Women's Basketball
No. 15 Kentucky Celebrates Senior Night Thursday vs. Georgia

No. 15 Kentucky Celebrates Senior Night Thursday vs. Georgia

by Evan Crane

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Senior Night at the University of Kentucky is always a special event and Thursday will be no different as the No. 15 University of Kentucky women’s basketball team concludes its 2019-20 home schedule by honoring five seniors prior to its 7 p.m. ET vs. Georgia inside Memorial Coliseum.
UK’s annual Senior Night includes a pregame ceremony that will begin at approx. 6:40 p.m. ET where the program will honor seniors Ogechi Anygaligbo, Nae Nae Cole, Sabrina Haines, Amanda Paschal and Jaida Roper for their hard work and dedication to the program. Kentucky is 33-11 all-time in regular-season home finales (1974-75 season not included) and have won 13 of their last 16 games on Senior Night.
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+). Children aged 5 and under do not require a ticket in general admission areas. Young fans are encouraged to take advantage of the Kid Zone pregame with games, poster making stations, coloring stations and more. Senior guard Jaida Roper is scheduled to sign autographs on the concourse following the game.
The game vs. Georgia will be broadcast on SEC Network+ with Jeff Piecoro and Dick Gabriel 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 630AM WLAP 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. The Bill Gatton Student Center is available as a pay-to-park option. Availability is based on the Gatton Student Center Event Schedule.
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 the 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.
Kentucky (20-6, 9-5 Southeastern Conference) is coming off a tough loss to No. 1 South Carolina on Sunday. The UK defense played well in the game, limiting South Carolina to its second-fewest points in a league game this season but the offense could never get going, shooting just 29.6 percent from the field. Sophomore guard Rhyne Howard scored a game-high 24 points adding a team-best 11 rebounds for her sixth double-double of the season. Junior forward KeKe McKinney tied a career high with three 3-pointers made.
Howard leads Kentucky this season by ranking third nationally and first in the league with 23.1 points per game. The guard leads UK in rebounding at 6.6 per game while she has 56 assists, 54 steals and 25 blocks. Junior guard Chasity Patterson is averaging 12.2 points per game with 22 steals and 22 assists, while Haines is averaging 10.1 points per game with 4.1 rebounds per game. Roper is averaging 7.9 points per game and leads the Wildcats with 90 assists.
Georgia enters the week with a 15-12 record, including a 6-8 mark in league play and 4-4 record on the road. The Bulldogs are coming off an impressive 73-56 win at LSU on Sunday. In the game, the Bulldogs hit 49.1 percent from the field and went 15-of-16 from the free-throw line. Junior center Jenna Staiti and junior guard Gabby Connally each had 20-point games against the Tigers with Staiti going for 24 points and nine rebounds, while Connally went for 23 points hitting three 3-pointers.
Connally leads the team in scoring at 12.5 points per game while she also has a team-best 97 assists and 40 steals. The guard has hit a team-best 43 3-pointers this season. Staiti is second in scoring on the squad with 10.8 points per game, grabbing a team-best 6.1 rebounds per game with 41 blocks. Junior guard Maya Caldwell is averaging 9.8 points per game and has 56 assists with 38 steals.
Georgia leads the all-time series Kentucky, 37-19, including a 14-10 mark in games played in Lexington. UGA won the last meeting in Lexington 56-42 on Jan. 7, 2018. The Wildcats have won five of the last six games in the series with the home loss on Jan. 7, 2018 being the only loss during that stretch for Kentucky. UK defeated UGA 58-53 last season in Athens on the last game of the regular season. Matthew Mitchell is 10-8 against Georgia as the Kentucky head coach.
For more information on the Kentucky women’s basketball team, visit UKathletics.com or follow @KentuckyWBB on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
Opening statement…
“Well, it is a special group of seniors that we are honoring tomorrow on so many fronts but one thing we are focused on is a great Georgia team that is coming in here highly motivated to win and we are going to have to play really hard and we are going to honor five incredible seniors before the game so we would like our fans to be in their seats early and honor what is really a great class that we are grateful for how they have grown in this program and what they have given to this program.  They are just an awesome group of young women. They deserve all the support and love that we can muster up for them tomorrow night and I hope everybody will be in their seats early.”
On how this class came together an unusual way and what they have meant …
“Form that standpoint, that makes them so special. It was a class that did come about in an unexpected way and I have often thought about how different my life would be for the worse if it didn’t happen the way that it did. Jaida Roper, Ogechi and Amanda walked through the door when a lot of people didn’t think that was a thing to do. They helped our program immensely during our time here. Sabrina and Nae Nae, we saw that we were going to be a bit young and had a gap there and they cam in and helped fill with their veteran presence. Watching those five all come together and form a class and come really close with each other and how hard they have worked together for the benefit of our program is something that I am so grateful for and it motivates me in a major way to get this win tomorrow.”
On the resilience of this group …
“Yeah, so it is an amazing group. It has not been smooth sailing for this particular group physically. They have had a lot of issues they have had to overcome and right now in their senior year none of the five just wake up feeling great physically but they still come to practice and battle through all of that to have us in a position to do some special things here at the end of the season. Its an immense contribution they have made to the program and as much as they have contributed on the court, they are fantastic people off the court. They are great teammates and none of us in the program are perfect and we have all had things we have tried to overcome on and off the court but this group have come through it with a tremendous amount of grace and I really look up to this group of seniors.”
On four of the five seniors already having a degree …
“Yeah, that is unusual and another great thing to highlight about this senior class is what great students they are. To a person, everyone achieving at a high level academically. As you said, four of the five have already graduated and another one graduates in May. We are just always pleased when that happens for our players and they graduate with a degree. They have worked hard to accomplish a lot while they have been here. And I will say this, they are really, really motivated to have a special run down the stretch. They have a lot to play for, this is a huge game tomorrow night and the sense I get from them is they are really locked in tomorrow night. They are happy to be honored as seniors, but the sense I get is they are locked in to get this win.”
On if Sabrina give him a hard time about beating UK while she was at Arizona State …
“I give her a head time about it, I know that. I am still mad abut that. That has been an amazing thing to happen and she has made so many big plays for us this year. It has really been amazing. Whether it be a shot she has made in key times or I thought she made two key defensive plays against Mississippi State to earn what was a really important win for us. Sabina has added a lot to our program and we are really grateful for her. She has more than made up for that one time she beat us at Arizona State. We have forgiven her.”
On what Jaida Roper means to the team when she is locked in …
“I am so proud of Jaida. I think she is playing at a really high and elite level as far as SEC point guards so right now. She has had to work really hard to get to that point. She has come in and I don’t know what else we could have asked her to do to maximize and take advantage of the opportunity that this great university gives you and that our program gives you. She has improved as a person and young woman and her maturity level and leadership. I am so pleased to see her game come together. Basketball is very important to her and she is so passionate about the game and has played at a really high level for us this year. She has been a major factor in us having the success we have had. I don’t think there is an area you can point to where she didn’t work hard to get better and walk out the door much better than she did walking in the door. As a coach, that what gives you tremendous pride and satisfaction that a player will actually do that. She is as good an example as we have had here in taking advantage of her opportunity.”
On all five seniors having key moments that have helped win games …
“It has been such an interesting year for us and we have really had to get it done as a team. We have had a leading scorer and go-to player in Rhyne Howard, who has had a tremendous season but you don’t win games 24-23, you have to have the team to get it done. It is a great day to highlight these seniors and what they have done and what their contributions have been. When you talk about Nae Nae and Ogechi and even Tatyana – our players who have played a bulk of minutes in the low post and defend bigger players and just battle defensively – and score against the great post players in our conference they have had to do that by committee and it is awesome to see on a given night who steps up and gets that done. You are right, there have been so many key moments this season that would have gone the other way have we not had those contributions. You go back to the Virginia game, which was a physical battle and Nae Nae was such a presence in that game and we would not have won the game without her. Ogechi is battling back from knee injuries and ankle injuries and she has had a very tough physical hill to climb that she climbs every day and gets out there and over her career has had some huge moments. Amanda, has always just had a knack to do what we have called on her to do she is real versatile and never gets concerned about who gets the credit just concerned about winning and being a great teammate. It has been a great year for our seniors and I would say it once more, we wouldn’t be where we are without them and we are in a good spot right now.”

#21 Ogechi Anyagaligbo, R-Sr., F
On who will be the most likely to cry during the senior night ceremony…
“Sabrina (Haines).”
