UK Makes 26th NCAA Regional Appearance Saturday at PSU
April 4, 2014
NCAA REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Florida boasts top-five rankings on all four events, including the nation's No. 1 beam RQS of 49.445. The Gators are ranked second on both bars and floor. Oregon State is in the top 20 on each event, highlighted by a No. 8 ranking on beam. Penn State is within the top 15 on every apparatus, led by its ninth-ranked floor team. New Hampshire and Maryland are both in the top 40 on each event. UNH's highest ranking comes on beam, where it is tied for 17th, while the Terrapins are tied for 28th with UK on bars for their highest rank.
RECORD-BREAKERS ON FLOOR
UK's most consistent and highest-scoring event this season has been floor exercise. Kentucky is ranked 18h nationally with a 49.185 RQS, led by a program-record 49.650 on Feb. 28.
Kentucky's highest event scores in all but three meets have come on floor, while three of UK's top four team scores also are on floor exercise. The Wildcats have scored a 49.000 or higher in eight of their last 10 meets.
In Feb. 28's upset win over Auburn, the Wildcats closed with a school-record 49.650 on floor. The third-highest floor score in the country at the time, Kentucky became the third team this season to count five scores of 9.925 or higher in one meet. Led by senior Audrey Harrison's 9.950, juniors Shelby Hilton, Kenzie Hedges and Kayla Hartley and freshman Taylor Puryear all recorded a 9.925.
In nearly all of UK's 12 meets, it has been a consistent effort from the Wildcats that resulted in high totals. Kentucky has had 10 meets where it counted all five scores at 9.725 or higher and six with five scores of 9.775 or above. The Wildcats have also racked up seven meets with all six scores recorded at a 9.700 or better.
PLENTY OF HISTORY FOR THE CATS AT PENN STATE'S REC HALL
The Wildcats have very fond memories of Penn State's Rec Hall. Just last year in the regular-season finale, Kentucky broke the program record team score with a 196.775 UK also scored a school-record 49.475 on beam in the March 16, 2013 meet. Thirteen of the 14 Wildcats from last year that competed at PSU will make the return trip this season, looking to make more history.
UK VS. THE NCAA REGIONAL FIELD
Two of the Wildcats' four opponents, No. 1 Florida and No. 15 Penn State, will be familiar foes at the NCAA Regionals. In the season-opener on Jan. 10, UK beat the Nittany Lions and two other teams at home with a 195.000. The Wildcats and Gators have met twice this season, both times when UF was ranked No. 1. Florida claimed a win in Lexington on Feb. 7 over Kentucky's 195.450 before the Gators finished second and the Wildcats sixth with a 195.075 at the SEC Championship last weekend.
UK is 4-1 all-time against UNH. The last meeting was in 2005, when New Hampshire won the five-team meet and Kentucky placed third. Kentucky is 3-1 all-time vs. the Terrapins. The two teams met at the 1998 NCAA Regionals, where UK finished fifth and UM 7th. The Wildcats are 0-3 vs. Oregon State, including a 2009 meeting at the NCAA Regionals.
HARRISON IN THE RECORD BOOKS
With a 9.925 on beam on Feb. 28 against Auburn, senior Audrey Harrison became just the third Wildcat in program history to score a 9.900 or higher on all four events in her career. The Knoxville, Tenn., native had notched a 9.900 on vault, bars and floor entering her senior season, but her career-best on beam was a 9.850 until her 9.925 in UK's third home meet. That same night, she bested her career-high on floor, with a 9.950.
The conference's leading all-around winner in SEC competition last season, Harrison has won 10 event titles this year and has posted the teams' top score on floor, beam and all-around. Her RQS scores also rank within the top two on the team on two events plus the all-around.
NO ONE HAS FACED MORE RANKED TEAMS
No SEC team has faced more ranked opponents than the Wildcats. In Kentucky's 11 regular season meets this year, UK has squared off against 13 ranked teams, two more than Alabama's 11, the next-highest team. Just one Kentucky's meets, at Missouri on Jan. 24, did not feature a ranked opponent.
In the regular season, UK has faced the No. 1 team twice, vs. Florida on Feb. 7 and again at LSU on March 14, while the Wildcats have faced eight teams ranked eighth or higher.
In the current GymInfo Top 25, Kentucky has competed against all of the top four teams at least once and six of the top nine. When the Wildcats go up against No. 12 Oregon State and No. 23 New Hampshire at the NCAA Regionals, it will mark the 12th and 13th school in the current top 25 that UK has faced in 2014.
