UK Faces First-time Foe Notre Dame in Annual 'Pack the House' Game
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 9/10 Kentucky women’s basketball team puts its 19-game home winning streak on the line Sunday when it plays host to first-time opponent and 12th-ranked Notre Dame in the Wildcats’ annual “Pack the House” game at 1 p.m. EST. The contest will be televised live on the Big Blue Sports Network and FSN South. It also will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Radio Network with Neil Price and online at UKathletics.com.
Season and single-game tickets are on sale now. Season tickets in the upper level chair backs, lower level bleachers and general admission season ticket areas are only $45. Lower level chair backs are $60 for the season. Single-game reserved seats are $7 (regardless of age) while general admission tickets are $7 for adults and $4 for youth/seniors. UK students, faculty and staff are admitted free with valid identification. To purchase tickets, visit the Joe Craft Center in person, call 1-800-928-2287 or go online at UKathletics.com.
The Fighting Irish (2-1) are the highest ranked nonconference opponent to meet the Wildcats in Lexington since 13th-ranked North Carolina visited Rupp Arena on Nov. 25, 2003. UK has another challenge on its hands as it looks to extend its 19-game home winning streak and chart its first win over a ranked nonconference opponent at home since defeating No. 18 Western Kentucky in Memorial Coliseum in 1997.
“We have a tremendous opportunity in front of us on Sunday to find out where our basketball team is and where we have progressed to this point,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “This clearly will be our biggest challenge so far. Notre Dame has a very fine program and very good team this year. For us to go up against them at this time of the year will tell us a lot about where we are. We are looking forward to it. We would love to have a big crowd and Memorial Coliseum rocking on Sunday afternoon. I think that could help us in the tremendous test that we will face.”
The Wildcats are 2-0 for the second consecutive season after wins over Morehead State and Miami (Ohio). UK defeated the Eagles 82-48 in its home opener Nov. 12 and downed the RedHawks 84-71 on the road Sunday. Reigning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) and SEC Freshman of the Year A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) have picked up where they left off last season as the duo leads the team in scoring, each averaging 17.0 points per game. Dunlap also paces the Cats in rebounds (9.0 rebounds per game), blocks (3.5 bpg) and steals (5.5 spg).
UK's tenacious defense is once again its bread and butter as the Cats are forcing an impressive 32.0 turnovers per game while charting 15.0 steals per game. The Cats lead the SEC in steals (15.0 spg), turnover margin (plus-16.0) and are tied for the lead in blocks (8.0 bpg).
Notre Dame looks to get back on the winning track after falling in a heartbreaker to No. 15 UCLA on Thursday at home in double overtime. Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins led Notre Dame with 22 points while Lexington native and former Lexington Catholic High School standout Natalie Novosel added 19.
This marks the first meeting between Kentucky and Notre Dame in women’s basketball. UK is 68-30 all-time vs. teams from the current alignment of the Big East Conference and has won two straight over Big East teams after victories over Louisville and Cincinnati last season.
Women's basketball parking is available in the following surface lots and parking structures:
- Student Center Lot - off Euclid Ave
- MLK South Lot - between Lexington Ave and Martin Luther King Boulevard and south (towards Euclid) of the center drive lane. DO NOT PARK IN NORTH MLK LOT (closest to Wildcat Lodge) AS THIS IS A RESIDENTIAL LOT AND SUBJECT TO TICKET/TOW.
- Handicapped parking (first come, first served until full) is located in the northeast corner of the MLK South Lot; must have valid state-issued hang tag.
- Joe Craft Center North E-Lot - large lot located north of the Joe Craft Center and accessible via Lexington Avenue or Rose Street.
- Good Samaritan surface Lot - accessible off Martin Luther King Boulevard.
- Parking Structure #5 - entrances off Limestone and S. Upper.
- Doors to the Coliseum will open one hour prior to tipoff.
- 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 tipoff, at which point, vehicles should proceed to Parking Structure #5.
- The parking structure shuttle will begin one hour prior to tip and end one hour postgame. The shuttle picks up on Administration Drive, accessible via the sky bridge located on the third floor of Parking Structure #5.
