UK Hoops Meets South Carolina on Senior Day
Feb. 20, 2010
LEXINGTON, Ky. - The 16 th -ranked Kentucky women's basketball team looks to send out its two seniors, Lydia Watkins and Amani Franklin, in style and doing what only one other team has done in school history - go undefeated at home. The Wildcats will have that chance Sunday, Feb. 21 when they play host to South Carolina in their final regular season home game at 3 p.m. EST. The game will be televised live on FSN (Fox Sports South, Fox Sports Southwest and Sun Sports). It also will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Radio Network with Neil Price and online at UKathletics.com. Seniors Amani Franklin (Stone Mountain, Ga.) and Lydia Watkins (Hopkinsville, Ky.) will be honored during a special pre-game "Senior Day" ceremony in Memorial Coliseum.
Single-game general admission tickets are available for $5 adults/$2 senior citizens and children 6-18. Ages five and under are admitted free. UK students, faculty and staff also are admitted free with valid identification based on availability. For further ticket information, log on to UKathletics.com or call the UK ticket office at 859-257-1818 or 1-800-928-CATS (2287).
Women's basketball parking is available in the following surface lots and parking structures:
- Student Center Lot - off Euclid Ave
- Hardymon Lot - off Rose St.
- MLK Lot - between Lexington Ave and MLK Blvd.
- Handicapped Parking (first come-first served until full) is located in the Northeast corner of the MLK Lot, must have valid state-issued hang tag
- Good Samaritan surface Lot - accessible off MLK Blvd
- Parking Structure #5 - entrances off Limestone and S. Upper
- LR Cook Lot - located on the corner of MLK and High Street, across the street from Calvary Baptist Church
- Doors to the 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 event lots (i.e. Student Center, Hardymon, MLK and Good Samaritan) typically reach capacity approximately 45 minutes prior to game day, at which point, vehicles should proceed to Parking Structure #5 (PS#5).
- The PS #5 shuttle will begin one hour prior to tip and end one hour post-game. The PS #5 shuttle picks up on Administration Drive, accessible via the sky bridge located on the 3 rd Floor of PS#5.
The Wildcats are 16-0 in "the House that Rupp Built" this season and are riding a 17-game overall home winning streak which ties with Nebraska for the 10th-longest home win streak in the nation. The last UK team to go undefeated at home was in 1980-81 at 15-0.
"Our two seniors are players that I have very strong feelings for because of how they have conducted their journey here at Kentucky," UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "Amani (Franklin) and Lydia (Watkins) both have overcome a lot of obstacles both on and off the court, and for them to have the chance to finish out their senior season undefeated at home is extremely special. I am motivated as a coach, our assistants are motivated as coaches, I want our team, to be motivated to put everything they have in this game, and to try to finish off what would be an incredibly special home season. If our fans could turn out for this one, I would be especially appreciative because of the two young women we will be honoring. I think they deserve a great crowd out there on Sunday."
UK also looks to continue its winning momentum after a thrilling 77-51 victory over Florida on Thursday. An unlikely duo of role players in Keyla Snowden (Lexington, Ky.) and Watkins led the charge, scoring 21 and 19 points, respectively. Snowden came off the bench to nail all five of her three-point attempts while Watkins scored all 19 of her points in the decisive second half. The victory gave the Cats their school-record 10th Southeastern Conference win.
Despite being picked to finish 11th in the preseason polls, Mitchell has led the Wildcats to a remarkable No. 2 spot in the SEC standings with a 10-3 mark. Overall, UK has posted a 22-4 overall record and the Cats are just one win away from tying the school record for the most regular-season wins in school history. The 1982-83 and 1979-80 teams also won 23 games.
The Gamecocks are 13-12 overall, 6-7 in league play after dropping their last two home games. USC won the earlier meeting against UK in Columbia, 79-71.
"We will need to put everything we have into the game because South Carolina really took it to us in Columbia," Mitchell said. "It was one of our toughest games of the year. They played terrific and really took us out of a lot of things we wanted to do defensively, so we will have to play great and rebound the ball with a lot of toughness and be prepared for an extremely talented team, so it will be a tall task Sunday.
South Carolina has two of the league's top performers in both scoring and rebounding. Long Island transfer and junior guard Valerie Nainima leads the team and ranks fifth in the SEC in scoring, averaging 17.5 points per game. Freshman center Kelsey Bone leads the SEC and ranks in the top 40 nationally in rebounding, averaging 9.6 per game.
Leading the Wildcats' charge is SEC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year candidate Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.). She is the only player in the SEC to rank in the top four in scoring and rebounding (all games). She also leads the SEC in steals (3.2), ranks fifth in blocks (2.0) and is seventh in field goal percentage (.516).
