Emotions are high for seniors’ final home game

The women’s basketball team will be looking for their ninth win in Southeastern Conference play when the team takes the Rupp Arena floor Sunday afternoon against South Carolina.

The Cats (14-13, 8-5 SEC) hope to play the final 40 minutes of their regular season with emotion that will be running high before their Senior Day even tips off.

“It’ll be an emotional day, but emotions have really run well for us this season,” said senior center Sarah Elliott. “I definitely think the emotion of Senior Day will pump us up for game time.”

The pre-game ceremony will recognize UK’s four seniors: Elliott, and guards Chante Bowman, Chelsea Chowning and Samantha Mahoney. The ceremony, which celebrates the final home game for the four seniors, is brief. However, the celebration of the players’ careers extends far beyond basketball.

“It’s hard to sum it up,” Elliott said. “Life experiences happen here at UK. People say your college years are your best, and it’s because that’s where you learn the most and you grow up the most. I’ve grown up so much here — traveling, being on my own and meeting new people because nobody I knew came here. I was dropped into this really quickly, and I think I grew up a lot here.”

Once the ceremonies conclude, all players — senior or underclassman — knows what’s at stake in their final contest before the SEC Tournament.

“I think that everyone will be focused,” Chowning said. “This is a very big game we need to win. We’ll all be emotional and thankful for the Senior Day, but I think that we’ll have our minds focused on the task at hand, which is beating South Carolina.”

In the previous meeting between the two teams, the Cats were guided by sophomore guard Amani Franklin’s career-high 21 points to a 66-62 victory over the Gamecocks in Columbia, S.C. The four UK seniors combined for 17 points in that game, well below their combined season average of 31.1 points per game.

Despite a quiet outing from the seniors in that contest, the Cats are not going to focus on anything but the game ahead.

“I know how important this game is,” Bowman said. “We all know how important this game is. I’m sure we’ll all play our best, regardless of whether or not it’s Senior Day or anything else.”

The Cats went on the road to play Arkansas on Sunday. UK entered the building and, before the game, waited through the Razorbacks’ Senior Day activities. The Cats played hard and left Fayetteville, Ark., with a 59-56 victory.

The Cats plan on playing hard to stop the tables from being turned on their Senior Day.

“I bet it’s kind of hard, losing your Senior Day,” Elliott said. “We’re going to work hard, because we’d like to avoid that.”