Coach Matthew Mitchell Pre-Notre Dame Press Conference
Opening statement …
“We have a tremendous opportunity in front of us on Sunday to find out where our basketball team is and where we have progressed to this point. This clearly will be our biggest challenge so far. Notre Dame has a very fine program and very good team this year. For us to go up against them at this time of the year will tell us a lot about where we are. We are looking forward to it. We would love to have a big crowd and have Memorial Coliseum rocking on Sunday afternoon. I think that could help us in the tremendous test we’re going to face.”
On Samantha Drake and Keyla Snowden ’s injuries …
“Both of them are day-to-day. We will see what happens in practice but I don’t think Samantha Drake will practice today. It was very good news with both of their MRI’s because there was no ligament damage on either of them and so now it’s just when they can tolerate the pain. It will be a process. It will be day-to-day on both of those kids. A patella bruise was the official medical diagnosis on Samantha’s injury.”
On the offense being a focus in practice this week …
“It has been a focus this week. We made a lot of progress, but not as much as I had wanted. And that’s just where we are right now. As we go into this game we really need to focus on what we are capable of doing and I really don’t know if offensively we are at the point where we can really out-execute somebody, so I don’t know how that is going to play out in the game on Sunday. We have made progress though. It just moves so much slower with half of your available players being freshmen. They are all really good players and they all contribute and so it’s not like you can put a few off to the side and get ready for the game. You are preparing everyone for the game. If it comes down to offensive execution on Sunday, I don’t know where we will be with that. We need to really hustle and really fight hard. I know our players will do that because they’ve done great with that all week. Hopefully the game is more about that than real solid execution because I think Notre Dame would clearly have the advantage with their experience.”
On Notre Dame’s offense …
“They present such a challenge because they not only have experience at the point guard position, but a high level of talent. Skylar Diggins is a world-class athlete. I don’t know where she is in all the rankings and things like that, all I know is when I put on the film of her, she jumps out at you. Everybody in the country recruited her; everybody wanted her to come play for them. She was the crème of the crop for her year coming out of high school. She had a great freshman year and so they have a high level of talent at point guard. They can score, they can get people involved, and they can defend so that starts our concern because she can really run her team. Also, there is a lot of talent out there. They have good shooting, good size and good execution. They run their stuff through two games a lot better than Kentucky runs their stuff to this point. So, yes there is a big concern and our biggest challenge yet. We will have to play really well to beat Notre Dame.”
On Maegan Conwright’s versatility …
“She has been very valuable. You have the possibility of going in to this game against a highly ranked opponent possibly missing two starters and you still feel like you have a chance. That is a credit to our players and how hard they have worked and how hard they have prepared. I don’t know how things will turn out on Sunday, but I know that the kids are going to go in there and fight hard, and Maegan is a great example. Maegan is a great example because she is going to play hard and maybe get some steals and maybe get a few rebounds and I know she is going to go to the bucket.”
On Coach Mitchell’s recruiting targets …
“We love that a kid can play almost every position. We love that. For whatever reason, our first two or three recruiting classes, the kids that were drawn to Kentucky were that type of player. Even the taller players are versatile. It helps that kids like Maegan, who are so strong and quick, can get in there and fight in the post. If you get switched off or something like that, you can at least have a chance. Our two and our three (positions) are so interchangeable. Everybody gets multiple reps.”
On if players who can play multiple positions thrive in this system …
“I had very traditional view on recruiting when I got here four years ago. I wanted to sign a great five, I wanted to sign a great four and I had the list out and all these things. That’s the approach we were taking. For whatever reason, we were lacking some passion in different places so my idea of who we wanted here started to evolve. This is a great place to come play basketball and it’s a great school, great university and I just want people that want to come to Kentucky and then we’ll figure the rest out. We’ll figure out what position you play and we’ll figure out what were going to do. That’s sort of what happened with a couple of those classes. Now we’ve created a style out of having those type of players and so now we are looking for kids that can swing and play different positions.”
On how the series with Notre Dame come about …
“There are two things. We want to play games like this at Kentucky. We want to play early season matchups like this. Hopefully we’re highly ranked and hopefully the other team is highly ranked. People that follow women’s basketball will be interested in this game on Sunday and that’s a good thing. Another thing is Coach McGraw who I have tremendous respect for, a Hall of Fame coach, wanted to bring Natalie Novosel back to Lexington. While my feelings were hurt that Natalie chose not to come to Kentucky, that’s how much I thought of her in the recruiting process that we would welcome that if we can do that for Natalie Novosel.”