UK Hoops Travels to Middle Tennessee for Final Nonconference Game
Dec. 27, 2011
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The sixth-ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team concludes nonconference play and looks to close out 2011 in the win column when it takes on Middle Tennessee on Wednesday, Dec. 28 at 8 p.m. ET in the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The game will be carried live on ESPN3.com.
“It’s a really tough game we have ahead of us,” UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “They do a great job at executing offense and they put a lot of stress on your offense with their tough defense. It’s always a tough game for us. It was very difficult for us last time we were in Murfreesboro. They’ll have a great crowd and it will be an excellent opportunity for us to see if we can pass a tough test on the road.”
Kentucky (11-1) has had the luxury of playing 10 of its 12 games at home this season and holds a 1-1 mark on the road. The Wildcats look to carry their winning ways to the Murphy Center on Wednesday as they look for their first win at Middle Tennessee since 1989. UK fell in the last meeting on the road against the Blue Raiders, 57-51, on Dec. 28, 2009.
“We will have just about the same schedule every trip we go on,” Mitchell said. “We’ll try to get in the opposing gym the day before if we can, we’ll do that this afternoon, and then we’ll have meetings and film tonight and a shoot around very early in the morning. We’ll stay on the same schedule and see if we can do a better job this time.”
In their first game after the holiday break, the Wildcats also hope to shake off any leftovers and continue their winning streak after a commanding 90-61 win over Samford on Dec. 21 in Memorial Coliseum.
Sophomore Samantha Drake (Bardstown, Ky.) reached double figures in scoring for the sixth time in the last seven games with a near-perfect performance. She led six players in double figures, hitting 6-of-6 from the field and 6-of-7 from the free-throw line for 18 points. Freshman Azia Bishop (Toledo, Ohio) came off the bench for a career-high 13 points in just 10 minutes, while senior Keyla Snowden (Lexington, Ky.) added 12 points. Freshman Bria Goss (Indianapolis) and sophomore Kastine Evans (Salem, Conn.) added 11 points each, and in just her second game as Wildcat, Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) recorded 10 points, a team-high seven rebounds and three blocks in 20 minutes of action.
The Wildcats’ defensive pressure, often dubbed “40 minutes of dread,” has once again been their bread and butter as they lead the nation in turnover margin (+15.2) and rank third in steals (15.9). The Cats have forced a league-high 399 turnovers for an average of 33.2 forced turnovers per game.
Leading the charge is junior and Naismith Trophy Watch List member A’dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.), who already ranks in the top 10 on UK’s all-time steals list. She averages a Southeastern Conference-high 3.8 steals per game to go along with her team-best 16.1 points per game. Goss has also been a key contributor as she averages 12.3 points and 1.9 steals per game.
Middle Tennessee (8-5, 1-0 Sun Belt), a member of the Sun Belt Conference, is coming off a 58-53 victory over Florida International on Dec. 21. The Blue Raiders were led by sophomore forward Ebony Rowe, who recorded her seventh double-double of the season with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Rowe, a Lexington, Ky., native hailing from Dunbar High School, leads MT on the season, averaging 16.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. The Blue Raiders have three players averaging more than 10 points per game, with junior guard Kortni Jones averaging 15.3 points and junior forward Icelyn Elie averaging 11.4 points and 7.4 boards.
The UK/MT matchup holds special meaning to one UK staffer, as Blue Raiders head coach Rick Insell is the father of UK assistant coach Matt Insell. Rick Insell graduated from Middle Tennessee in 1977, while Matt Insell is a 2007 alumnus. This is the third head-to-head meeting between father and son.
Wednesday marks the 14th meeting between the schools, including the third consecutive. UK defeated the Blue Raiders last season in Memorial Coliseum, 81-72. The Cats lead the overall series 10-3, including a 3-2 mark in Murfreesboro.
Eleven of the 13 games between Kentucky and Middle Tennessee have been close calls, as they have been decided by 10 points or less. UK went 8-3 in those close games and owns a 1-0 mark in overtime. UK is 2-0 when the game is decided by 11 points or more.
The game also can be heard live on 1580 AM in Lexington or www.UKAthletics.com with Neil Price calling the action. Fans can follow the UK Hoops team on Twitter at @UKHoopCats and use #UKHoops to comment on the game.
Pre-Middle Tennessee State Media Opportunity - Dec. 27, 2011
Head Coach Matthew Mitchell