No. 8 Wildcats Travel To Middle Tennessee State For Sunday Matchup
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Fresh off an impressive victory over in-state rival Louisville on Thursday at Rupp Arena, the No. 8 University of Kentucky women’s basketball team hits the road to end its non-conference road schedule when it travels to face Middle Tennessee on Sunday, Dec. 13 at 3 p.m. ET inside the Charles M. Murphy Athletic Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
"We’re very happy to win last night, but we have to stay focused now on a really tough challenge in a couple of days trying to get prepared, go on the road against Middle Tennessee, who has another really good team this year," said head coach Matthew Mitchell (pictured). "Coach (Rick) Insell is one of the best coaches in our profession, and is a person that’s been really great to me and I have tremendous respect for as a coach.
"And I’ve learned a lot from him over the years, had a great relationship with him and his family. So he really helped us get it going here at Kentucky and I have so much respect for Coach Insell as a person and as a coach, and he has another really, really good team.
"So we’ll have to work hard and shift gears quickly, can’t get too tied up in the outcome last night and too excited about the victory and not get back to business today, because Middle Tennessee’s always tough down there. We’ve had a hard time playing down there. And this will be a real challenge for us. We have to transition quickly today, have a great practice today and a great preparation tomorrow and see if we can go out and earn a victory in what we know will be a real tough game against Middle Tennessee."
The game will be available online through the Conference USA Digital Network and free at goblueraiders.com. For the 11th consecutive season Neil Price will have the call on the UK Sports Radio Network. Fans in Lexington can hear Price’s call on 630AM WLAP.
Kentucky (8-0) is coming off a strong performance against in-state rival Louisville on Thursday, taking down the Cardinals 72-54 to earn its fifth straight win in the series. Junior guard Makayla Epps paced Kentucky in the game, scoring a game-high 24 points on 10-of-11 shooting with four assists and three steals. Sophomore post player Alexis Jennings had 14 points and eight rebounds, while freshman Taylor Murray had 11 points, four rebounds and one assist. Senior guard Janee Thompson scored in double figures for the seventh straight game with 10, adding three assists.
Epps leads Kentucky in scoring this season with 17.3 points per game, adding six rebounds per game and 6.7 assists per game. Thompson is second on the team with 14.4 points per game, leading the team with 53 assists and adding 11 steals. Jennings and fellow post player Evelyn Akhator are averaging 11.8 and 11.6 points per game respectively with Akhator averaging 10.9 rebounds per game. Freshman guard Maci Morris is averaging 10 points per game and it hitting 44.7% from 3, while Murray is averaging 9.5 points per game.
The impressive performance against Louisville continued UK’s high ranking in several national categories. Offensively, Kentucky is ranked ninth nationally and first in the SEC in assists per game with 19.5, while sitting eighth in the nation and first in the SEC in field goal percentage at 49.4 and fifth nationally in and first in the league in 3-point field goal percentage at 41.7. Defensively, Kentucky ranks ninth in the nation and second in the SEC in field goal percentage defense allowing opponents to hit just 32.4 percent, while allowing opponents to score 53.9 points per game to sit 22nd nationally.
Led by 11th-year head coach Rick Insell, who is the seventh winningest coach among active Division I coaches, the Blue Raiders have a history of making a postseason tournament appearance in each of his 10 years at the helm. Last year, MTSU bowed out in the quarterfinals of the WNIT against Temple.
Middle Tennessee has started the season out with a 4-3 mark, picking up wins over Ole Miss, Nevada, Austin Peay and Xavier. The Blue Raiders are currently riding a three-game winning streak, including a 90-46 trouncing of Nevada on Nov. 28.
The Wildcats will be the third Southeastern Conference opponent that Middle Tennessee has faced this year. After taking down Ole Miss in Murfreesboro on Nov. 22, 84-75, Middle Tennessee dropped a 64-46 contest to Alabama on Nov. 27.
MTSU has a clear scoring leader on the floor in senior Brea Edwards, who has upped her production from 7.7 points per game last season to 21.9 ppg in this year. Edwards currently ranks 13th in the nation in scoring, and leads the nation in 3-point field goals made per game, averaging 4.29 triples per contest. She is also the 11th-best 3-point shooter in the nation, connecting on 50.8% of her shots from downtown.
As a team, the Blue Raiders rank in the top-25 nationally in offensive rebounds per game, as the No. 12 team on the offensive glass with 18 rebounds per game. Edwards is also a large contributor to that factor as she has pulled down the most offensive rebounds on the team to help with her 7.0 rebounds per game to rank second on the team behind Rebecca Reuter’s 7.1 rpg.
Sunday’s contest will be the 18th matchup against the Blue Raiders. UK holds the advantage in the all-time series, taking 13 wins against Middle Tennessee while only conceding four losses.
The Wildcats have had their least success when traveling to Murfreesboro, with a 4-3 record against MTSU on the road.
When UK and MTSU last squared off on Dec. 12, 2014, the Wildcats picked up a 78-62 victory in Memorial Coliseum, led by 22 points from Jennifer O’Neill. UK is riding a three-game winning streak against the Blue Raiders, having last lost a contest on Dec. 28, 2011, when MTSU topped UK, 70-58 in Murfreesboro.
Coach Mitchell is 5-2 against MTSU during his tenure at Kentucky, with the only losses coming in the 2011 setback as well as a 57-51 setback two years prior on Dec. 28, 2009.
UK Athletics Photo