On this group overcoming injuries and sitting out for the NCAA transfer rules…
“Um, I feel like being with this group of girls lets you know that you’re not alone. You know, it’s funny that Bri (Sabrina Haines) and I kind of had the exact same thing happen, had to sit out a year then tear the ACL… and we’ve got transferring, coming from JUCO, having nagging injuries… and just seeing everyone else battle their battle and just walking their adverse patterns and how strong each and every one of us are, it has helped me appreciate basketball and how in the long run, it has groomed me for life after it.”
On the advice you would give to an incoming freshman and your favorite memory…
“Um, for me, the advice I would give to an incoming freshman is to not give up. I think that is really important because there were so many times where I was like, this is so overwhelming. If it wasn’t class, it was having to sit out, or having to tear my ACL my first game back. There were so many obstacles that were there, but it just makes you stronger when you get over it. Don’t give up. Remember why you started. Remember what your end goal is and keep fighting towards it. A great memory for me will be my first year here, running back from having a common-hour chemistry exam to see Evelyn Akhator tip out the rebound and get the pull-up layup so that we could beat Mississippi State. Another one for me will be that senior night. I had just met Evelyn that year and I was balling like I’ve known her my entire life. It was awesome. Honestly, we make memories every single day. I missed it, but they just made a Tik-Tok with our coaches at Chick-Fi-La this morning. Just, those are memories built every single day and you don’t realize how important those moments are until they’re gone, so cherish every single moment you have here.”
#32 Jaida Roper, Sr., G
On who will be the most likely to cry during the senior night ceremony…
“Um, I put my money on (laughter)… I think Nae Nae (Cole) will shed a couple of tears. Amanda (Paschal) will try to hold it back, but she’ll cry in the shower. But, Bri (Sabrina Haines) is definitely going to have the water works.”
On being a part of this team and the success that each senior has had…
“So, um, this group of ladies right here, they are super talented. To have that comfort level of not one person has to do superhero things. A lot of our offense goes through Rhyne (Howard), but if I see there is a drought or something, I know I can call a play for Amanda (Paschal) and she is going to go and give her best, no matter if it’s a drive, it’s a kick three, or anything. Just relying on them, because I see them work so hard and the extra reps in practice. Just to have that confidence in each other that I have in all of them, and I’m sure they have in me, too. It’s comfortable, you know, because I’ve seen the work that they have put in and I trust them 100 percent.”
On the advice you would give to an incoming freshman and your favorite memory…
Wow, that’s hard. They have said a mouthful already, but I would piggy back off of Ogechi (Anyagaligbo), just, there are going to be days where you are like, I cannot get out of my bed, my body is hurting, my mental state is probably shot, like I am out of it. But, you just have to keep pushing through when you get knocked down. There is not a person in this room or at this table that doesn’t have a story. But, it’s what you make of it and how you let it affect you, how you let it motivate you. You’re going to get knocked down plenty of times, but you just have to get back up every time, stronger, ready to work the next day. That’s what I would say to anyone coming in. And, my favorite memory, oh good gosh, I don’t know… that’s hard. I have a lot of good memories here. What I will miss the most is probably just being in the locker room clowning, I guess. Amanda (Paschal) being in the locker room clowning, doing something crazy, making us laugh. There are practices where you’re just dead tired and you can’t move and you’re still in your practice uniform, and it’s like two hours after practice and you’re just laying there, and everybody else is laying there too because you’re just dead. It’s those practices when you’re just laughing afterward, mocking each other, just having fun, so I would say to anyone coming in, just have fun with it because it goes fast.”
#12 Amanda Paschal, R-Sr., G
On almost the whole senior class coming into the program by different ways and what it means to leave the program in good shape…
“Oh boy, the hard question. I’m just happy I get to play with this group of individuals right here. They are all different. They all bring different things to the table, and I’m just happy I get to build a relationship and be sisters with them forever. So, that’s how I feel about this group right here.”
On being a part of this team and the success that each senior has had…
“I think it comes down to the comfort level. If we didn’t have so many practices… like Coach (Matthew) Mitchell was saying today, ‘We’re going 112 in practice.’ And, since the time that we have been here, probably more than that. So, I don’t know, just confiding in these people. I know they can do… like she (Jaida Roper) said, they have the reps in. We work hard, we wake up every morning, we go at it, we overcame a lot of adversity, we’ve got a championship in the Virgin Islands. I don’t know, just going through all of that stuff right there just gives you comfort, and you know they can make plays, and that’s what we came here to do. I’m just happy I get to play with them.”
