No. 20 Kentucky Faces No. 9 Baylor in Big 12/SEC Challenge Thursday Night in Texas
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 20 University of Kentucky women’s basketball team will face its first ranked opponent of the season Thursday, Nov. 30 when it travels to Waco, Texas to face No. 9 Baylor for an 8 p.m. ET tip inside the Ferrell Center.
Thursday’s game will be televised live regionally on Fox College Sports Central and streamed online at BaylorBears.com (subscription required). The game can also be heard on the UK Sports Radio Network with the Voice of Kentucky WBB Darren Headrick on the call.
The UK-Baylor contest is part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge, which features every team from the Big 12 against 10 squads from the SEC. This is the second season in which 10 games will be played. The format consists of five home games on campus sites for each conference. Half of the contests feature at least one team that was ranked in the final 2016-17 USA Today/Coaches Top 25. In 2016, the SEC edged the Big 12, 6-4, in the first 10-game slate. Kentucky was one of the wins for the SEC, taking down No. 12 Oklahoma 82-68 inside Memorial Coliseum.
“Baylor is going to be a big test for us," said Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell (pictured). "It is going to be a game that we need right now. It is a great time in the progression of our season to have this kind of challenge. They are extremely talented and always a hard-nosed team, always great coached. They have tremendous size, speed, athleticism and this is one of the top teams in the country.
"So, for us to have a chance to go down and try to earn a victory on the road is a great test for our team and one that we need right now and looking forward to continuing our preparation and going down there and playing Baylor."
Kentucky (6-0) is coming off a 2-0 week with wins over Morehead State and Marshall inside Memorial Coliseum. Junior guard Maci Morris paced Kentucky in the win against the Eagles with 19 points and three assists, while senior guard Makenzie Cann posted her second career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Against Marshall, senior center Alyssa Rice shined by posting a career high 19 points with a career-high 10 rebounds for her first career double-double.
The Wildcats showed their defensive ability against Marshall, limiting the Thundering Herd to just 29.8 percent from the field, including zero field goals made in the fourth quarter. Kentucky outrebounded Marshall 47-22 in the game and had 18 second-chance points. The strong performance helped Kentucky rank 13th nationally and third in the SEC in scoring defense allowing just 53 points per game.
UK is off to a 6-0 start for the fifth time under 11th-year head coach Matthew Mitchell. The strong start has helped Kentucky move into the top 25 of both national rankings. The Wildcats moved up two spots to No. 20 in the latest Associated Press Top 25, while UK moved into the USA Today/Coaches Top 25 for the first time this week at No. 22.
Morris is leading the Wildcats in scoring averaging 15.3 points per game with 4.5 rebounds per game and a team-best 16 made 3s. Junior guard Taylor Murray is averaging 13.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game with a team-best 25 assists, while Cann is averaging 13 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Rice is nearly averaging a double-double this season with 9.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. As a team, UK is averaging 78.7 points per game, hitting 45.6 percent from the field and outrebounding teams by 12.3 rebounds per game.
Baylor enters the game with a 5-1 record, sitting 3-0 at home, 0-1 on the road and 2-0 in neutral-site games. The Bears started the season with a 121-62 win over Lamar before a 100-54 win over Coppin State and 86-55 victory over Central Arkansas. Baylor's lone loss of the season was an 82-68 setback at No. 8/7 UCLA. Most recently, BU got back to its winning ways by taking down Missouri State 100-58 and Georgia Tech 80-57 as part of the Junkanoo Jam Title.
Junior center Kalani Brown leads the Bears this season by averaging 24.2 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game. Brown is hitting at a .766 clip from the field this season, including 27-of-34 from the free-throw line. Sophomore forward Lauren Cox is second on the team averaging 17.4 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game adding a team-best 18 blocks and seven steals. Senior forward Dekeiya Cohen is the only other Bear averaging double figures with 10.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Natalie Chou has a team-best 10 3-pointers hit this season, while senior guard Kristy Wallace paces the team with 29 assists.
Women's Basketball Hall of Fame member Kim Mulkey is entering her 18th season as the head coach at Baylor with 500+ victories, ranking her second among active Division I head coaches in wins. Last season, Baylor finished 33-4 overall, including 17-1 in the Big 12. The Bears advanced to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight last March and return six returning letterwinners from that team while adding four newcomers.
The all-time series in games played between Kentucky and Baylor is tied 2-2. This is the first time the two teams have met since the Wildcats posted a 74-64 victory over the Bears on Nov. 17, 2014 in Rupp Arena. Baylor leads the all-time series in games played in Waco, 1-0 when it defeated UK 85-51 on Nov. 13, 2012. Baylor's second win in the series came in the 2014 Sweet 16 in South Bend, Ind., when Baylor posted a 90-72 win over the Wildcats.
The two teams played one of the best college basketball games ever on Dec. 6, 2013 when Kentucky posted a 133-130 overtime win over Baylor in Dallas. At the time, the 263 combined points set a new NCAA record and UK set school records for points (133), free throws made (49) and free throws attempted (66).
Kentucky holds a 9-8 all-time record against teams from the current alignment of Big 12. Baylor is the only Big 12 opponent the Wildcats are scheduled to play this season.
UK Athletics Photo