The Wildcats take on the Aggies in their Play4Kay game in Reed Arena
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 9/7 Kentucky women’s basketball team looks to keep its winning streak alive and chart its first win in College Station, Texas when it travels to No. 11/13 Texas A&M for a Big Monday showdown on ESPN2. The game will tip at 6 p.m. CST/7 p.m. EST in Reed Arena.
Fans can also follow the UK Hoops team on the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price or on Twitter at @UKHoopCats. Use the hashtag #UKHoops to comment on the game.
The Wildcats will once again don their pink NIKE uniforms, socks and shoes in an effort to increase awareness for the Play4Kay initiative and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
Earlier this season in Lexington, Ky., the Wildcats used a solid second-half performance to defeat Texas A&M 65-62 in the teams’ first-ever meeting. UK forced 11 second-half turnovers and 21 overall, while holding the Aggies to 32 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes. The Wildcats were paced by senior guard A’dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) who hit three of her four 3-pointers in the second half for 11 of her team-high 23 points.
“It’s a big game,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We’re a game behind them and so it’s a big game. It’s two of the best teams in the country, two of the best teams certainly in our league and it’ll be a tremendous matchup. We had a tremendous game here. I thought we played well and gave great effort. We’ll have to learn from that game. I think it’s probably important for us to figure out a little bit better way to defend them. They got a lot of easy buckets in that game although we won, and they didn’t score a ton. I think we need to make them work harder to score. It’ll be a real tough game and our team will have to prepare well and be real sharp in order to get the victory.”
The Cats (22-3 overall, 10-2), who currently sit in second place in the Southeastern Conference standings, are coming off an impressive come-from-behind victory over No. 16/14 South Carolina on Thursday. Trailing by 16 points early in the second half, the Wildcats used a four-guard set to chip away at the Gamecocks’ lead and win 78-74 – the largest comeback in the Matthew Mitchell era. UK outscored SC 48-30 in the second half and scored 24 points off 22 forced turnovers in the game, while committing just nine.
Four players scored in double digits led by redshirt sophomore point guard Jennifer O’Neill (Bronx, N.Y.) with 19. Mathies added 15 points and four steals, while sophomore guard Bria Goss (Indianapolis) scored 13 off the bench. Junior guard Kastine Evans (Salem, Conn.) was crucial to the Wildcats’ win as she posted 11 points all in the second half, including a layup and two free throws in the final 25 seconds.
Overall this season, Mathies leads UK and ranks second in the league (conference games only) in scoring, averaging 18.5 points per game. The preseason SEC Player of the Year currently ranks in the top 10 of 13 career lists at UK, including third in scoring (1,830) and steals (293). She needs 16 more points to tie former Wildcat Victoria Dunlap at No. 2 on the all-time scoring list. (1,846 – 2005-08).
In the front court, juniors DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) and Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) are giving Kentucky a dynamic inside presence this season. The duo combine to average 22.5 points and 14.7 rebounds per game and both are shooting over 50 percent from the floor.
The Cats’ “40 minutes of dread” defense has them leading the nation in turnover margin (+8.8), limiting the opponent to 55.0 points per game (3rd in the SEC), averaging 12.1 steals (1st in the SEC/19th nationally) and 5.0 blocks per game (2nd in the SEC/27th nationally).
No. 11/13 Texas A&M is 20-5 overall, 10-1 in SEC play and are currently tied for first in the league with Tennessee. The Aggies are riding an eight-game winning streak since falling to the Wildcats in Lexington on Jan. 10, their only league loss of the season. A&M is coming off a 78-71 win over Florida on Thursday at home. The Aggies are 12-2 at home this season, 5-0 in SEC games.
Overall, junior center Kelsey Bone leads the Aggies and ranks second in the SEC (all games) in scoring and rebounding with 17.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. Freshman guard Courtney Walker follows in the scoring column with 10.4 points per game.
The Aggies lead the SEC in field goal percentage this season, shooting .467 percent from the field. They also are first in 3-point field goal percentage (.377), assists per game (17.4) and assist/turnover ratio (17.4 to 15.5).
Head coach Gary Blair is in his 28th overall season as a Division I head coach, his 10th at A&M. He currently ranks in the top 15 in career victories (640) and in the top 25 by winning percentage (.709) amongst Division I coaches.
UK is 3-3 against ranked teams this season, including 1-2 on the road. UK’s last win over a ranked SEC team on the road was last season vs. No. 15/14 Georgia (69-64) on Jan. 19, 2012.