By Boyd Hayes | @KernelHayes
When No. 2 seed UK Hoops takes the court against the No. 15 seed Navy on Sunday, it will be the first time the two schools have faced off.
The Cats (27-5) have set a school record by making it to the tournament for four consecutive seasons. The seed also tied UK’s highest, as the Cats were also a No. 2 seed in 1982 and 2012.
For senior guard A’dia Mathies, this trip to the tourney is her fourth and her last, and she has played a large part in each journey to the Big Dance. Winning AP SEC Player of the Year for the second consecutive season Tuesday, Mathies led the Cats in scoring (15.9 points per game), 3-point baskets made (64) and 3-point shooting percentage (.409) this season.
UK’s post presence this season has been largely made up of junior center DeNesha Stallworth and junior forward Samarie Walker. Stallworth, an All-SEC first-team selection, and Walker, an SEC All-Defense selection, combined to give the Cats 21.5 points, 14.2 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game this season.
Navy (21-11) is in the tourney for its third season running after receiving the first tournament bid in school history in 2011. The Midshipmen have received automatic bids each season by winning the Patriot League Tournament three straight seasons.
Three juniors lead the Midshipmen, with forward Jade Geif adding 13.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, guard Alix Membreno adding 11.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, and guard Kara Pollinger adding 10.8 points and 3.8 assists per game.
Fourth-year Navy assistant coach Jenerrie Everette-Harris played for UK Hoops from 2001-04, wearing the No. 11 jersey and earning All-SEC Academic honors on her way to a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology. The Midshipmen have achieved an overall record of 55-40 (26-16 in the Patriots League) since Harris joined the coaching staff.
The first-round matchup is set to tip at 12:05 p.m. in Carnesecca Arena in Queens, N.Y., on Sunday. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.