UK Hoops to face Duke Thursday



By Les Johns

The UK Women’s basketball team will face a Duke Blue Devils squad with an imposing front line Thursday night at Rupp Arena.

UK (8-0), ranked No. 10 in this week’s ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, will take on No. 5 Duke. The 6 p.m. matchup will be the first clash in Lexington between teams ranked in the top ten since 1983.

“Duke has an outstanding team,” head coach Matthew Mitchell said, “and we have worked hard to get prepared for the game as they pose some real challenges for our basketball team.”

Much like the Cats, the Blue Devils are a team that features balanced scoring — they have four players averaging double-digits. They are led by freshman Elizabeth Williams, who is averaging close to a double-double, with 11.9 points per game and 9.4 rebounds per game.

“They have a lot of depth and a very imposing front line,” Mitchell said. “It would concern me greatly if we get into a slow, grind-it-out-game. They are very powerful.”

Duke has a size advantage, starting three players more than six feet tall and having four more players at least that tall coming off the bench. The Cats’ lone starter more than six feet is junior center Samantha Drake.

“If we don’t get a lot of pressure on the ball, they can just throw it in to their interior players,” Mitchell said. “We will have a tough time winning the game.”

The Cats will hope to neutralize Duke’s size by making it an up-tempo game and forcing turnovers.

The Cats have forced an average of 34.5 turnovers per game this season. Duke has handled the ball well this season, turning the ball over 15.7 times per game.

“They can handle the ball,” senior point guard Amber Smith said, “but they haven’t seen the pressure that we’re going to apply.”

The women’s team has not played in Rupp Arena since the 2007-08 season, and holds a 20-12 record in the facility. The largest crowd to watch a UK women’s game there was on Jan. 26, 2006, when 13,689 witnessed the Cats defeat No. 1 ranked Tennessee.

“I’m excited to play in Rupp,” Smith said. “We love Memorial, but to play in Rupp is just a great opportunity to get more people out to see us.”

The Cats have practiced at Rupp Arena the last couple of days and feel as though they will adjust well come game time.

“We have trouble shooting from time to time at Memorial Coliseum,” Mitchell said. “I don’t know that Rupp Arena will be any better or any worse.”

Advance tickets for the game are still available at the Joe Craft Center on Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for $1. Tickets for $1 will not be available at Rupp Arena, but will be available at normal prices. The game will also be televised live on the CW in Lexington and on a delayed basis on Fox Sports South at 10 p.m.