THE WILDCATS VS. THE SEC
Kentucky finished its SEC schedule with a 2-5 record, with wins over No. 11 Auburn and at Missouri. The Wildcats' win at Mizzou gave them road wins in league competition in back-to-back seasons after a win at Auburn in 2013. Before last season, UK's last road SEC win came in 1999.
UK's five losses all came to higher-ranked teams, including two meets against the No. 1 team, vs. Florida and at LSU. All but one of UK's seven league meets came against ranked opponents, while Kentucky faced 13 ranked teams this season, the most of any SEC team.
HARRISON, HARTLEY & MITCHELL EARN ALL-SEC HONORS
Audrey Harrison, Kayla Hartley and Shannon Mitchell were named to the All-SEC Team. Harrison earned All-SEC honors for the first time in her career thanks to a 39.125 all-around score at the SEC Championships, the second-highest in the first session. Hartley was named All-SEC for the second time in her career after a 9.850 on uneven bars and Mitchell earned her first career award thanks to a 9.875 on vault along with a 9.850 on balance beam.
UP NEXT: NCAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Should the Wildcats place in the top two at Saturday's NCAA Regional, they will compete at the NCAA National Championship meet for the first time in program history. Individual UK gymnasts can also qualify for the national championship at Saturday's regional competition. The three-day NCAA Championships will be held April 18-20 in Birmingham, Ala.
LAST TIME OUT: AT SEC CHAMPIONSHIPS
Kentucky scored a 195.075 to finish second in its session and sixth overall at the 2014 SEC Gymnastics Championship on March 22 in Birmingham, Ala. UK finished behind No. 12 Auburn's 195.550 and ahead of No. 15 Arkansas and Missouri in the first session. No. 4 Alabama won the meet with a 197.875, followed by No. 1 Florida with a 197.700. Among the eight teams, UK finished sixth overall, the Wildcats' highest finish since 2012 when they placed fifth out of seven.
The Wildcats led the first session with a 49.175 on vault and a 49.050 on bars. UK notched a 48.825 on beam to open the competition, just 0.050 points shy of a session high. Kentucky also scored a 48.025 on floor. Shannon Mitchell's 9.875 on vault and 9.850 on beam were both team-bests. Audrey Harrison and Taylor Puryear shared team-high honors with a 9.750 on floor, while Kayla Hartley's 9.850 on bars also led UK. Harrison recorded a 39.125 all-around score, the second-highest in the first session at the Championships.
PHIPPS NAMED TO SEC COMMUNITY SERVICE TEAM
Sophomore Tiara Phipps was named to the 2014 SEC Gymnastics Community Service Team. It is Phipps' first Community Service Team honor.
Phipps' community service work is highlighted by a mission trip with 10 other UK student-athletes to Ethiopia last summer. During the week-long trip, they repainted schools, helped build houses, supplied families with mosquito nets along with interacting with several communities.
The San Antonio, Texas, native also has volunteered with Hope for Haiti, packed meals at Southland Christian Church, assisted with the UK Blanked Project and packed backpacks for the Back Pack Program this season.
RECORD SCORES AT HOME
Kentucky has had unparalleled success at home in 2014. The friendly confines of Memorial Coliseum has yielded a 6-1 record for the home team, the best mark since 1991 when UK also went 6-1. The mark includes a win over then-No. 15 Penn State to open the season, along with victories over No. 11 Auburn and No. 22 California, all upsets.
With the wins have come record-breaking scores. In Feb. 28's win over AU, Kentucky's 49.650 on floor was a new school record by 0.200 points, while its 196.275 team score is the fifth-best in program history and the second best at home. A week later, a 196.150 went down as the third-best at home in team history.
RECORD CROWDS AT HOME
In UK's four home meets this season, the Wildcats averaged 3,265 fans in Memorial Coliseum. The average marks the best home attendance for UK since at least the 1998 season, when records became available. Since 1998, the Wildcats have never averaged more than 3,000 fans.
As Kentucky beat three teams to win its season-opener on Jan. 10, it did so in front of one of the largest crowds in UK gymnastics history. A crowd of 5,839 witnessed the Excite Night victory, which marked the largest since 2007, when 6,875 were in attendance. It also marked the third-largest UK home crowd since at least 1997.