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UK Hoops Meets Arkansas in SEC Home Opener

The Wildcats are looking to start the conference season at 2-0 for the first time since 2007-08

        

LEXINGTON, Ky. – No. 11/9 Kentucky women’s basketball returns to the friendly confines of Memorial Coliseum for its Southeastern Conference home opener vs. Arkansas on Thursday at 6 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on the UK IMG Sports Network and FSN South.
 
The Wildcats (12-2, 1-0 SEC) are coming off a hard-fought 59-56 win at Florida on Sunday in the SEC opener. It marked UK’s first SEC-opening win since 2008 and its third-straight win over Florida. The Cats are looking to start league play at 2-0 for the first time since the 2007-08 season, and keep its home winning streak alive. The Cats’ current 12-game home winning streak ties for 12th nationally and is the sixth-longest in school history.
 
“Arkansas is always one of the toughest games of the year for us,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “Coach (Tom) Collen does a great job with his team. They are holding teams to very low scoring, right at 50 points a game, so they have very solid defense. And then the schemes they run on offense are always a real challenge. They run a lot of on-ball action and on-ball screening action. They just have some very talented players, they’re well-coached and this is always one of the toughest games to prepare for all season. It’ll be a big challenge for our team. We’ve been working hard and I feel like we’re making some progress and it’ll be a great, great opportunity for us to get back home in front of our crowd tomorrow night – and I hope we have a big one. It’s an extremely important game. We’ll be looking forward to taking the court and playing Arkansas.”
 
The Razorbacks (11-2, 0-1 SEC) enter Thursday’s game coming off a 67-57 loss at Georgia on Jan. 1. Arkansas was paced by Sarah Watkins, who scored a team-high 15 points while also grabbing a team-high nine rebounds and blocking two shots.
 
Watkins, a 6-foot-3 junior post player from Germantown, Tenn., is the Razorbacks’ leading scorer, averaging 11.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Senior forward Ashley Daniels leads Arkansas on the boards, grabbing 5.8 rebounds per game. Senior guard C’eira Ricketts, a Louisville, Ky., native, guides the Arkansas offense with 4.4 assists per game to go with her 10.6 points per game average.
 
Junior guard A’dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.), who scored a team-high 14 points, was crucial to the Wildcats’ win over the Gators on Sunday. With UK trailing by two in the first half, Mathies nailed back-to-back 3-pointers, grabbed a rebound and took a charge in the final 60 seconds to give Kentucky a four-point halftime lead, and the Cats would never trail again. Freshman guard Bria Goss (Indianapolis) also was a key catalyst as she scored 11 points, all in the first half, and added four rebounds and two steals. Sophomore Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) added eight points and seven rebounds in her first SEC contest.
 
Overall, Mathies is UK’s leading scorer with 15.3 points per game (tied for fourth in the SEC), while Goss is the SEC’s top freshman scorer with 12.2 ppg. Goss has netted double digits in 12 of 14 career games, including six in a row.
 
UK leads the nation in turnover margin (+13.6), and is fifth in steals (15.5) and scoring offense (81.9). The Cats have forced at least 22 turnovers in all 14 games this season. Leading the charge is Mathies, who already ranks in the top 10 on UK’s all-time steals list. She averages an SEC-high tying 3.7 steals per game to go along with her team-best 15.3 points per game. Goss has also been a key contributor both offensively and defensively as she averages 12.2 points and 1.9 steals per game.
 
Thursday is the 29th meeting in the series between Kentucky and Arkansas. UK leads the all-time series 15-13, including a 10-3 advantage when playing in Lexington. UK has won the last five meetings against Arkansas in Lexington after escaping with a 55-54 win last season in Memorial.



  

 

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