By Boyd Hayes
Following a win over No. 8 Louisville, No. 7 UK Hoops (6-1) returns to Lexington to take on the DePaul Blue Demons (6-2) in Rupp Arena for the “Pack the House” game Friday.
“We’re all healthy and ready to go,” said UK head coach Matthew Mitchell. “We really, really appreciate everybody who bought a ticket. We hope to get a few more people down there tomorrow night. It should be a great game.”
The Cats’ post play is anchored by junior DeNesha Stallworth, who is averaging 10 points and five rebounds per game, and has 13 blocks on the season. Junior forward Samarie Walker, a preseason All-SEC second-team selection, is averaging eight points and eight rebounds per game, and has 10 blocks on the season. Sophomore Azia Bishop has played well off the bench with about five points and four rebounds per game, and recorded the last-second block to put Louisville away.
The UK guards have had to share the offensive load, led by the 2012 SEC Player of the Year senior A’dia Mathies. Mathies is averaging 13 points per game and leads the team in steals (16) and assists (21) on the season.
Of his team’s point-guard situation, Mitchell said, “This will be our eighth (game of the season) and it’s not where I’d like it to be. There’s nothing we can do about it except go into practice every single day and maybe coach a bit better and see if our players can play a bit better.”
For the Blue Demons, four players are averaging double-digit scoring: sophomore Brittany Hrynko (14.4 points per game), junior Jasmine Penny (13.9 points per game), and seniors Anna Martin (12.1 points per game) and Katherine Harry (11.1 points per game). As a team, DePaul averages 18.75 assists per game.
“We have a really tough opponent tomorrow night,” Mitchell said. “We’ll have to play really well if we want to win. (The Blue Demons) are extremely talented on offense.”
The second game of December for the Cats marks the first time Matthew Mitchell has met DePaul as the coach at UK. The coaching matchup will be one to watch.
Mitchell, in his sixth year at UK, has taken his team to two Elite Eight appearances in the past three years, with three straight seasons of 25 wins or more, and has twice been named the SEC Coach of the Year.
Doug Bruno, DePaul head coach, is in his 27th season in charge of the Blue Demons. A revered name in women’s basketball, Bruno has coached at his alma mater since 1988 (as well as 1976-78), and has an impressive 516 wins with DePaul.
“[The Blue Demons] are well coached,” Mitchell says. “Coach Bruno has a great program. They are a perennial top-25, NCAA Tournament team. And watching them on film – they have gotten our attention.”
The Cats and the Blue Demons will face off at 7 p.m. Friday in Rupp Arena. The game will be broadcast on FSN and UK IMG radio.