 65-and-over, general admission costs are $5 per ticket. Children age five-and-under are admitted free in the general admission seating area, and UK students, faculty and staff are admitted free with valid identification. Tickets are available online at ukhoopstix.com, while parking and other information is available at ukathleticsgameday.com/hoops. 

Gameday Central

#15 Kentucky vs. #24 Missouri
Thursday, Feb. 25 - 7 p.m. ET
Lexington, Ky. - Memorial Coliseum
Game Notes: UK | MU

Coverage

SEC Network+
Radio: UK Sports Radio Network (630AM in Lexington)
Game Center (free audio, live stats)
Twitter
Text Updates

Thursday’s game will be a Student Fandemonium as students in attendance have a chance to win numerous prizes, including a 60-inch Vizio Smart TV, Apple TV, Beats wireless headphones, mountain bike and fitbit, Xbox Elite with controller and two games, Apple watch, GoPro with waterproof case, and mini iPad. 

Students should enter Memorial Coliseum on Thursday through any entrance and present a valid UK student ID for free admission and will be given a number card. Students are asked to sit in section S rows 7-16 or upper level general admission. At each media timeout during the game, a winning number will be posted on the video board and winners can bring their winning number card to the UK marketing gazebo on the Lexington Avenue side of the arena to claim their prize at the end of the game. 

Kentucky (19-6, 8-6 SEC) enters the game on a four-game winning streak, posting double-digit wins over LSU, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Arkansas. During the stretch, Kentucky is shooting 48.1% from the floor, including 37.5% from 3, and scoring 75.2 points per game. The Wildcats are averaging 15.3 assists per game during that stretch, while forcing opponents into 15.8 turnovers per game in the four games. 

Overall, Kentucky ranks 14th in the nation and second in the SEC in field goal percentage at 46.1%, while the Wildcats rank 35th in the nation and second in the SEC scoring 74.2 points per game. Kentucky is hitting 36.8% from the 3-point line, ranking 14th in the nation and first in the SEC in that category. 

Junior guard Makayla Epps leads the team in scoring with 16.5 points per game, adding 4.9 rebounds per game, 4.6 assists per game and 30 steals. Thompson is second on the team in scoring and leads Kentucky in 3-point field goals made, while junior Evelyn Akhator is averaging 11.4 points per game with 9.1 rebounds per game. Sophomore post Alexis Jennings is averaging 10.0 points per game with 6.9 rebounds per game, adding 21 blocks. 

Missouri will enter Memorial Coliseum with a 21-6 record, with all six losses coming within SEC play. Like the Wildcats, the Tigers did not lose a single game during their nonconference schedule and started the season with a 13-0 run before being upended by then-No. 12 Tennessee on Jan. 4, 71-55.

Also like Kentucky, Missouri is currently on a winning streak heading into Thursday’s contest. Mizzou took down Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn, with its last loss coming against then-No. 11 Mississippi State on Feb. 7.  

The Tigers are led in scoring by Sophie Cunningham and Jordan Frericks, who average 13.3 and 12.4 points, respectively. Frericks also paces the team in rebounds per game, with 7.8, and has recorded the most steals on the team with 36 and the second-most blocks with 20.

As a team, Missouri has been shooting at a .438 clip this year, including hitting 32.4% of shots from beyond the arc. The Tigers average 69.9 points per game and allow just 57.6 ppg from their opponents, while holding opposing teams to 35.4% from the field.

Kentucky has a short history with Missouri since the Tigers joined the Southeastern Conference in 2012, squaring off just five times in the history of the two programs. UK leads the all-time series 4-1, including a flawless 3-0 record since Mizzou joined the SEC. The Wildcats lead the all-time series in games played in Lexington, 2-0. Matthew Mitchell is 3-0 in his tenure at Kentucky against Missouri.

Last year, Kentucky defeated Missouri 83-69 in Columbia in the lone meeting between the two teams. Five Wildcats scored in double figures in the game, including 18 points and 10 rebounds from Epps, while Jennings had 10 points and six rebounds. UK forced Missouri into 22 turnovers and scored 23 points off those miscues. 

