UK Hoops Puts Win Streak on Line at Santa Barbara

Nov. 24, 2009

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The Kentucky women's basketball team looks to keep its winning streak alive when it travels to the west coast for a matchup against UC Santa Barbara Wednesday, Nov. 25 at Noon PST/3 p.m. EST. The game will take place at UCSB's Thunderdome and will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Radio Network with Neil Price.

At 4-0, the Wildcats are off to their best start since the 2005-06 squad began at 8-0. UK is coming off a hard-fought win over Chattanooga on Sunday. Despite trailing by as many as nine points in the second half, the Wildcats clawed to a 65-55 victory over the Lady Mocs. Freshman A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) scored 12 of her team-high 14 points in the decisive second half while junior forward Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) followed with 12 points.

Overall, Dunlap leads UK in scoring and rebounding, averaging 20.3 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. Mathies and junior point guard Amber Smith (Winter Haven, Fla.) follow in the scoring column with 15.3 and 12.3 points per game, respectively.

“We struggled offensively in our last game but I was pleased with our defensive intensity,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We must bring that same intensity to Santa Barbara. The Gauchos have a very rich tradition and they pose a huge challenge for us. They play extremely well in the Thunderdome and it will be a tough game for us.”

The Gauchos are the preseason favorites to win the Big West title. They have won over 400 games in the Thunderdome's existence, but over the past two decades, it has really proved to be a home-court advantage. Since 1991, UCSB is 200-39 in the Thunderdome for an impressive .837 percent.

UC Santa Barbara (0-3) has struggled this season as head coach Lindsay Gottlieb returns just one starter from a squad that finished 22-10 overall and 15-1 in league play last season. The Gauchos won the 2009 Big West regular-season title and were the tournament champions.

Junior center and Wake Forest transfer Mekia Valentine leads the Gauchos in both scoring and rebounding in her first season with the Gauchos. She averages a team-high 18.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game and has totaled a team-best 13 blocks. In the season opener vs. Nevada she swatted a career-best seven blocks. Senior forward Jordan Franey and sophomore point guard Emilie Johnson follow in the scoring column with 11.3 and 10.0 ppg, respectively.

This is the second meeting between Kentucky and UC Santa Barbara. Last year, UK met the Gauchos in Memorial Coliseum, the teams' first meeting in the series. Paced by 20 first-half points from Amani Franklin (Stone Mountain, Ga.), Kentucky jumped out to a quick lead and never let up, cruising to a 69-58 victory. The Cats are 4-0 all-time vs. teams from the Big West Conference.