Big Blue Nation is going to have plenty of chances to see the University of Kentucky women’s basketball team in person this season as head coach Matthew Mitchell has announced Kentucky’s 2018 non-conference schedule which includes 11 home games.
The non-conference slate features home games against Alabama State, Southern University, Virginia, High Point, Morehead State, Rhode Island, Middle Tennessee, Western Carolina, Murray State and Sacred Heart. UK will also travel to face in-state foe Louisville and participate in the 2018 Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands against South Florida, North Carolina and UCLA.
“It’s important to find a good balance in the non-conference portion of your schedule and we feel we have done that with some quality opponents throughout this schedule,” Mitchell said. “The Paradise Jam adds a different but constructive look to our schedule this season that we haven’t had in a few years. Overall, I expect this schedule to give us the proper challenges so we are fully prepared for league action in January.”
Four of Kentucky’s 2018 non-conference opponents participated in the NCAA Tournament last season in South Florida, Virginia, UCLA and Louisville. The Bruins went to the Elite Eight before falling to Mississippi State, while UofL lost to the Bulldogs in the Final Four. Virginia advanced to the second round of the event while South Florida fell in the opening round.
Following its lone exhibition of the season vs. Lincoln Memorial on Friday, Nov. 2 in Lexington, Kentucky begins the 2018-19 season with a four-game home stretch starting with Alabama State on Wednesday, Nov. 7 before facing Southern University on Sunday, Nov. 11. The stretch concludes against Virginia on Thursday, Nov. 15 and High Point on Sunday, Nov. 18.
Kentucky will spend Thanksgiving 2018 in the U.S. Virgin Islands at the 2018 Paradise Jam, playing South Florida on Thanksgiving Day, UCLA on Friday, Nov. 23 and North Carolina on Saturday, Nov. 24. All three games will be played at 1 p.m. ET in the University of Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center and be streamed (subscription required) on Flohoops.com. UK will conclude action in November with a home game vs. Morehead State on Thursday, Nov. 29.
December starts with Kentucky hosting Rhode Island on Thursday, Dec. 6 before traveling to in-state foe Louisville on Sunday, Dec. 9 for the annual rivalry game with the Cardinals. Following its showdown with UofL, the Wildcats will conclude non-conference play how it started it with four home games. The first will be Saturday, Dec. 15 vs. Middle Tennessee followed by a Dec. 18 date with Western Carolina and a Dec. 21 contest with Murray State. After breaking for Christmas, UK will conclude the non-conference schedule against Sacred Heart on Saturday, Dec. 29 in Lexington.
Game times are ET and subject to change while TV selections are still to be determined. More information regarding season tickets will be released in July/August, while all single-game tickets will go on sale in October. UK’s 16-game Southeastern Conference slate will be announced later this summer, however, the conference office has announced the Wildcats opponents. Kentucky will face Arkansas, Florida, Ole Miss, Missouri and Vanderbilt at home, while traveling to Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Mississippi State and Tennessee. UK will have home and away contests vs. South Carolina, LSU and Texas A&M.
Kentucky, which is entering its 45th season of varsity women’s basketball and 12th under Mitchell, is looking to build on last season. The Wildcats won eight of their first nine games to start the season but hit a mid-season lull thanks to playing eight straight games against teams that had been or were ranked or receiving votes in the national listings. The Wildcats grabbed six wins against conference opponents, including taking down Alabama in the SEC Tournament, but did not get a postseason invite for the first time in Mitchell’s tenure.
Mitchell and Co. will return 10 of the 13 players that saw time last season along with forward Ogechi Anyagaligbo, who missed the 2017-18 season due to injury. In all, the Wildcats bring back 80 percent of their made field goals from last season, 75 percent of their made 3s, 74 percent of their rebounding, 80 percent of their assists and 81 percent of their scoring.
Each of the top four scorers will be back for UK starting with guard Maci Morris, who paced the Wildcats with 17.3 points per game and finished second in the nation in 3-point field-goal percentage at 47.5 percent. Fellow guard Taylor Murray also returns her 11.5 points per game and team best 136 assists and 67 steals. Rising sophomores Dorie Harrison and Tatyana Wyatt were the team’s third and fourth best scorers last season, respectively. Harrison averaged 6.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, while Wyatt averaged 6.6 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.
Kentucky will add one of the nation’s best recruiting classes to mix as well in guards Rhyne Howard and Blair Green. Howard and Green made up the 18th-best class in the nation according to All Star Girls Report. Both players were named McDonald’s All-America Game nominees and Naismith High School All-America Honorable Mention last season. Howard, who was recently tabbed one of 12 players to the Team USA U18 roster, was named Tennessee’s Miss Basketball and the Gatorade Player of the Year. Green was a finalists for Miss Kentucky Basketball and was tabbed first-team all-state this season.
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