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

Spectator parking is located in the following areas:
  • All E-lots surrounding Memorial Coliseum are off control beginning 3 hours prior to tip.  This includes the College of Education E-lots, located off Scott Street.
  • The South Limestone Garage (PS#5, adjacent to Kennedy's Bookstore) and the Rose Street Garage (PS#2) are available 2 hours prior to tip-off. 
  • Lexington Authority Transit Center Parking Garage is available after 5 p.m. ET on weekdays and all day on weekends.
  • When parking in the Transit Center, pull a yellow token from the dispenser and keep in your vehicle.  See the event staff attendant at the entrance near Lexington Avenue/High Street to receive a free parking voucher before the game.  When exiting the garage after the game, place your yellow token in the machine, then scan the barcode on your free parking voucher to exit.
  • Disabled parking is available in the E-Lot (Employee Lot) north of the Joe Craft Center, adjacent to the metered spaces running along the front of the Craft Center with a valid, state issued disabled hang tag.  These spaces are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis until full.
Please note: parking is prohibited in any R-lots (Residential). Vehicles parked in Residential lots without a proper permit, along yellow curbs, grass spaces, or other non-specified and unapproved areas may be subject to ticket and/or tow.

Shuttle Information:
  • Free shuttle services are available beginning 2 hours prior to tip off from the South Limestone Garage located off Limestone and Upper Street and the Transit Center Parking Garage located off High Street and Vine Street.
  • The Parking Structure #5 shuttle (blue route) picks up/drops off on Administration Drive, at the end of the pedestrian sky bridge accessed from the 3rd floor of the parking garage.  The pickup/drop off point near Memorial Coliseum is at the Euclid entrance.  
  • Transit Center Parking Garage (green route) picks up/drops off near the corner of High Street and Martin Luther King.  The pickup/drop off point near Memorial Coliseum is near the Ticket Office at the Lexington Avenue entrance. 
  • Shuttles will start back up at halftime and continue until 1 hour post-game to return guests to their parking areas.
Game day Information:
  • Doors to Memorial Coliseum will open one (1) hour prior to tip-off.
  • UK Athletics encourages women's basketball fans to arrive early to ease traffic and parking congestion around the Coliseum.
  • Surface lots (i.e. Joe Craft Center North, Rose Street lot and the Alumni Center lot) reach capacity approximately 1.5 hours prior to tip-off, at which point vehicles should proceed directly to the South Limestone Garage (PS#5), Rose Street Garage (PS#2), the E-lots near the College of Education or the Lexington Authority Transit Center Parking Garage near High Street and Lexington Avenue.
For more information on parking around Memorial Coliseum and other game-day questions visit ukathleticsgameday.com/hoops.

Head Coach Matthew Mitchell Pre-Missouri News Conference 

Opening statement…
“Well, tough game ahead of us and a tough opponent. Missouri is just a fantastic basketball team. They really, really play hard and have a lot of offensive weapons. They play really tough defense and it will be a tremendous challenge for our team and we are excited to play and it will be a big game for us. I am really looking forward to seeing how we play. Tomorrow night is important for our team. It is always an important night when we honor our seniors and this year it is one person who have been very, very special to the program and very special to me personally. We have grown a lot together and worked hard to help Janee (Thompson) be successful and Janee has worked hard to make sure that her career has been a success. I am so proud of the person that she has grown into and the person she has become. This has been a really special experience up to this point and we have a lot left to accomplish together. Tomorrow night will be great to honor her and I hope we have a good crowd. We certainly should because she has given a lot to the program and she deserves a great senior night. I would ask everybody to get here early and come to honor a really special person and special player at Kentucky. I know she is going to have a great night tomorrow night.”

On if he expects Thompson to play on a sore ankle …
“I do.”

