KENTUCKY WILDCATS (10-9, 4-2 SEC)
vs. Ole Miss Rebels (9-11, 3-4 SEC)
Thursday, Feb. 7 • 7:00 p.m.
Lexington, Ky. - Rupp Arena (
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The Kentucky women’s basketball team returns to Rupp Arena Thursday, Feb. 7 to take on Ole Miss at 7 p.m. EST. The game will be televised live on FSN South as the SEC Game of the Week and also broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio) with Neil Price.
Single-game general admission tickets 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).
After back-to-back road games against nationally-ranked opponents last week, the Wildcats (11-11, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) return home in search of their sixth win in league play and their first victory in Rupp Arena this season. UK is 6-6 at home, 0-3 in the downtown venue. Not only does UK look to start a new win streak but it must also find a replacement for injured freshman point guard Amber Smith (Winter Haven, Fla.) who suffered an ACL and lateral meniscus tear in her right knee in the first half against No. 2 Tennessee on Sunday. Things were looking uncertain enough early in the season when veteran point guard Carly Ormerod (Louisville, Ky.) was sidelined with sesamoiditis and turf toe. Ormerod has missed 14 games, including 12 straight and her return date remains uncertain. Smith, a true freshman, stepped in for Ormerod and helped catapult the Wildcats to a 5-3 league mark while ranking second on the team in scoring (9.4 ppg) and rebounding (5.4 rpg) in SEC play. Smith is expected to undergo season-ending surgery in the next few weeks.
“Ole Miss is going to be a tough game for us,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We had a rollercoaster of a week with a big win over Georgia on the road, the loss at Tennessee, and obviously the injury of Amber Smith. Her injury is going to affect our team in a major way and when something like that happens we need to pull together as a team. The players need to step up their game and fill that void that has been created by her injury. Ole Miss poses some difficulty for us because they are an aggressive defensive team. They will come out in a lot of traps and multiple looks out of their zone. It will be a tough game, especially with us trying to adjust to the loss of our point guard.”
With both true point guards out, Mitchell will have to rely on a committee of players to step in at the point. Seniors Chanté Bowman (Detroit) and Samantha Mahoney (Detroit) both have experience at the position and are likely replacements.
“It will be difficult because Sam Mahoney is the player equipped to handle that position,” Mitchell said. “We call on her to score most of our points so it makes it tough and we think Chante’ Bowman is a player who is going to have to step in there and handle some minutes. We looked at Carly Morrow (Chattanooga, Tenn.) yesterday in practice and she did a good job. We are just going to have to come together collectively and pretty much do it by committee and that’s tough, but I think our players are ready to do it.”
Mahoney is UK’s leading scorer, averaging 13.0 points per game (8th in the SEC). Senior center Sarah Elliott (McKee, Ky.) follows with 11.0 points and leads UK in rebounding with 6.4 rpg. Freshman forward Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) is close behind in the rebounding column with 6.2 rpg.
The Rebels (9-11 overall, 3-4 SEC) are coming off a 76-47 win over Alabama in Oxford on Sunday. Three players scored in double-digits, led by senior forward Carla Bartee’s double-double (16 points/10 rebounds). Sophomore guard Shantell Black and junior center Shawn Goff followed with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Goff paces the Rebels in scoring this season with 13.2 points per game and is second in rebounding with 7.5 rpg. Sophomore guard Alliesha Easley follows close behind with 13.0 ppg. Black averages 10.2 ppg and has dished out a team-leading 111 assists this season.
The Rebels lead the overall series 19-9, including a 9-4 advantage when playing in Lexington. UK is 0-2 all-time against Ole Miss in Rupp Arena. However, UK has won five of the last seven meetings. Both of its losses came in overtime. UK and Ole Miss split games on each other’s home courts last season. Ole Miss upset Kentucky in Memorial Coliseum in overtime on Jan. 14 (67-65) and the Wildcats took revenge in Oxford a few weeks later, defeating the Rebels (69-61) in the Tad Smith Coliseum.
