After months of practice and conditioning, the University of Kentucky women’s basketball team begins its 44th season of varsity women’s basketball Friday as it plays host to Big Sky foe Sacramento State at 7 p.m. ET inside Memorial Coliseum. The game begins head coach Matthew Mitchell’s 11th season with the program.
The game will be broadcast live on SEC Network+ with Dick Gabriel and Christi Thomas on the call. The action can also be seen through WatchESPN on computers, smartphones or tablets. Darren Headrick, now in his first year with the program, will be calling the game on the UK Sports Radio Network. Fans in Lexington can hear Headrick’s call on 98.5 FM, while the game will be live in Louisville on 1080 AM. Live stats and free audio will be available online at ukathletics.com.
Freshman post Dorie Harrison is schedule to sign autographs following the game on the main concourse near the Lexington Avenue entrance. Young fans are encouraged to take advantage of the Kid Zone pregame with games, poster making stations, coloring stations and more.
Single-game tickets are $9 (all ages) in reserved seating areas, while general admission tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children (ages 6-18) and seniors (age 65+). Children ages five and under do not require a ticket in general admission areas.
Purchasing season tickets offers the best option and price savings for fans. New season ticket purchases are available in upper-level reserved chairbacks (sections AA-JJ), lower-level reserved bleachers (sections R-Z) or general admission bleachers (sections RR-ZZ) for $65 per ticket. Lower-level reserved chairbacks (A-J) sections are sold out again this season.
Kentucky is coming off its school-record eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth last season. The Wildcats finished with a 22-11 record in 2016-17, marking its 18th 20-win season and its eighth straight under Mitchell. UK finished No. 18 in The Associated Press Top 25 and No. 25 in the USA Today/Coaches Top 25. It was the eighth straight season the Wildcats have finished inside the top 25 of both national listings.
The Wildcats begin this season receiving votes in both preseason listings. Mitchell’s squads have been ranked or receiving votes to start each of the last eight seasons under his leadership.
Kentucky is coming off an impressive performance in its lone exhibition game of the season, defeating NCAA Division II power Southern Indiana, 87-56. The Wildcats shot 50.8 percent from the field in the game, including going 6-for-16 from 3 and hitting 77.8 percent from the free throw line. UK outrebounded Southern Indiana 39-25 and dominated in the specialty stats with 46 points in the paint, 30 points off turnovers, 17 second-chance points and 37 bench points. Kentucky played all 14 players in the game, with 10 players scoring at least one point.
Junior guard Maci Morris paced UK with 19 points, adding four assists and three rebounds. Morris went 3-of-4 from long range in the game. Fellow junior guard Taylor Murray had 11 points, six assists and four steals in the game. Freshman post Tatyana Wyatt had 10 points with five rebounds and three steals in the game, while fellow rookie post Dorie Harrison had eight points and three rebounds. Senior Alyssa Rice, sophomore Jaida Roper and freshman KeKe McKinney each scored nine points in the game, with Rice adding three rebounds and Roper adding four assists.
Sacramento State is coming off a 100-53 victory over Holy Names in its lone exhibition of the season last Friday. Senior guard Maranne Johnson scored a game-high 24 points, hitting four 3s with nine rebounds, while redshirt sophomore Hannah Friend had 21 points with 10 rebounds and three assists.
The Hornets return two starters from last year’s squad that went 10-20 overall, including 6-12 in the Big Sky. Johnson is one of the returners along with senior point guard Justyce Dawson, who averaged 4.6 points per game and 4.3 assists per game last year.
Bunky Harkleroad is in his fifth year at Sacramento State with a 60-65 record. Harkleroad is familiar with the Central Kentucky area as he graduated from Berea College in 1993. Under Harkleroad, the Hornets have been a 3-point shooting team as they have led all NCAA Division I teams in 3-pointers made and attempted each of his four seasons at the helm of the program. Last season, Sacramento State attempted 36.5 3s per game and made 10.7 per game from long range.
Friday will mark the first ever matchup between Kentucky and Sacramento State in women’s basketball. It will also be the first time Kentucky has played an opponent from the current alignment of the Big Sky Conference.
Transit Center Parking Garage
Kentucky Women’s Basketball
Matthew Mitchell Pre-Sacramento State News Conference
Memorial Coliseum – Lexington, Ky.
Nov. 9, 2017
Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
“We are really, really excited about or signees Rhyne (Howard) and Blair (Green) signing with us and becoming Wildcats. They are big-time additions for us. They are both very versatile players and both tremendous students and high-character people.”