On describing Thompson as a “tough cookie” …
“Well, she is just really determined and there is a stubborn streak in her that was not always great at times younger in her career, but I think if you can channel that the right way into determination, it can be a good thing and I think that is what she has done while she has been here. She is a very determined young woman and wants to be successful. She has worked hard at the changes that I have asked her to make as a player, person and individual in an effort to try to get her to grow and she has really worked hard at it. It hasn’t always been easy, but a relationship like I have with Janee is particularly gratifying when you butt heads so many times and it seems like you are just spinning your wheels and not going anywhere and then you get out on the other side and you see that it has been worth all the work. She is really special to me. We had some real rocky times and I have a lot of respect for where she has ended up. She has been terrific this season and again, when you have had a lot of success in your career and it starts to go south your senior year, I admire someone who can say, ‘You know, I am going to do everything that I can for the team.’ It wasn’t going that great at times for us in the SEC, especially that start that we got off to. She and I had a meeting about what we needed to do and she has just been a tremendous leader for us and she has made all corrections I have asked her to make. I just really admire where she is and where she ended up and we are going to have a great end to this season, I really believe, because of her leadership.” 

On Thompson being a leader for the team … 
“Yeah, she is very determined. There is a part of her that sort of wants to do it herself and kind of have it all work out the way she wants it to work out, and that is really difficult when you are on a team. That is where I am most proud of her, she has made changes that benefited all of us and she has accepted coaching that has benefited all of us. And maybe it wasn’t exactly how she saw it or what she agreed with. That is leadership. When you sacrifice self for the team and you make decisions that are better for everybody else but aren’t comfortable for you, to me that is heading in the right direction and being a leader. I am quite certain that she hasn’t always seen what I saw. She had to step out there and trust that what we needed to do was the correct path, even though it might not look like that was going to be the correct path. I am just really proud of her leadership. It has been significant for a team that was weakened by the defections at the time, but now I think we are out on the other side stronger because of everything that we have gone through and know that there is no way we would be here without her leadership.”

On the team’s goals the rest of the season …
“You know, we are trying to get better today. I know that is probably not really exciting to anybody, but that is what we are trying to do. We are trying to get better today. It is going to be a huge, huge test Thursday night. The way they are constructed is that they can put everybody out on the perimeter and everybody can drive the ball and everybody is really aggressive and scrappy and plays really hard both offensively and defensively. Those have been games that have been difficult. What I told them is the opportunity Thursday night – if we find a way to win Thursday night we will absolutely show our improvement because this is the type of team that is difficult for us from a matchup standpoint. We will really have to play hard and try hard and be sharp defensively and hustle physically. The expectation that I have is that we are going to go to work today with a great attitude and great effort and try to get better. We watch film every day with the team and they are getting better. We are working hard at it. I don’t know if it will show up Thursday night because this is a hard game for us, but our team is becoming a team and working hard for each other. But this will be a great opportunity for them Thursday night.”

On what significant improvements the team has made …
“One, just hustle and effort and understanding how hard you have to play. If you go back and watch the film and when we blew the 17-point lead at Auburn it was just that people weren’t hustling, people weren’t locked in. The Ole Miss game, Ole Miss just played harder than we played and outplayed us and wanted it more. We just had people that didn’t answer the challenge. Vandy was a two-point game, Florida was a one-possession game at the end. You just watch the film and the effort wasn’t there, the focus wasn’t there, the attention to detail wasn’t there. That is all the stuff that has improved. Before I came to visit with you we were going over the clips that I was going to show them today before practice and it’s a lot of people hustling, energy in their feet, moving, hustling on close outs and things like that. We just weren’t defending for a very high level from a team aspect or from an individual aspect. It just didn’t look very good and we suffered some defeats because of that. So the last four games we haven’t been perfect by any stretch, but we have hustled much better. And you can start to see even if somebody messes up, two people haven’t messed up. For instance, Makayla (Epps) misses a charge against Arkansas, but Taylor (Murray) recovered down and is where she was supposed to be if Makayla had done what she was supposed to do. So it wasn’t good for Makayla, but it was good for Taylor. It is those little things when they start to come together. And we have more possessions now on defense when people do what they are supposed to do and that is where I am seeing the greatest amount of improvement.” 

