LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 19/19 University of Kentucky women’s basketball team will play host to NCAA Division II powerhouse Union University Thursday at 7 p.m. ET inside Memorial Coliseum. Admission to the game is free with all seating areas general admission.
The game will be available on the SEC Network+ with Jeff Piecoro and Christi Thomas calling the action. The game can be seen through WatchESPN on computers, smartphones or tablets. Now in his 12th season, Neil Price will have the call on the UK Sports Network. Fans in Lexington can hear Price’s call on 630-AM WLAP. Live stats and free audio will be available online at ukathletics.com.
Although admission to Thursday’s game is free, the UK Ticket Office will open at 6 p.m. ET and close at halftime for fans wishing to purchasing season tickets or single-game tickets to any of UK’s home games this season. Season tickets are $65 and available in upper level chairbacks, lower level bleachers and general admission upper level bleachers. Single-game tickets are $9 for reserved seating (all ages), $8 for general admission seating (adults) and $5 for general admission seating (youth 6-18/seniors 65+). General admission seating is free for ages five and under. Single-game tickets are available through ticketmaster.com.
Kentucky enters its 10th season under Matthew Mitchell with a No. 19 preseason ranking in both The Associated Press Preseason Top 25 and USA Today/Coaches’ Preseason Top 25. The high ranking marks the seventh straight year that UK has started its season inside the top 20 of both national listings. Under Mitchell, Kentucky has been ranked for 133 consecutive weeks in the AP poll, which is a program record.
The Wildcats ended the 2015-16 season with a 25-8 record, marking its seventh straight 20-win season and the sixth 25-win season in the last seven years under Mitchell. Prior to Mitchell, Kentucky had only won 20+ games 10 times, while only recording one 25+ win season. The impressive 2015-16 regular season led Kentucky to a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament as the Wildcats were selected to host the first and second rounds of the event for the third straight season. The top-three seed in the event marked the fifth straight for UK, who advanced to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in the last seven seasons.
Kentucky returns several of its top performers from last season in its leading scorer, leading rebounder, leading 3-point shooter, second and third assist leaders, leader in steals and leader in blocks. Senior guard Makayla Epps leads the returners after averaging a team-best 17.1 points per game last season with 4.8 rebounds per game, 143 assists and 41 steals. Epps has been named a preseason All-America honoree by multiple publications this preseason, including to the Nancy Lieberman Preseason Watch List.
Fellow senior Evelyn Akhator returns as Kentucky’s top post presence last year, averaging a team-best 9.3 rebounds with 13 double-doubles in 2015-16. Akhator was recently named to The Sporting News Preseason All-American Third Team after being tabbed an All-SEC performer last season.
UK also returns junior post Alyssa Rice, who has played in 60 career games with 13 starts, along with sophomores Maci Morris and Taylor Murray. Morris led UK with a team-best .392 mark from 3 in 2015-16, while Murray led UK with 56 steals, becoming the first true freshman to lead the team in steals since Victoria Dunlap in 2007-08. Cincinnati transfer Makenzie Cann also returns after sitting out last season due to NCAA Transfer rules.
Six newcomers have been added to the mix, including senior Bellarmine transfer Jessica Hardin, sophomore Stony Brook transfer Ogechi Anyagaligbo – the 2016 America East Conference Rookie of the Year – and four-star guard Jaida Roper from Memphis, Tenn. Three walk-ons are new to the roster in Pikeville, Ky., native Rachel Potter, Bowling Green, Ky., native LaShae Halsel and Morgantown, W.Va., native Paige Poffenberger.
Mitchell, who is the all-time winningest head coach in program history, welcomes a new – yet familiar – coaching staff this season in associate head coach Kyra Elzy, assistant coach Niya Butts and assistant coach Lin Dunn. Combined the Kentucky women’s basketball coaching staff has compiled over 80 years of experience at the Division I level, including coaching or playing in a combined 34 NCAA Tournaments with eight Final Fours, four national championships and a WNBA Championship.
Elzy and Butts are in their second stint in Lexington after serving on Mitchell’s staffs before. Butts was an associate head coach on Mitchell’s first staff at Kentucky before Elzy joined the staff for four successful seasons. Dunn, who is a Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer, has over 40 years of coaching experience, including three decades in the collegiate ranks.
Union finished the 2015-16 season with an impressive 28-4 mark, including 20-2 in Gulf South Conference action. Under head coach Mark Campbell, Union has won five NCAA Division II National Championship titles, the most recent in 2014. Last year, the Lady Bulldogs earned the regular season conference title and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Division II National Championships South Region Tournament. Union dropped the opening game of the event to the University of Tampa, 72-62.
The Lady Bulldogs return six members of last year’s team, including three returning starters. Union’s roster features two players who transferred from an NCAA Division I institution. Jordan Johnson transferred from Tennessee Martin, while Bria Gaines transferred from Western Kentucky. Gaines played 34 of 35 games in her sophomore season at WKU, averaging four points and three rebounds per game. She had a season high 22 points in a win over Central Arkansas.
This is the second straight year that Kentucky has hosted Union University in an exhibition. Last season, the Wildcats defeated the Lady Bulldogs 95-63 inside Memorial Coliseum. The two exhibition meetings are the only two meetings between the two schools in women’s basketball.
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.
– New spectator parking options include the High Street Lot, located at the corner of East High Street and South Martin Luther King Boulevard, and the Alumni Center Lot on Linden Walk, resulting in nearly 200 additional parking spaces.
– Spectator parking is located in all of the E-lots surrounding Memorial Coliseum, all lots 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. See the shuttle map and route information diagram below for all available women’s basketball spectator parking options.
– 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 issued disabled hang tag in the E-Lot (Employee Lot) north of the Joe Craft Center. These spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis until full.
– A parking map can be found, here: http://ukathleticsgameday.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/2016-17_WBB_Shuttle_Map_Routes_small.pdf
Transit Center Parking Garage
– UK women’s basketball fans can avoid traffic and congestion around Memorial Coliseum and park for FREE at the Transit Center Garage – available after 5 p.m. ET on weekdays and all day for weekend games.
– The Transit Center Parking Garage is accessible from Vine Street of High Street.
– Push the green flashing button upon entry, take the yellow token and store it in a safe place. Park in the garage and find the UK Athletics event staff member at the entrance of the garage near Lexington Avenue for a free parking token to use after the game when you exit the garage. Staff will remain on site until 20 minutes after tip.
– Please do not lose your token. If you lose your token, you will be charged an $8 fee for a lost token fee. If you lose your token, visit the pay on foot station located in the 7th floor elevator lobby of the garage and choose “lost token.” You will be charged $8.00 and given a new token that can be used to exit the garage.
– Shuttles are available beginning 2 hours prior to tip and pick up and drop off near the South Limestone Garage (Parking Structure # 5) (blue route) and near the Transit Center Parking Garage and High Street Lot (green route).
– Shuttles will start back up after halftime to return guests to their parking areas, the shuttle will discontinue service 1-hour postgame.
– A shuttle map with route information is available here: http://ukathleticsgameday.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/2016-17_WBB_Shuttle_Map_Routes_small.pdf
Game Day Information
– Doors to Memorial Coliseum open one hour prior to tip.
– 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 ukathleticsgameday.com/wbb/.