On importance of getting a player from Kentucky …
“I think it is. I have always seen a lot of benefit from players that are native Kentuckians and they come in and it means a lot to them. It is like I have always told them, our fans are tremendous and they love this program and this university and they have filled Memorial Coliseum and Rupp Arena night after night for the last 11 years and we have had tremendous support and we are always excited when the Wildcats do well. But it is just a little different when a 3 pointer goes in from a Kentucky kid. It is just like Jessica Hardin, I think everybody was excited and she was a pretty amazing story last year, but I do think people were a little more proud because she was from Kentucky. I think that all of us have pride in being Kentuckians and being from here and the University means so much to the people all throughout the state from one end to another. I do think there is something special about it and our philosophy has always been if a player can make an impact here we would love to have a roster full of Kentuckians, that would be my dream. It hasn’t happened yet and I don’t know that it will. Kentuckians are highly valued in recruiting.”
On zip lining with Blair Green …
“Well, that just shows my deep admiration and love that I have for Blair Green. That was not the top of my choices that we would spend the day doing. That is what she wanted to do and it was a lot of fun. That is an amazing place over there. I cannot remember how many hundreds of feet in the air we were put it was too many hundreds of feet for my taste. About 10 feet is about my limit and what I like. It was gorgeous and beautiful and fun. It was Blair and her mom and dad so that was a unique experience but Blair committed to us a year prior on the home visit so we were really tight and had a great relationship already. It tells you a little bit about her she is adventurous and has some courage about her. I will tell you we were really high up there a couple of times. But it ended up being a fun day. It was good for me.”
On if a recruit asked him to sky dive …
“No, no, no. They made planes for you to stay inside of them and get you from one spot to the other. That is one of the more interesting things that people have chosen to do on this planet is jump out of a plane. The line will be drawn there. I will not jump out of a plane. There might be a few people out there I would jump out of plane for. Let’s edit that out of the press conference. I am sure there is someone I would go jump out of a plane for.”
On if Alyssa Rice talked to him before she jumped out of plane this off season …
“I was glad she didn’t. I would have been a mess. She didn’t and she is still here so everything is alright. It is just not recommended at all.”
On recruiting high-character players …
“For me, it is the way you are going to have success in life. I am truly a person who has tried it both ways. In my early and mid-20s I don’t think I was truly pursuing a career of high character. I had a lot of trouble with that and a lot of failures and difficulties in life that I had some troubles with. Thank goodness my parents had really instilled that into us. I didn’t really listen to them a lot until it finally kind of clicked to me that I am causing myself a lot more pain than I needed to. It has been a journey over the many, many years trying to get to a spot to really commit to that. I think for me, I really think all these players at some point in time basketball is going to just become a hobby. They are really valuable basketball players right now. They are getting a world-class education here at the University of Kentucky. They are getting doors open for them and opportunities open for them that are really meaningful and valuable because they can play basketball. So they are very valuable. We have numerous (former) players getting a pay check right now playing basketball so they have value as a basketball player. But that has a finite amount of time to it. What we try to explain to our players is that the life expectancy for a woman in the country right now is north of 82 years. So if you are great and play 10 years (professionally) you have 50 years on the planet that you have to be a person that doesn’t play basketball. I think there is value in you living and understanding what a life of high character can yield. So as we try to educate these players on being national champions in basketball and being the very best basketball players, we think that is helping us as a basketball team to have high character people who are on that pursuit to strengthen their character every single day. That is what I need to be doing because I fall short so many times in so many areas. So it is a life-long pursuit. We just want people who are interested in that and interested in coming here and being a giver and a great teammate and maybe sacrifice some personal gain for the team to do well. That is important for our team right now but also that is something they can take with them if we make any impact on that area in their four or five years here. That is just something they can have with them.”
On the signees and team’s athleticism …
“Well, the two players we signed are going to help add to that and are both really athletic. Right now the overall athleticism of our team is really good. People can move and I would say we have a very athletic team right now as you rate it over the 11 years.”
On Sacramento State
“Sacramento State is going to pose a real challenge to us. Bunky Harkleroad is their coach and from Berea fame, I have known him a long time and really admire how dynamic he is as a coach and how dynamic their team is. They are going to really try to play extremely hard and an unorthodox style. They shoot as many 3s as they can. They get the pace really fast and disrupt you with a bunch of different presses as far as what they did last year and have done over the course of time there. A great challenge for us. It really has put some great pressure on us in practice to get ready. We are going to have to move our feet and keep the ball in front of us because if they break you down and you start helping now they are pitching out to a wide open 3-point shooter and it is a major challenge. At this point in our development as a team this is a really big challenge. I think the players have responded well to our preparation. We have two more sessions to get ready in today and our gameday practice tomorrow. We need to get in everything we can to see if we can get off to a great start. We could have a lot less challenging game than what Sacramento State is going to give us. Their style of play just puts a lot of pressure on your team defensively. So a great opening game for us. We will have to work to win and that is what this team needs to learn right now is how to go out there and earn victories. Looking forward to it, it is going to be tough. Players are working hard to get ready to go tomorrow night at 7 p.m.”
