Women's Basketball
No. 15 Kentucky Returns Home Thursday vs. No. 25 Missouri

No. 15 Kentucky Returns Home Thursday vs. No. 25 Missouri

by Evan Crane

LEXINGTON, Ky. – After playing three of its last four games away from Memorial Coliseum, the No. 15 University of Kentucky women’s basketball team returns to the historic venue to play host to top-25 ranked Missouri on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Single-game tickets are $10 (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+). Young fans are encouraged to take advantage of the Kid Zone pregame with games, poster making stations, coloring stations and more. Jaida Roper is scheduled to sign autographs on the concourse following the game. Thursday’s game is part of We Back Pat Week across the Southeastern Conference, bringing awareness and honoring the legacy of Pat Summitt. Representatives of the Pat Summitt Foundation are scheduled to be on hand for a special check presentation.  
The game will be televised on the SEC Network with Pam Ward and Carolyn Peck on the call. The action can also be seen through WatchESPN on computers, smartphones or tablets. Darren Headrick will have the call on the UK Sports Network on 630 AM in Lexington. Live stats and free live audio will be available online at UKathletics.com.
Spectator parking is located in all E-lots surrounding Memorial Coliseum and are off control 3 hours prior to tip. Additionally, the South Limestone Garage (PS#5) and the Rose Street Garage (PS#2) are available 2 hours prior to tip. With the Gatton Student Center lot and expansion of North Craft lot there are 238 additional parking spots for spectators this season around Memorial Coliseum. The Bill Gatton Student Center is available as a pay-to-park option. Availability is based on the Gatton Student Center Event Schedule.
The Lexington Parking Authority Transit Center Parking Garage, located between High Street and Vine Street is available for parking after 5 p.m. during the week and all day on the weekends. Additionally, a free shuttle service will pick up in the High Street lot beginning 2 hours prior to tip. UK Athletics Event Staff will be at the Transit Center Garage Entrance to assist with directing patrons to the correct shuttle pick-up location.
Parking is prohibited in any R (Residential) lots. Vehicles parking in R lots without a proper permit, along yellow curbs, grass spaces, or other non-specified and unapproved areas may be subject to ticket and/or tow. Disabled spectator parking is available with a valid, state issues disabled hangtag in the E lot North of the Craft Center. These spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis until full.
Shuttles are available beginning 2 hours prior to tip off and pick up and drop off near the South Limestone Garage (PS#5) and near the Transit Center Parking Garage and High Street Lot. Shuttles will start back up after halftime to return guests to their parking areas, the shuttle will discontinue service 1-hour post-game.
Doors to Memorial Coliseum open 1.5 hours before tip and UK Athletics encourages women’s basketball fans to arrive early to ease traffic and parking congestion around the Coliseum. For more information on parking around Memorial Coliseum and other game-day questions visit UKathletics.com.
Kentucky (16-3, 3-2 SEC) is looking to build off its road win at LSU last Thursday, taking down the Tigers 64-60 with starting guard Taylor Murray and Rhyne Howard sidelined due to injury. Senior guard Maci Morris led Kentucky in the game, scoring a game-high 20 points with five rebounds and three steals. Junior guard Jaida Roper scored 10 points with three assists, while freshman Blair Green and sophomore Tatyana Wyatt each had nine points. Sophomore forward KeKe McKinney scored six points, including the last four points of the game, hitting a 3-pointer with :20 remaining before knocking down a clutch free throw.
Morris leads Kentucky this season by averaging 17.0 points per game with a team-best 49 3-pointers made. The senior is also earning 3.3 rebounds per game with 27 steals and 21 assists. Howard is averaging 16.9 points per game and adds a team-best 7.1 rebounds per game with 43 3s made, 50 assists, 40 steals and 16 blocks. Murray is the only other Wildcats averaging double figures with 12.3 points per game while leading UK with 68 assists and 64 steals.
Missouri enters Thursday’s game on a two-game road swing that started with a 79-65 loss at top-25 ranked South Carolina on Monday. The Tigers are currently ranked No. 25 in the AP Top 25 and are receiving votes in the USA Today/Coaches Top 25. MU is 15-5 overall and 4-2 in SEC play with wins against Ole Miss, Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia and losses to South Carolina and Florida. Mizzou will return home following Thursday’s game to host Auburn before a bye date in the league next week.
As a team, the Tigers are averaging 65.8 points per game, hitting 44.2 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from long range. MU is holding teams to just 56.3 points per game, 35.9 percent from the field and 28.1 percent from 3. Missouri has a +4.0 rebounding margin and -2.6 turnover margin this season averaging 15.9 turnovers per game.
Senior guard Sophie Cunningham leads the team by averaging 15.9 points per game with 6.0 rebounds per game with a team-best 64 assists and 27 steals. Junior guard Amber Smith is averaging 13.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game with a team-best 21 blocks. Redshirt senior guard Lauren Aldridge is earning 6.3 points per game with 48 assists and has hit 34 3-pointers. Senior forward Cierra Porter, who has only played in seven games after returning to the team midseason, is averaging 5.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.
Kentucky leads the all-time series in games played against Missouri with a 6-3 record, including a 4-0 mark in games played in Lexington. The Tigers have won each of the last two meetings in the series with both of those coming in Columbia.
For more information on the Kentucky women’s basketball team, visit UKathletics.com or follow @KentuckyWBB on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, or Kentucky Women’s Basketball on Facebook.

Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
Opening statement…
“Well, Missouri has a really tough team as always. Robin Pingeton is one of the great coaches in our league and they are always so physical and so tough to score on, and they run offenses as well as anybody in the league. So, it’ll be tough game, a real difficult matchup for us. We’ll have to practice really hard today and try to finish up our preparation for a victory tomorrow night, but it’ll be a tough one. We need a big crowd out at Memorial, it’ll be really helpful to help the team and give them energy. Also, I just want to emphasize the We Back Pat initiative that is going on league-wide. We’re trying to bring awareness to Alzheimer’s and Alzheimer’s research and treatment, and that is what the Pat Summitt Foundation is supporting. The entire league has done a great job of supporting that initiative. So, big night tomorrow night in Memorial and we need a great effort to have a victory over Missouri.”
On what you and the team have in store for tomorrow…
“Well, we hope we can get another win. We’ve had two great Thursday night wins on the road, and you sandwich that with a disappointing loss at home. So, we’d love to get back on track at home and our fans have been so awesome this year in coming out and giving great energy, and so we need to try to get one. It’s another really tough, physically game where the defense is very physical and not going to give you easy baskets, they’re not going to break down a whole lot, you’re going to have to be patient, you’re going to have to make plays. And, they make great decisions with the basketball. So, it’s two contrasting styles going at it tomorrow night, and we have to see if we can give more effort so we can try to earn that victory.”
The status of Rhyne Howard, Maci Morris and Taylor Murray, and if they’re healing from injury…
“Yeah, I think so. I think they’ve improved and we’ll know more today once we get to practice. And, they’ve improved and we’re always hopeful we can get them back on the court, but we won’t know until later today or probably tomorrow.”
On the advantage of having a week off…
“Yeah, it was important for us, particularly with the opponents we’ve played and how physically demanding the schedule has been. Three of the first five were on the road, we had to travel, and then we had to deal with the injuries. Which, a lot of teams are having to deal with it this time of the year. It’s a long season and the bye date really came at an advantageous time for the Wildcats. Not only the two kids that missed the game Thursday night, but the kids that played were hurting and banged up just dealing with various issues. I’m so proud that they played through and earned a big victory down there. The ability trust and recover and rejuvenate is so important for our team.”
On players other than the leading scorers stepping up and fulfilling key roles…
“Well, that’s the way we tried to look at it last Thursday night. What a great opportunity we have to make sure that everybody knows that we’re not a one-player team, or two, or even a three-player team. It takes every one of us. And, you know that we had to finish that game down at Tennessee with every one of our leading scorers not on the floor, and we had to finish that game in that fashion. So, we had tremendous confidence in our team and I thought you saw that with the way they attacked that game last Thursday night. They came out with laser-light focus, tremendous energy and effort and got control of the game early, which fueled our confidence to make us believe that we could get that done. So, now you have some players that have shown they’re capable of doing things, so we need to be a complete balanced ball team. We saw everybody on the floor able to take advantage of their opportunities, so I think it’s something we need to build on.”
On if players who’ve stepped up recently realize that they can’t take a step back now…
“Yeah, I think it is important that we understand what opportunities presents itself in a defensive or offensive possession and how to stay focused on what you need to do. If that is shooting the ball within your range and you’re wide open, or if you need to go to the glass, set a great screen, make a crisp pass, all those things we need to be ready to do. We’ve said all-year long, we’re not a star-studded team. We’re a team that is going to have to get it together and get it done together. The sum will have to equal more than the parts and that is the style that we’ll have to play this year to win.”
On what you’ve learned about your team from a resolving perspective…
“Well, I’ve said this before. I think they took great advantage of the opportunity they had to come together last summer and the trip they took to Italy. And, also understand the shift we were making in our style of play and the attempt to reclaim our identity as a program. So, I think all of those experiences have helped them build resolve. One of the attributes we want them to possess in life is resilience because they’re going to have to possess it once they’re done with basketball. Everybody in life has to deal with challenges – do you bounce back or do you not? So, resilience is something that we’ve really tried passing along to them each and every day and they’ve really embraced all of those opportunities. We’re far from perfect, certainly we still have flaws, but I don’t think you can question their desire to win. You know, sometimes you don’t make the right play, but for every mental error or boneheaded play you want to call that we made last Thursday night, we made about three hustle plays. So, I don’t know that we’re ever going to be a masterpiece and just a beautiful and perfect team, but those qualities of toughness and grit and intensity, and being able to find a way to get a stop on defense, those things are serving us well. What I love so much about it is it will serve them well in life.”

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