Senior Guard Janee Thompson on Senior Night 

On how her ankle is feeling … 
“It’s doing well. It is a lot better. I am just trying to get it healthy.” 

On if it is similar to the ankle sprain she had earlier in the season …
“It is pretty similar. I am just getting a lot of treatment and trying to get it healthy and I plan on being out there tomorrow. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

On how tired she is of talking about injuries …
“I don’t know. I guess I should be happy that people are concerned about my well-being and health. I keep spraining my ankle, so people are going to talk about it. It doesn’t bother me, it is what it is. I am just trying to stay healthy as long as I can.” 

On her overall experience at Kentucky …
“Yeah, it is a crazy feeling that it is almost over. I literally feel like I just got here and it goes by so fast. You don’t realize when you are a freshman and the seniors are taking care of you how fast it goes by. I can’t believe that I am sitting here talking about it. The girls that I have experienced it with the past few years have been tremendous. I have had some life-changing experiences. I can’t think this program, this university and my coaches and teammates enough because they have helped shape me into the woman I am becoming and the person that I still want to become in the future. It has been great. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” 
 
On her growth since that huge game against UofL her freshman season …
“I think I have just grown up. You know, coming into college it was really hard and he really challenged me and pushed me really hard. He made it uncomfortable and I didn’t like it at times. I had to grow up and open my eyes and see what it was he was trying to do for me. He was just trying to make me a better player and a better person. When you can come through adverse times better on the other side, it is always great. Like I said, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have grown up and really grown as a person and hopefully I can leave something for the younger players that are here now that they will be able to take with them and share to the next players that are going to come in.” 

On who she is going to have with her on Senior Night …
“You want the list? (laughter) I have a lot of family and relatives that are coming in, I am really excited about that. My grandfather is here and has been here since Sunday, so that is pretty cool because I haven’t seen him in a long time. My mother, of course, grandmother, father, brother, but I have about 30 people coming so I will have a big fan section. A lot of people are trying to see me before I get out of college, so this is a good opportunity.” 

On how much the team has talked about making sure this is not her last game in Memorial or in Lexington …
“You know, we hope it’s not. Our plan is to win all the rest of our games because it will put us in a good position. We want to win out the rest of the regular season, we think that will get us a good seeding in the SEC Tournament and that will be great for us. We want to make a good run in that tournament and we think we can win it. We have been working on the right things to get better and win that tournament and winning that will put us in an even better position in the NCAA Tournament. So it is not even about it, it will be fun, but I am more worried about my team and my teammates and where we are going and the direction we are headed in.” 

On if the team is playing some of their best basketball right now …
“Definitely, I think we have stepped up in the leadership department and have been trying to set a good example and lead with our actions first and not just with what we are saying. I think we are starting to figure it out. I think we are starting to figure out the mistakes that we are making and starting to adjust on our own without him having to tell us all the time, which is really good. I think we are working on the right things, I really do. Our game plans have been solid and you can see when we execute them how well things go for us. We have been playing hard and working hard in practice and I hope we can keep it going.” 

On how difficult it was to transition into a leader … 
“It wasn’t that difficult, no, because as a point guard that is something that comes with the territory. People expect point guards to lead and that was something that Coach Mitchell was trying to get me to do as a freshman, but there was a lot of older people and I didn’t think that was something I should be doing. After my freshman year, I kind of eased into that role and took more and more leadership as veteran players left. It wasn’t that hard for me after my freshman year.” 

On if she will cry tomorrow … 
“I won’t say no. I am not much of a crier, but I don’t know, there are people that can get me emotional and sentimental. I will probably say I will, if I’m being honest. Maybe if I say I will, then I won’t cry.” 

On a highlight of her UK career so far …
“You know, one of the most memorable moments in my career that I know I will never forget is last year’s Senior Night when we played South Carolina. It had nothing to do with me really, I didn’t play one minute in that game, but it was just a really special moment for those girls. They are still like my sisters and I just felt really good about the way we were able to send them out on their Senior Night so hopefully we can do the same tomorrow.”