On if the team has worked on the press break since the Southern Indiana game …
“We have. So we had some trouble with Southern Indiana and their (Sacramento State’s) ability is much greater to be able to effect it. So I don’t think that we will look flawless against their pressure but we have to just hang in there and do better than we did against Southern Indiana. Like I told the team, a lot of those turnovers were on me because I didn’t have us organized and a little more organization would have helped us. I thought that we actually tried to do some of the things that we had been practicing conceptually. But we will be three or four more practices better as far as the press break goes and some of the veterans understand that and it is something we worked a lot on last year. Hopefully that will look better tomorrow night. It needs to and some of the young mistakes I don’t think you are going to correct in three or four practices. Some of our younger players are going to make some turnovers. We were such a low turnover team last year, but we really didn’t have freshmen handling the ball very much. Jaida and Paige were our only two freshmen and they didn’t play a ton of minutes or have the ball in their hands a whole lot. And then Makayla and Taylor and everybody just made some good plays with the ball. That is what we will be working towards but Sacramento State is going to give us a huge challenge in that area.”
On the team’s 3-point defense …
“Well it is hard because if they play how I believe they are going to play it is different than a lot of our players have ever seen. So they will just shoot it anyone, anytime, anywhere. You know, they will walk into the gym and shoot it. I don’t know exactly how we will react to that. We have tried to tell them and I am sure at times we will may not just look fantastic out there because of the unorthodox way that they play. But I understand that. We have tried to be unorthodox here over the years in the way we have kind of developed defensively at times. Here is what I feel good about. I think that we are better going into practice today because of a really good practice yesterday and I thought we were better yesterday than the day before. So we are improving. That is what we have to try to seek every single day as we work our way through a very challenging non-conference schedule.”
On importance of having game film to show the rookie instead of just practice …
“Yeah, I think it does help. They are watching for four weeks like this situation and that situation in practice. So I do think it kind of helps that here is a change of scenery. It is real now, the games are here and for the young players I can see some benefit from that. Now, here is what we are working on and here is why we are working on it because Sacramento State is going to try to attack us. That helps their focus a little bit instead of working on all these concepts that are going to help us down the road. That is a little bit more difficult for a young player to get. So I do think it can help them lock in and focus. Now we are on that journey to teach them the benefit and the necessity of preparation, which is a totally different level now then what they were experiencing this time last year as a senior in high school.”
On playing two games at almost the same time at the MBB team …
“It is opening day and we both have to play. Time and again when we have been faced with challenges like this it ends up not being that challenging. Our fans come out and watch us play and the guys get great crowds too. We are fortunate that we have two great groups of people that come out to watch us play and when we get into these very rare situations it doesn’t every feel negative or from what I can tell impact us negatively at all. I just expect there to be a lot of excitement in the Coliseum tomorrow night and a lot of excitement in Rupp Arena. It is great that the Wildcats are playing tomorrow night and hopefully we are 2-0 at 9 o’clock tomorrow night.”
On if he goes on extra lengths to not have games conflict with men’s basketball …
“We are always trying to work in partnership with each other. Sure we give consideration to those things. It is not the end all, be all either. Are we both tipping at 7? Apparently that is not a very big issue or I would have heard about by now. It is certainly not an issue for me. I think we will have a great crowd and I am quite certain we will have a great atmosphere in Rupp Arena too.”
On honoring Veteran’s Day …
“We just feel so blessed to play in Memorial Coliseum, which honors so many Kentuckians that paid the ultimate sacrifice so we could live in America and have the freedom that we have that so many people around the globe don’t have. We are so thankful for the people who made that sacrifice and who are out there right now sacrificing for us and protecting us and keeping us safe right now. We have the upmost respect for our military and veterans and are very, very appreciative of that. I always feel honored to try to go out and give a great effort in Memorial Coliseum, that is always on our mind that this is a special building and we are honored to call it home.”
On Ogechi Anyagaligbo …
“Injury update that I should have lead off with but I got sidetracked in recruiting news. Ogechi you saw went down in the exhibition game and unfortunately it was a torn ACL and she will be out for the season. Really so sad for her because she has worked so hard and she had to sit last year due to transfer rules and now a tough blow for her to absorb. She has had a great attitude so far and she will get the very best care that she could possibly receive here from our medical team. Tough blow for Ogechi and tough for our team. But unfortunately it is something that we have had experience with before. So we are just going to figure out where the silver lining is and more forward. Ogechi is still a really important part of our program and will have an impact on our team. We have not determined a date for surgery yet. That is always a work in progress and we will let you know when that happens. Also, Paige Poffenberger will not be available tomorrow night. She got an elbow to the head in practice and is working her way back through concussion protocol. We are hopeful she might could get back on Sunday, but she will not play tomorrow night.”
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