No. 17 Kentucky Hosts No. 12 Oklahoma for SEC/Big 12 Challenge

Matthew Mitchell (Vicky Graff Photo)

Matthew Mitchell (Vicky Graff Photo)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 17 University of Kentucky women’s basketball team completes a three-game home stretch inside Memorial Coliseum on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET against No. 12 Oklahoma as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

“Well, we have a very tough game tomorrow with Oklahoma,” UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said Wednesday. “They are a very good team and, as usual, very well-coached by Sherri Coale, and present a lot of challenges for us. We’re trying to get ready. We’re trying to get better and are seeking improvement everyday on the defensive end and the players are working hard at it. So, tomorrow night will be a great test for us. We’ll have to play extremely well to beat Oklahoma. They’re a very, very good team playing well, off to a great start this season.

“You just look at our record down here (in Memorial Coliseum) and we’ve won some really big games and beaten some really good teams when the Coliseum is full. It makes a big difference and this is the biggest opportunity we’ve had as of yet in the season. It’s a great opportunity for us and we would like Oklahoma to have to face a full Coliseum where the energy is behind the Wildcats. It would be a great boost to this team that has been working so hard to get ready for this game so we would love for everybody to come out.”

Single-game tickets for all Kentucky home games are available through the UK Ticket Office and through ticketmaster.com. 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.

The game will be broadcast live on the SEC Network with Courtney Lyle on play-by-play and Rebecca Lobo as the analyst. The action can also 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 of the game on WLAP 630AM. 

Thursday’s game will be part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, which 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 from Dec. 1-4. A complete schedule can be found at SECsports.com. 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.

Kentucky is coming off two home wins last week over Morehead State and Samford, defeating the Eagles 74-47 before taking down the Bulldogs 80-57. Kentucky dominated inside the post against both teams, outrebounding MSU 46-34, including a 40-6 advantage in points in the paint, while UK outrebounded Samford 36-21 and had 20 more points in the paint than the Bulldogs.

The two wins moved Kentucky to No. 17 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 and No. 20 in the latest USA Today/Coaches Top 25. The Wildcats sit 5-1 overall on the season with all five wins coming at Memorial Coliseum. UK has defeated the only ranked opponent it has played this season with its season-opening 82-66 win over then-No. 14 Miami (Fla.).

Kentucky, which is averaging 77.8 points per game this season, has been paced by its senior leaders Makayla Epps and Evelyn Akhator. Epps, who has 1,310 career points, is averaging 17.2 points per game with a team-high 31 assists and nine steals, while Akhator is just behind her with 16.8 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. Both players were recently named to the Naismith Preseason Top 50 Watch List, which annually honors the national player of the year.

Two other Wildcats are averaging double-figure points this season in sophomore guards Maci Morris and Taylor Murray. Morris is averaging 10.8 points per game and is second on the team with 10 3-pointers made this season. Murray, who has scored in double figures in three straight games, is averaging 4.8 rebounds per game and is second on the team with 13 assists.

Oklahoma enters Thursday’s game with a perfect 5-0 record, including a 4-0 mark at home and 1-0 record on the road. Most recently, the Sooners defeated Colorado State 70-55 last Sunday in Norman. The Sooners shot 42.3% from the field in the game, hitting 6-of-21 from 3. Both teams had 17 turnovers and Oklahoma scored 17 points off those CSU miscues. Senior guard Maddie Manning and freshman guard Chelsea Dungee paced the Sooners with Manning scoring 16 points with nine rebounds, while Dungee had 10 points and one block. In total, 11 players scored for Oklahoma while the Sooners played 13 players in the game.

Senior guard Peyton Little leads the team in scoring averaging 12.6 points per game with 2.8 rebounds per game and nine steals. Junior center Vionise Pierre-Louis is averaging a double-double with 11.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. Manning is the final Sooner averaging double figures with 11.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Junior guard Gabbi Ortiz leads the team with 17 assists.

Oklahoma returns four starters and 12 letterwinners from last year’s squad that finished with a 22-11 overall record and a 11-7 mark in the Big 12 standings. The Sooners made their 17th straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament, which ranks as the fifth-longest active streak in the nation.

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