Cats receive good news on Selection Monday


The UK women’s basketball team meets after their 70-62 loss against Tennessee for the SEC tournament at the Gwinnett Center on Sunday, March 7, 2010. Photo by Adam Wolffbrandt

Following a long wait for Selection Monday, the Cats have only a short distance to travel for the NCAA Tournament.

The Cats (25-7, 11-5 Southeastern Conference) received a No. 4 seed in the Kansas City regional and will face the 13th-seeded Liberty Lady Flames (27-5) in Louisville, Ky.

The Cats were projected to go as far west as Seattle, Wash., or Berkeley, Calif., but instead will travel 75 miles down I-64 for their first round and potential second round game, essentially giving them a homecourt advantage in what will most likely be a pro-UK crowd inside Freedom Hall come Saturday afternoon.

“We are elated, ecstatic to play (in Lousiville) to give our fans an opportunity to turn out and watch us play,” UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “(The fans) can make a huge difference so it’s an incredible opportunity for our team.”

The UK players were crouched together in Mitchell’s house anxiously waiting to find out where they’d be headed. When the news broke that Louisville was the destination for UK, the team erupted into cheers, and Mitchell pumped his fist emphatically.

The noise created in Mitchell’s basement is exactly what he and his team will be looking for to create that extra advantage.

“I’m excited about (the location),” junior forward Victoria Dunlap said. “The fact that it’s right next door to us and our fans can get there and support us is a great opportunity for us.”

For some UK players, such as Louisville native and Iroquois High product A’dia Mathies, the game is possibly a once in a lifetime chance: to play in the Big Dance in her hometown with family and friends watching.

“I think it’ll make me more amped up, just to know that they can come out, support me like they always wanted to and I think I’ll play even better,” said Mathies, who doesn’t know if she will be able to get enough tickets for all her loved ones. 

Even with the Cats’ fortuitous draw, some stiff competition awaits them in the Derby City.

The two other teams playing in Louisville are No. 5 seed Michigan State (22-9) from the Big Ten and No. 12 seed Bowling Green (27-6) from the Mid-American Conference.

In UK’s last tournament appearance in 2006, the then No. 5 seeded Cats lost to then No. 4 seeded Michigan St. in the second round, 67-63.

The Lady Flames, winners of 10 in a row, got into the tournament by virtue of their Big South Tournament championship.

Mitchell said he didn’t know very much about his opponents yet, except that he expects a tough game from a team that is familiar with the NCAA Tournament. This trip will be the Lady Flames’ 13th appearance in the last 14 years.

“I’m happy that the players have this opportunity, and that’s all we wanted,” Mitchell said. “We didn’t care where we were seeded, where we played, but then to be able to share it with a few more people than had we gone somewhere far away, it makes it a little extra special.

“But we can’t get caught up in where we’re playing…we need to keep the same mentality that we would wherever we played.”

Tip-off is approximately 2:30 p.m., on Saturday. The game will be televised by ESPN2

Injury news and notes

Sophomore guard Crystal Riley and freshman center Anna Cole will not be available for the first two rounds and possibly more, while the two recover from stress fractures in their foot.

Guard Amani Franklin, who sprained an ankle in the SEC Tournament will be ready to go, as will injury-riddled forward Lydia Watkins. Franklin and Watkins, the teams’ only two seniors, will be making their first tournament appearance.

Junior guard Carly Morrow, who has been plagued by an unspecified illness the past two weeks, is day-to-day while she recovers from the fatigue thought to be caused by her illness.