LEX 18 True Blue Coverage

Feb 28, 2014 6:11 PM

No. 12/15 UK Hoops Meets Vanderbilt On Senior Day

Seniors Kastine Evans, Bernisha Pinkett, DeNesha Stallworth and Samarie Walker will be honored in a special pregame ceremony

LEXINGTON - The No. 12/15 Kentucky women's basketball team will play host to Vanderbilt Sunday, March 2 in its regular-season finale and Senior Day in Memorial Coliseum. The game will tip at 4 p.m. ET with a special Senior Day ceremony slated to begin at 3:43 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2 with Joe Davis and former Wake Forest star LaChina Robinson calling the action. It also will be carried live on the WatchESPN, the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price and Sirius Channel 92 and XM Channel 190.

Fans can follow Twitter updates on @UKHoopCats and use hashtag #VANDYvsUK to talk about the game.

Tickets are available on www.ukathletics.com and Ticketmaster.com, and also on game day. Single-game reserved tickets cost of $9 for all ages. General admission tickets for adults are $8 while single-game general admission tickets for seniors and children (ages 6-18, 65 and over) are only $5. UK students, faculty, staff and children ages five and under are admitted free in the general admission seating area, while supplies last.

Sunday's games will decide UK's seeding for the upcoming Southeastern Conference Tournament in Duluth, Ga., on March 5-9. UK currently ranks fourth with a 9-6 record and a one-game lead over Florida, which is 8-7. Kentucky will host Vanderbilt on Sunday and Florida will host Texas A&M. A UK win or Florida loss will give the Wildcats a fourth-place finish and a double-bye in the SEC Tournament. A UK loss and a Florida win tie the teams for fourth place, with Florida getting the No. 4 tourney seed because the Gators (8-7) swept the series over the Wildcats this season. UK would be the No. 5 seed.

"Well, there's a lot riding on the game and there are a lot of different things that are happening surrounding the game," UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell said. "But really for me what it comes down to on Sunday is, it's Senior Day at Kentucky and that's a really special day for the seniors we're going to honor and they have put a lot into this program. So it's an important game but there's nothing more important to me than really preparing well and working hard to try to get ready for Vanderbilt so we can send these seniors off with a great victory. And obviously it has other implications that would be valuable to us as well, but we're really going to try to keep our focus on preparing well against a very good team and making sure that we have a sense of purpose for our seniors on Sunday. So that is important for the team and then for the fans it's just really, really important that we have a big crowd Sunday afternoon and you get in early and you're loud all day long and that also will help us a whole lot. I really want to encourage everybody to come and let's send these seniors off on Senior Day with a big victory."

Four Wildcat seniors - Kastine Evans (Salem, Conn.), Bernisha Pinkett (Washington, D.C.), DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) and Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) - will be honored before the game. The senior class has won 104 games (and counting) in their careers. That total currently ranks as the second-winningest class in school history. With Evans, Pinkett, Stallworth and Walker, the Cats have compiled a 104-29 record (.781), claimed an SEC regular-season title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament three straight seasons, including two appearances in the Elite Eight. They have also combined to chart an all-time mark of 58-7 (.892) in home games.

"All four of them have very unique stories and have contributed in my life all four in different ways but very impactful ways and I've learned a lot from these seniors and they've been very important people to me and will remain that," Mitchell said. "So it is a great, great group and I want to prepare well and be ready to go and win in the worst way just because the way I feel for those players. They're really a terrific group."

UK is 28-10 all-time in regular-season home finales (1974-75 season not included). The Cats have won eight of their last 10 games on "Senior Day," including four in a row.

The Wildcats (21-7, 9-6) are coming off another hard-fought conference road win. UK needed overtime to defeat a tough Mississippi State squad in Starkville, Miss., on the Bulldogs' Senior Night, 81-74, on Thursday. Junior Bria Goss (Indianapolis) netted 20 points in the win, including eight in overtime, while Stallworth had an impressive game with 16 points, a career-high 20 rebounds, a season-high four blocks and two steals. She became just the sixth player in UK history to grab 20 or more rebounds in a game.

In the last five games, Stallworth has been a dominating force for the Wildcats by averaging a double-double with 13.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game, while shooting .528 percent from the field (28-53), including 2-of-2 from the 3-point line in 30.6 minutes per game.

Overall this season, junior point guard Jennifer O'Neill (Bronx, N.Y.) and Stallworth lead the Cats in scoring this season. O'Neill is putting up 13.3 points per game, while Stallworth follows with 11.6 points per game. Walker is UK's leading rebounder with 8.8 rebounds per game, which ranks fourth in the SEC. She also has 19 career double-doubles, including eight this season which ranks tied for fourth in the league. Narrowly missing the double-digit scoring mark this season is Walker (9.7), Goss (9.5), sophomore point guard Janee Thompson (9.4), and Evans (8.9).

Goss ranks sixth nationally and leads the SEC in free-throw shooting percentage, hitting an impressive 92.2 percent clip (83-of-90). Her career free-throw percentage of 81.9 percent ranks third on UK's career list. She has not missed consecutive free throws in a game since March 17, 2012 vs. McNeese State in the first round of the NCAA?Tournament.

The Commodores enter the matchup at 18-10 on the season, 7-8 in SEC play. Senior guard Christina Foggie leads Vanderbilt and the SEC in scoring at 19.0 points per contest, while senior point guard Jasmine Lister and freshman guard Rebekah Dahlman round out the double-figure scorers for VU with 14.1 and 11.4 points per game, respectively. Vanderbilt is coached by Melanie Balcomb who has compiled a career record of 440-220 in 21 seasons.

Vanderbilt leads the all-time series 27-19 but the series is tied at 10 apiece in Lexington. UK?has won the last six meetings over Vanderbilt, including three straight in Memorial Coliseum.

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