UK Hoops Opens SEC Slate at No. 7/11 Tennessee

Jan. 7, 2009

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky women’s basketball team opens Southeastern Conference play Thursday, Jan. 8 when it travels to Knoxville, Tenn., to take on No. 7/11 Tennessee in Thompson-Boling Arena. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Radio Network with Neil Price.

The Wildcats (10-5) have won six of their last nine league-opening games, including a thrilling 60-58 win over Florida last season.

“It is SEC time again and we have a great opportunity in front of us to compete in this great conference,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We know that the non-conference portion of the schedule was to prepare us for SEC play and I feel good heading into conference play. Tennessee is a tremendous challenge. They are playing very well and are a very talented team. It will be important for us to go down there and play well, give a great effort and execute well and we will have to work really hard to go down there and beat them.”

The Cats concluded non-conference play with a 10-5 record, a vast improvement from last year's 6-8 mark heading into league play. UK is in the midst of a five-game winning streak, the longest since winning eight in a row during the 2006-07 season.

Three players are averaging double-figures in the Wildcats’ balanced scoring attack this season. Sophomore forward Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.), the reigning SEC Player of the Week, leads the team with 12.4 points per game while senior center Eleia Roddy (Columbus, Ohio) follows close behind with 11.5 ppg. Junior guard Amani Franklin (Stone Mountain, Ga.) averages 10.6 ppg and shoots a team-high 88.6 percent from the free-throw line. Roddy continues to dominate the boards, swiping 9.1 rebounds per game. She currently ranks second in the SEC in rebounding and leads the league and ranks tied for seventh nationally in double-doubles with eight, including seven in a row.

Tennessee is 11-2 and also is riding a five-game winning streak after pulling off the program’s biggest comeback in school history on Saturday. The Lady Vols rallied from a 20-point halftime deficit to stun then-No. 15 Rutgers. Tennessee’s only losses this season have come at the hands of then-No. 5 Texas and then-No. 11 Virginia. Despite losing consensus National Player of the Year Candace Parker to the WNBA, the Lady Vols are 2-2 against the top 25 this season.

The Lady Vols are young as seven of their 12 players are freshmen. Sophomore guard/forward Angie Bjorklund, freshman guard/forward Shekinna Stricklen and freshman forward Glory Johnson all average more than 13 points per game. Sophomore forward/center Vicki Baugh leads the SEC in rebounding with 9.7 boards per game, but missed the last game with a knee injury and is listed as day-to-day.

“They are young but still have a lot of athleticism on the floor and a lot of height and speed as well,” Mitchell said. “They are a tremendous rebounding team and are leading the league in offensive rebounds and that plays a huge part of their offense. They put a lot of pressure on you defensive and try to cause a lot of turnovers. Coach Summit has always had a good blueprint for success and they are following that again this year.”

Thursday marks the 50th meeting between the border rivals, the 21st matchup in Knoxville. UK has met UT more times than any other UK rival. UK trails in the all-time series against Tennessee 43-6, including an 18-2 deficit when playing in Knoxville. UT has won the last 13 meetings in Thompson-Boling Arena over the Cats. UK’s last win in Knoxville was Jan. 23, 1985 in the Stokely Athletics Center. UK has never won in Thompson-Boling Arena.

The Cats’ last win over a top-10 SEC team on the road was Feb. 27, 1983 vs. No. 8 Tennessee, 81-69.

UK plays Tennessee twice this season in the final year of the SEC’s two-year rotating schedule. The Lady Vols will travel to Lexington on Thursday, Feb. 19 for UK’s WBCA Pink Zone game. The matchup will be televised on FSN South. The league begins a regular 16-game divisional schedule next season.