A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) continues to prove why she should be in discussions for SEC Freshman of the Year. Over the last five games the rookie guard is averaging a team-high-tying 17.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game in helping lead the Wildcats to their record-breaking season. She has scored in double figures in 19 of 26 games, including nine of 13 SEC contests. Mathies has swiped 66 steals this season and is just three shy from tying UK's freshman steals record. Stacey Reed set the record of 69 during her rookie season in 1991-92.
Sunday will mark the 44th meeting in the all-time series vs. South Carolina. UK owns a 26-17 lead overall, owns a 15-5 advantage when the game is in Lexington.
Head Coach Matthew Mitchell Pregame Quotes
"Our two seniors are players that I have very strong feeling for because of how they have conducted their journey here at Kentucky. Amani (Franklin) and Lydia (Watkins) both have overcome a lot of obstacles both on and off the court, and for them to have the chance to finish out their senior season undefeated at home is extremely special. I am motivated as a coach, our assistants are motivated as coaches, I want our team, to be motivated to put everything they have in this game, and to try to finish off what would be an incredibly special home season. We want to win very badly Sunday, and we will need to put everything we have into it because South Carolina really took it to us in Columbia; it was one of our toughest games of the year, they played terrific and really took us out of a lot of things we wanted to do defensively, so we will have to play great and rebound the ball with a lot of toughness and be prepared for an extremely talented team, so it will be a tall task Sunday. If our fans could turn out for this one, I would be especially appreciative because of the two young women we will be honoring. I think they deserve a great crowd out there on Sunday."
On all the emotion on senior day, and if it might interfere with the execution of the actual game on Sunday...
"There is just no way around it. We have a tradition here of honoring our seniors. It is a wonderful tradition, I don't think anybody does it better, it is a special day, and our team has to handle that. My feeling is that we are trying to develop these players into productive people. If you face a challenge, you need to do that head on. We talked about moving the ceremony to behind the game or doing away with it. No, that is not what we are going to do. We are going to work hard to handle it correctly. What we need to be able to do is to understand that it is a wonderful time to honor these players who have worked really hard. The best way to honor them is to go out and play really hard and execute. I am optimistic that we will be able to do that. We are not concerned about it, and we will work as hard as we can to handle it successfully."
On if South Carolina is a bad matchup for Kentucky physically...
"It could be, and I remember thinking the first time we played them that this is a bad matchup for us. Sometimes your eyes deceive you a little bit during the game and then you can go back and watch the film and see it a little bit better. They are a tough matchup, but I thought they did some things that we didn't handle well, but if we do handle them better this time, it is not an impossible matchup. I think Kelsey Bone is a bad matchup for a lot of people because she is one of the best players in the country and is very talented. You have to account for her. We didn't do a very good job of helping the player guarding her down in Columbia. It is a tough matchup but not an impossible matchup. We will have to play well."
On if it is safe to say that great defensive play will be needed out of Lydia (Watkins) again...
"Yes, it will be hard one on one if we just put Victoria (Dunlap) and Kelsey Bone down low under the basket and the game was just throw it to her, and see if `Vic'can guard her. That is tough to do, so you have to do a good job. One thing we need to do better is ball pressure. It is a hallmark of our defense, and our premise there is if the ball handler cannot see the person open, then obviously they cannot get the pass in there. We didn't have very good pressure on the ball, and they could lob the ball over the top to her (Bone) and everyone has to work hard to try to defend her."
On the seniors not practicing at times because of various injuries, and if it has affected their ability to follow through the game plan...
"What I have found out about both of them is that it is really more about physically where they are relating to their various ailments. Amani (Franklin) has a knee that is a constant problem for her, which limits her practice time. When that feels pretty good, she plays pretty good. I found out this morning that she was in a lot of pain last night; you saw she didn't play great last night. She has had some monster games for us and we wouldn't be where we are had she not played. Lydia (Watkins) before last night had a bad back and knees, and I was excited about her yesterday because she always tells me that we have a dynamic stretch that is pretty intense the way we get loose for practice. She was stretching and she told me she was going to have a good day because she could do the stretches. It was great that she was feeling good last night, which is why I was mad at her at halftime because she should have been playing better because she wasn't feeling bad. It is their physical limitations that I worry about. They are both intelligent basketball players, and they can absorb the scouting. Amani (Franklin) doesn't practice on Tuesdays and Fridays. Those are days we are implementing the plan. We will do the best we can to get them feeling good for Sunday. It is deep in to the season. I think the week after the SEC tournament will do wonders for this team. I think this team will probably benefit from it more than most. Until then we have to do a good job. Our trainer Courtney Jones is fantastic and she will be very attentive to their needs. We will see how they feel on Sunday, and that is why I will be talking to the team to make sure we do our very best to send our players out with a win on Sunday. I want it badly for Amani (Franklin) and Lydia (Watkins) to be able to say that they did not lose at home at all their senior year and that will say a lot for us."