CAT SCRATCHESA UK win would give UK a 6-3 mark conference play, equaling UK’s most SEC wins since going 6-8 last season; give UK its first win in Rupp Arena this season; give UK its first win over Ole Miss in Rupp Arena in school history; give UK its first win over Ole Miss in Lexington since 2006. Freshman Victoria Dunlap is nearing the 200-point mark in just her first season at UK. The rookie has netted 167 points in 22 games. UK has held 46 of its last 51 opponents to 50 percent shooting or less, including 25 of its last 27 dating back to last season. The Cats have held 12 opponents to under 40 percent this season, including eight of the last 11. UK’s defense has held three of its last four opponents to under 30 percent, including 28.3 by Georgia. UK has won seven of its last 11 games and in those 11 games, the Wildcats have allowed only two opponents (Tennessee - twice and LSU) to shoot over 35.7 percent from the floor. In the last 13 games, UK has seen seven different scoring leaders and eight different leading rebounders. No player has led the Cats in scoring in back-to-back games in the last 13 games. Kentucky is 6-0 when scoring 60 or more points in the last 11 games, 1-3 when scoring less than 60. In 22 games this season, UK has used nine different starting fives. Senior Samantha Mahoney needs 24 points to move up to No. 7 on UK’s all-time scoring list. Mahoney currently ranks seventh in the SEC in scoring (13.9 ppg - all games) and fourth in minutes per game (33.23). She has scored in double-figures in all but six games this season. Senior Sarah Elliott is sixth in the SEC in blocks (1.68 bpg). She holds the school record for blocks in a career with 176. Seniors Chelsea Chowning and Samantha Mahoney have been named to the 2007-08 College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA)/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District Ballot. UK blocked a season-best 11 shots vs. Mississippi State. That mark broke the MSU school record for most blocks by an opponent. UK has had two freshmen honored this season three times as the SEC Freshman of the Week in Victoria Dunlap (twice) and Amber Smith. UK currently ranks 16th nationally and second in the SEC in average attendance, bringing in 5,426 fans per game. No. 2 Tennessee leads the nation with 14,764 per game. The Wildcats have ranked in the top 20 in national average attendance three consecutive seasons. Last year UK averaged a school record 5,863 fans per game and ranked 13th nationally. UK was picked to finish sixth in the Southeastern Conference by the media and league coaches at SEC Media Days in Birmingham, Ala. Kentucky finished the 2006-07 season seventh in the league. The 2007-08 season marks the 34th season of varsity basketball for Kentucky and the first year for head coach Matthew Mitchell. Four seniors (Chanté Bowman, Chelsea Chowning, Sarah Elliott, and Samantha Mahoney) are in their final season of eligibility.
PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES - FEB. 6
Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
Opening statement …
“I think it’s good for our team to only have one game this week. Ole Miss is going to be a tough game for us. We had a rollercoaster of a week, with a big win over Georgia on the road, the loss at Tennessee and obviously the injury of Amber Smith. Her injury is going to affect our team in a major way, and when something like that happens we need to pull together as a team. The players need to step up their game and fill that void that has been created by her injury. Ole Miss poses some difficulty for us because they are an aggressive defensive of team. They will come out in a lot of traps and multiple looks out of their zone. It will be a tough game, especially with us trying to adjust to the loss of our point guard.”
On if Amber’s loss is more challenging physically or emotionally …
“I think for our team, we are more equipped because of the frustrations throughout the season and to our player’s credit, we found a way to cope with the loss of Carly Ormerod. It was a bit easier because Amber (Smith) is a natural point guard and she had to probably play a little bit more earlier then what we thought she would have to. Now we are left without a true point guard, so that can be tough to deal with. I like our team’s attitude yesterday. I thought they did a good job from an emotional stand point. Nobody looks unsure of themselves or looked down, so that was a good. That tells me that from the emotional stand point how we are handling it. Physically, it will be difficult because Sam Mahoney is the player equipped to handle that position. We call on her to score most of our points so it makes it tough, and we think Chante’ Bowman is a player who is going to have to step in there and handle some minutes. We looked at Carly Morrow yesterday in practice and she did a good job. We are just going to have to come together collectively and pretty much do it by committee and that’s tough, but I think our players are ready to do it.”
On how Carly Ormerod is handling her injury …
“I think it has been very hard on Carly. She is such a competitor and leader for our team, and to sit on the sideline when you have that kind of fire burning is not easy. Then, when you see what happened to Amber (Smith) and an injury like that takes place, Carly really wants to get back on the court while she is still dealing with her own injury. I know she is frustrated, but we don’t have a definite time table on her return, or even if she will return. Certainly tomorrow night she is not in the plans, so it is going to be different people other than Carly filling that role. She is a tough kid and I know she will get back if she can this year.”
On the challenges Ole Miss provide …
“Ole Miss is a team, like us, who played a very difficult non-conference schedule. They went on the road and played some tough teams and are adjusting to a first-year coach. I think the challenge for us is the pressure they can put on you. They can get you into some situations where you have to be strong with the basketball and make good decisions. Being without a true point guard makes the Ole Miss game a tough one for us tomorrow night. We told the team yesterday that we have come a long way and we are in the position to do some very good things this season. We aren’t going to turn back now. We are going to do everything we can in practice today to get prepared and try to walk off the floor at Rupp Arena 6-3 in the conference. That would be big for us.”
On if there is a possibility of playing without Carly Ormerod for the rest of the season …
“Yes. I think that there is a chance that she will not be back. There is a wide range of what could happen with her being back within a week to her not being back at all.”
On the confidence a win tomorrow night would give the team …
“It will be big because in order for us to win tomorrow night some players are going to have to fill roles that they normally don’t. One thing that gives me hope is that you wouldn’t believe a team could go on the road in this conference and beat a ranked team shooting 30 percent from the field, which we did that last Thursday night. This team has done things that aren’t in the normal boundaries of what happens. They have proven a lot of people wrong and now are 5-3 with losses only to Tennessee and LSU. We have done some good things. We will try to do something special tomorrow night with players stepping into roles that aren’t comfortable and try to win a tough SEC game.”