On the advice you would give to an incoming freshman and your favorite memory…
“The advice I would give them is to cherish every moment that you have. It goes by fast. Yeah, when you hit a brick wall, just keep going. It’s going to be hard, college is hard, it is definitely hard. You’ve got to just be resilient and make sure you’re on top of stuff, and don’t fall behind because you sometimes can get left. It’s going to be nice when you cry, it’s going to be nice when you want to give up, it’s going to be nice on the days that you break in practice, but you’ve got to keep going. Some fun moments that I have had is going to the Virgin Islands and being down to injury and playing with one post in that last game, but just winning that championship in the Virgin Islands and coming in the locker room and spraying Coach (Matthew) Mitchell with water. So, that was one fun moment. But yeah, the memories here are just never ending and every day is something new.”
#1 Sabrina Haines, R-Sr., G
On this group overcoming injuries and sitting out for the NCAA transfer rules…
“Well, I think that us five… we represent what college basketball is, especially now days. The fact that we have all pushed through our own things, you know what I’m saying. When you play college basketball, you go through a lot – physically, mentally, emotionally, everything like that. We all came from different situations, but somehow ended up together. We have all learned so much about ourselves and about other people and how to treat people and how we want to be treated as women. But, these individuals, especially, have taught me so much. Like, I never thought I would be at Kentucky. You know, I thought I was just going to graduate from Arizona State and just move on with my life. But, it’s crazy how stuff happens. We have all come from different corners of the country and ended up together. It’s insane to me.”
On the advice you would give to an incoming freshman and your favorite memory…
“I think it’s just funny because I remember hearing all of this stuff when I first got to college, like cherish every moment, and of course that is exactly what you need to do. I think the biggest thing is to live in the moment, because, I know a lot of times you can get caught up in the daily grind of life. That’s anybody, it’s hard to take a second, like right now, just take a second and be like, look at where I am now and look at where I am headed. And, that’s really something I’ve been trying to do, especially this year because it’s my last year. Also, I mean, for incoming freshman, I think it’s important to take care of your mental health. That was something that was super important for me, and I’ve been doing my best to spread that, and to make sure that you’re ok. That is for the regular student-athlete or the regular student, or career person, like that’s anybody, just making sure you take care of  yourself because its  yourself that is gong to get you through. I mean, I have a lot of memories, of course from both ASU and here, but I think the top one is when we would have team game nights. It was always fun. Honestly, my roommates, too. I live with Amanda (Paschal), Nae Nae (Cole) and Kameron (Roach). Sometimes, we just clown for no reason, like we would be talking about the dumbest stuff, but it’s so funny. I’m going to miss all of the girls sitting up here, but especially these two and Kameron because I did not enjoy my roommates back at ASU, so these two women and Kameron, too, honestly like, that is something I’m really going to miss. I might start crying so let’s move on.”
#44 Nae Nae Cole, R-Sr., C
On this group overcoming injuries and sitting out for the NCAA transfer rules…
“You just get so much strength from watching your teammates battle their own battles and then come out on the court every single day and give it their all. That makes you want to give it your all, too. I love them, I will always love them. I will love this team forever. I thought I was going to graduate in Raleigh and live my life. I did not think that I was going to end up at Kentucky, and over the past two years that I’ve been here, I’ve grown to love every single person and I would not change my experience that I’ve had in college whatsoever.”
On the advice you would give to an incoming freshman and your favorite memory…
“Like what they said, you just have to live in the moment, honestly, and then also I would say to take it day by day. If you’re coming in as a freshman or even a transfer, don’t look four years ahead, three years ahead, just take it day by day. Make sure you come in and you’re more open to changing and learning new things and being coachable. So, that’s the advice that I would give someone. But, my favorite memory would have to be going to Italy. Their ice cream, gelato, I’ve never eaten so much gelato before in my life, but I will go back and eat just as much. Um, that was definitely my favorite memory because I don’t know if I will ever be able to travel like that again, so that is something that I am very appreciative for.”

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