Feb 21, 2014 7:49 PM
The No. 15 Kentucky women's basketball team faces its third straight ranked opponent when it travels to College Station, Texas Sunday, Feb. 23 to take on No. 16/13 Texas A&M in Reed Arena. The game will tip at 1 p.m. CT/2 p.m. ET on ESPN2 with Tom Hart and former Tennessee standout and current WNBA star Kara Lawson calling the action. The game also will be broadcast live on WatchESPN and the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price. Fans can follow Twitter updates on @UKHoopCats and use hashtag #UKvsTAMU to talk about the game.
The Wildcats (19-7, 7-6 Southeastern Conference), look to get back to their winning ways after falling to No. 4/6 South Carolina on Thursday in Memorial Coliseum, 81-58. With only three regular-season contests remaining, every game is crucial as the Wildcats sit in a four-way tie for fourth place in the SEC standings with Florida, LSU and Vanderbilt. Texas A&M currently ranks second with an 11-2 record. The top four teams receive a bye to the SEC Tournament on March 5-9 in Duluth, Ga.
"We have a big challenge ahead of us with Texas A&M who has a really good team," UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "I have been watching them today and they have a lot of good players, they are well coached and they really give great effort. It was a tough environment down there last year and I am sure that it will be this year. It will certainly be a big challenge and we will have to practice well for the next couple of days and get ready to play well and get a victory."
UK leads the all-time series vs. the Aggies 2-1 with all three meetings coming last season in Texas A&M's debut season in the SEC. The Wildcats won both regular-season matchups, winning 65-62 in Lexington on Jan. 10 and 70-66 in College Station on Feb. 18. UK fell to the Aggies in the third meeting in the SEC Tournament Championship game on March 10, 75-67. All three games were decided by eight points or less.
UK?is 4-3 vs. top-25 teams this season, defeating No. 4/3 Louisville, No. 8 Tennessee and No. 9 Baylor and falling to No. 2 Duke, No. 10/11 South Carolina and No. 4/6 South Carolina.
Looking to help the Wildcats chart their school-record fifth consecutive 20-win season are All-SEC candidates Jennifer O'Neill (Bronx, N.Y.), DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) and Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio). O'Neill leads the way this season with 13.4 points per game, while Stallworth follows with 11.7 ppg. Walker is the team's leading rebounder with 8.6 rebounds per game which ranks fourth in the SEC. She also has 19 career double-doubles, including eight this season which ranks third in the league. Narrowly missing the double-digit scoring mark this season is Walker (9.8), sophomore point guard Janee Thompson (9.7), junior guard Bria Goss (9.6), and senior guard Kastine Evans (9.2).
The Aggies enter the matchup at 21-6 on the season and 11-2 in SEC play. Texas A&M's only two conference losses came against Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Texas A&M leads the SEC in 3-point field goal defense (.246 percent) and ranks second in field goal percentage defense (.357). In SEC games only, A&M ranks first in scoring defense (58.1), 3-point field goal percentage (.242) and assist/turnover ratio (1.0)
Sophomore guard Courtney Walker is one of three Aggies averaging double figures with a team-leading 14.2 points per game. Sophomore forward/guard Courtney Williams averages 13.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, while senior and 6-foot-5 center Karla Gilbert adds 11.0 points and a team-high 7.8 boards per contest.
The Aggies are coached by Gary Blair who is in his 29th overall season as a Division I head coach, his 11th at A&M. He currently ranks in the top 15 in career victories (666) and in the top 25 by winning percentage (.709) amongst Division I coaches.