UK Hoops hosts No. 24 Missouri for Senior Night


UK freshman point guard Janee Thompson leaps for a shot over Mississippi State sophomore guard Jerica James at Memorial Coliseum on Thursday, January 17, 2013 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Adam Pennavaria | Staff

Caitlin Schwartz

The No. 15 UK women’s basketball team is looking for its fifth-straight win in Southeastern Conference action as it hosts No. 24 Missouri in Memorial Coliseum on Thursday.

“They really, really play hard and have a lot of offensive weapons,” UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said about Missouri. “They play really tough defense and it will be a tremendous challenge for our team and we are excited to play and it will be a big game for us. I am really looking forward to seeing how we play.”

Thursday’s game is special for UK senior guard Janee Thompson, as the program will honor Thompson prior to the game for Senior Night.

“This has been a really special experience up to this point, and we have a lot left to accomplish together,” Mitchell said. “Tomorrow night will be great to honor her and I hope we have a good crowd. We certainly should because she has given a lot to the program and she deserves a great senior night.”

The Chicago native has played 111 career games, starting 74 of those games. Thompson is averaging 12.2 ppg this season with career highs in field-goal percentage, 3-point field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage and assists.

“That is leadership,” Mitchell said. “When you sacrifice self for the team and you make decisions that are better for everybody else, but aren’t comfortable for you, to me that is heading in the right direction and being a leader.”

UK enters the game with a 19-6 record on the season, 8-6 in SEC play. The Cats possess double-digit wins over LSU, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Arkansas.

On the other hand, Missouri enters with a 21-6 record with all six losses coming in conference play. But like the Cats, the Tigers did not lose a single game during their nonconference schedule starting their season with a 13-0 run.

Missouri is also currently on a three-game winning streak heading into Thursday’s game. The Tigers’ last loss came against Mississippi State on Feb. 7.

The Tigers leading scorer is Sophie Cunningham, averaging 13.3 ppg. Cunningham was named SEC Freshman of the Week for the fifth time this season — it was announced Tuesday.

She recorded the third double-double of her freshman season with 24 points and 10 rebounds in Sunday’s 69-55 victory at Auburn.

UK defeated Missouri last year, 83-69 in Columbia in the only meeting between the two teams of the season.

“What I told them is the opportunity Thursday night — if we find a way to win Thursday night — we will absolutely show our improvement because this is the type of team that is difficult for us from a matchup standpoint,” Mitchell said. “We will really have to play hard and try hard and be sharp defensively and hustle physically.”