LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky women’s basketball team will face a familiar foe in the 2016 Southeastern Conference/Big 12 Challenge when it squares off against Oklahoma inside Memorial Coliseum on Thursday, Dec. 1, it was announced Monday, July 25 by the league offices.
The two teams battled in the second round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament last season in Lexington when the No. 3 seed Kentucky beat sixth-seeded Oklahoma, 79-58, for its fifth Sweet 16 berth in the last seven seasons. Both teams finished the 2016 season ranked inside the final USA Today coaches’ poll with the Wildcats 15th with a 25-8 record, while the Sooners were 23rd with a 22-11 record.
Kentucky returns its first and third leading scorers from last season. Senior guard Makayla Epps (pictured) led Kentucky averaging 17.1 points per game, adding 143 assists and 41 steals, while senior forward Evelyn Akhator averaged 11.5 points per game with 9.3 rebounds per game. Oklahoma returns two of its top scorers as well in junior center Vionise Pierre-Louis, who averaged 9.3 points per game and 5.2 rebounds per game, while senior guard Peyton Little averaged 10.9 points per game with 66 assists and 49 steals.
The 2016 win gave Kentucky a 2-1 record in the all-time series. The Sooners won the first-ever battle on March 30, 2010 in an NCAA Elite Eight game before the Wildcats claimed a dramatic 92-88 overtime win over Oklahoma at the 2014 Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
The SEC/Big 12 Women’s Basketball Challenge will feature 10 squads from the SEC against every team from the Big 12. This season marks the first in which 10 games will be played. The format consists of five home games on campus sites for each conference. Two teams from each league participated in the challenge the past two years with the conferences splitting the games each season for an overall 2-2 series record.
Times and television designations for all 10 games will be released when available. Half of the contests feature at least one team that was ranked in the final 2015-16 USA Today coaches’ poll while three will highlight top 25 matchups. Ticket information and the rest of Kentucky’s 2016 non-conference schedule will be released at a later time.
“The Southeastern Conference looks forward to the expansion of an enhanced competitive event with our Big 12 friends,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “The SEC/Big 12 Challenge in women's basketball will showcase the strength and depth of our women’s basketball teams and provide fans from both conferences with exciting games.”
Said Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby,“We look forward to all 10 of our women’s basketball teams competing in the 2016 SEC/Big 12 Challenge. These marquee non-conference matchups should provide four-consecutive days of quality competition and excitement for fans across the country.”
The inaugural challenge was held in 2014 in Little Rock, Ark., and featured a top-five showdown with No. 3 Texas squaring off against No. 4 Texas A&M. Oklahoma and Arkansas, who were both receiving votes, played in the second game. The conferences split the challenge with the two games decided by a total of nine points.
The 2015 version was contested in Oklahoma City with the opponents reversed as No. 5 Texas played Arkansas while No. 17 Oklahoma competed against No. 18 Texas A&M. Each league again claimed a win.
2016 SEC/Big 12 Women’s Basketball Challenge Schedule
Thursday, December 1
Oklahoma at Kentucky
South Carolina at Texas
Friday, December 2
Auburn at Kansas State
Saturday, December 3
Texas Tech at Arkansas
Georgia at Oklahoma State
Mississippi State at Iowa State
Sunday, December 4
Kansas at Alabama
TCU at LSU
Baylor at Tennessee
Mississippi at West Virginia
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught