LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 10/8 Kentucky women’s basketball team travels to Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday, Feb. 10 for a Southeastern Conference showdown with Vanderbilt on a national stage. The Wildcats will battle the Commodores in historic Memorial Gymnasium at 3 p.m. CST/4 p.m. EST on ESPN2 and Watch ESPN. The game also can be heard live on the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price. Sunday is Vanderbilt’s annual Pink Out game to raise awareness for the Play4Kay initiative and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
Fans can also follow the UK Hoops team on Twitter at @UKHoopCats and use #UKHoops to comment on the game.
“It will be a tough game against Vanderbilt it always is,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “I’d like to mention it’s a Play 4Kay game our coaches association and ESPN have really gotten behind the Kay Yow Foundation. Coach Yow was someone that was a big influence on me in my career and very early in my career very kind to me and one thing that I did ask her before she passed is what could we do and she just said all the young coaches coming up really need to make sure we keep the spotlight on the issue of breast cancer and really try to help raise money for research. That was a passion for her and she’s impacted millions of people. It’s a Play 4Kay game and we’ll need to go out and play real, real hard. Vanderbilt’s a tough team. They are very dynamic on offense as they always have been, and they are very tough to guard. They are always a difficult team to go against with their defense. They really guard the ball well and make you make great decisions. It will be a tough game on the road for us and we’ll need to prepare well over the next couple of days to have a chance to win.”
The Wildcats (20-3 overall, 8-2) are in the midst of a tough stretch to finish out regular-season Southeastern Conference play as four of their six league games are on the road. UK is 3-1 away from home this season, and 10 games into the SEC slate, the Cats find themselves in a three-way tie for third place with Georgia and South Carolina.
The Cats are coming off a hard-fought come-from-behind victory at Arkansas on Thursday. Despite trailing by 11 points in the first half, the Wildcats rallied for an impressive 80-74 win in overtime. Sophomore guard Bria Goss (Indianapolis), the reigning SEC Freshman of the Year, scored 16 of her team-high 17 points in the second half and overtime after not starting the game for the first time in her career, a stretch of 57 consecutive starts.
“For Bria, last night was just an effort to change the dynamic because she is one of the kids on our team right now that is the epitome of what we want a Kentucky basketball player to be,” Mitchell said of the starting lineup change. “She is of the highest character, she has the greatest work ethic, she cares about people, cares about this program, cares about Kentucky and winning. There’s nothing wrong with her other than her not getting out of her way. I was just trying to change the dynamic. I was not mad or angry or upset with her. I was just trying to help her anyway that I could, so that will be the approach. If that’s starting or coming off the bench I don’t know if either one of those is real important. Last night she got back to the things that make her successful and she had not been doing that beforehand, but I don’t know what I’m going to do with that situation yet.”
Junior forward Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) added 16 points and six rebounds in the win, while senior guard A’dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) finished with 15 points, including hitting four her last six shot attempts in the decisive second half and overtime. She also had a season-high tying nine rebounds and five assists. Junior center DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Ky.) had 12 points, including nine in the first half, and five rebounds.
Overall this season, Mathies leads UK and ranks second in the league (conference games only) in scoring, averaging 17.9 points per game. The preseason SEC Player of the Year currently ranks in the top 10 of 12 career lists at UK, including third in steals (286) and fourth in scoring (1,787). She needs just 10 more points to tie Leslie Nichols (1979-83) at No. 3 on the all-time scoring list.
In the front court, Stallworth and Walker are giving Kentucky a dynamic inside presence this season. The duo combine to average 22.9 points and 14.7 rebounds per game and both are shooting over 50 percent from the floor.
Mitchell currently ranks tied for second on UK’s all-time wins list with Sharon Fanning and needs just four wins to become UK’s all-time winningest coach with Terry Hall (138 wins from 1980-87).
Vanderbilt is 15-7 overall, 5-4 in SEC play and coming off a bye week. The Commodores’ last game was a 79-53 win over Ole miss on Feb. 3. The Commodores have won two of their last three games and are fourth in the SEC standings. They are 9-1 overall at home this season, 3-1 in league play. Their only home loss came against instate rival and ninth-ranked Tennessee on Jan. 24, 83-75.
Three players are averaging in double-digit scoring this season led by senior forward Tiffany Clarke with 16.3 points per game (fourth in the SEC). She is shooting .548 percent (138-252) from the field (second in the SEC), while grabbing a team-high 8.5 rebounds per game (fourth in the SEC). Junior guards Christina Foggie and Jasmine Lister follow with 15.9 and 11.2 points per game, respectively. Lister has run the Vanderbilt offense with 6.6 assists per game in SEC play, the most in the conference.
Sunday will mark the 45th meeting in the all-time series with Vanderbilt. The Commodores lead the series 27-17 overall, including a 14-5 advantage in Nashville. However, UK has won the last four matchups with the Commodores, including an 80-71 win in the teams’ last meeting in the Music City.