UK Hoops Meets S. Carolina in Rupp on Senior Day
vs. South Carolina (14-14, 3-10 SEC)
Sunday, March 2 ? 3:00 p.m.
Lexington, Ky. - Rupp Arena (23,000/10,404)
Radio: Big Blue Sports Network with Neil Price
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The Kentucky women?s basketball team returns to Rupp Arena for the final home game of the regular season when the Wildcats take on South Carolina Sunday, March 2 at 3 p.m. EST.
UK, which will honor four seniors in a special pre-game ceremony, looks to capture the fourth seed and receive a first-round bye in the upcoming Southeastern Conference Tournament and a win over the Gamecocks would solidify that. The game will be carried live on the Big Blue Sports Radio Network with Neil Price.
Free general admission tickets are available for the game. Coupons will be distributed on all pizza boxes ordered through Lexington-area Papa John's stores while supplies last. Fans also can stop in at any Lexington Papa John's to pick up a coupon in person, also while supplies last. Each coupon is good for up to FOUR free general admissions to the game and they should be redeemed at Rupp Arena on game day. Doors open at 2 p.m. EST. Single-game general admission tickets also are available for purchase $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 ticket information, log on to ukathletics.com or call the UK ticket office at 859-257-1818 or 1-800-928-CATS (2287).
Sunday?s game marks the final regular-season home game for seniors Chante? Bowman (Detroit), Chelsea Chowning (Berea, Ky.) and Sarah Elliott (McKee, Ky.), and Samantha Mahoney (Detroit) who along with senior managers Josh Bell and Katie Kaiser will be honored prior to tip-off.
?We are very excited to be honoring our seniors in their final home game,? UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. ?It?s a big day because this is a special class of seniors and we hope we can honor them in a great way and cap off the day with a victory. We are looking forward to playing on Sunday and we have a lot to play for. Our season has been very difficult and I?m proud of the way our team has navigated their way through the SEC schedule. If we can win on Sunday, we?ll be looking at the fourth seed in the SEC tournament. South Carolina is a very good team. They?ve had some trouble with their conference record, but they have played tough in the last four or five games. They are a group that we had trouble with in Columbia and I expect this to be a hard fought game.?
The Wildcats (14-13, 8-5 Southeastern Conference) are currently tied for fourth with Georgia in the league standings but UK won the head-to-head meeting against the Lady Bulldogs. If the Cats win Sunday they will be the No. 4 seed and Georgia will be No. 5. If both Georgia, which meets No. 3 Tennessee in Athens, and Kentucky fall Sunday the same scenario applies. The only way UK will not be the No. 4 seed is if it loses to USC and Georgia upsets the Lady Vols. UGA would then receive the first-round bye and UK would be the No. 5 seed.
A UK win would give the Cats a 9-5 mark in conference play, tying the school-record for most SEC wins since going 9-5 during the 2005-06 season. It also would give UK its 23rd overall and fourth-straight winning season.
?It is an extremely important game, but all of our games have been big games,? Mitchell said. ?We?re trying to stay really focused and win this game. It?s a game that significantly increases our chances of going to the NCAA tournament and if we get nine wins, it?s going to be hard to look at that and turn us down.?
Mahoney, an All-SEC candidate, is UK?s leading scorer, averaging 13.3 points per game (11th in the SEC), including 12.1 in SEC play. Elliott, also an All-SEC nominee, follows with 10.9 points and is tied as the team?s leading rebounder with 6.4 boards per game. Currently, Mahoney ranks fifth on UK?s all-time scoring list with 1,511 points and needs 52 more tie Sara Potts at No. 4 with 1,563. Elliott ranks No. 9 on the career chart with 1,456 points. She needs 26 more to tie Stacey Reed at No. 8. Elliott also has pulled down 778 rebounds in her four-year career, a mark that ranks fifth on UK?s all-time list. She is just seven rebounds shy of moving up to No. 4 on the list with Debra Oden (1976-80 -785).
UK leads the series 26-14, including a 14-4 advantage in Lexington. This is the first meeting against the Gamecocks in Rupp Arena but the teams? second meeting this season. Kentucky defeated USC in Columbia on Jan. 24, 66-62. The last four meetings against the Gamecocks have been decided by 10 points or less. UK went 3-1 in those close calls.
South Carolina (14-14 overall, 3-10 SEC) is coming off a 55-41 loss to Georgia in its last game. Junior guard Brionna Dickerson was the only player in double-figures with 11 points. Senior Ilona Burgrova followed with eight. Jordan Jones leads the team in scoring, averaging 12.1 points per game. Demetress Adams and Dickerson follow with 11.0 and 10.0 ppg, respectively.
Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
?We are very excited to be honoring our seniors in their last and final home game. It?s a big day because this is a special class of seniors and we hope we can honor them in a great way and cap off the day with a victory. We are looking forward to playing on Sunday and we have a lot to play for. Our season has been very difficult and I?m proud of the way our team has navigated their way through the SEC schedule. If we can win on Sunday, we?ll be looking at the fourth seed in the SEC tournament. South Carolina is a very good team. They?ve had some trouble with their conference record, but they have played tough in the last four or five games. They are a group that we had trouble with in Columbia and I expect this to be a hard fought game.?
On the emotion of senior day?
?It?s a possibility that I?ll cry, because I?ve been known to cry before. I am expecting us to continue playing and to have more games in the SEC tournament. If we can do well on Sunday, then we?ll have more games to play. When I get emotional is when things are final and the finality of the moment comes over me. That?s with every team I?ve been associated with and coached. I?m going to be happy to see everyone and I think it will be a joyous celebration.?
On the impact of the four seniors?
?At the time, we knew that the way to get the program jumpstarted was with players. If we didn?t get a certain level of basketball player, it was going to put us behind. We needed a special group to come in as freshmen, who knew they were going to have to produce. All of these players were gravitating to that type of program and wanted to do something like that. Chante? Bowman, Sarah Elliot and Samantha Mahoney had opportunities to go to much more established programs and but they came to Kentucky. That was crucial for us because we needed those players to get us going and they got the program jump started. I was in the SEC four years prior to these seniors coming to Kentucky and I know the things that were happening at Kentucky. It?s a very different program now and that?s what we needed to do. We needed to change the culture and change the expectation level, and all of those things have happened. A lot of people will be disappointed if we don?t get into the NCAA tournament, but before we got here, that expectation wasn?t even realistic. That shows that they have made a significant impact.?
On the importance of Sunday?s game?
?It is an extremely important game, but all of our games have been big games. If we hadn?t won eight games before now, getting the ninth win now wouldn?t matter. We?re trying to stay really focused and win this game. It?s a game that significantly increases our chances of going to the tournament and if we get nine wins, it?s going to be hard to look at that and turn us down.?
On the team receiving recognition?
?I think it?s important for me to educate people on where this team has been and what we have evolved into. I want people to know what has happened because it is a significant part of our record. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Sarah Elliott began to practice harder, Sam Mahoney has become a more vocal leader, Chante? Bowman has accepted her role, and Chelsea Chowning has done whatever it takes to win.?