The No. 17 Wildcats (9-3) will face No. 15 Duke (11-1) tonight in Durham, North Carolina in UK’s first game since their exhilarating 69-67 victory victory over Washington State nine days ago. The game will also be Kentucky’s last non-conference game of the season. Yesterday, Coach Matthew Mitchell held a press conference to preview tonight’s tough match-up. Here are the three main takeaways.
1. Defense is key
All season, Mitchell has stressed the importance of improving this team’s defense. Tonight will be a huge test for the Cats, as Duke’s offense is incredibly explosive. So far this season, the Blue Devils are averaging 82.2 points per game, while shooting 50 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from behind the three-point line. Their leading scorer, redshirt junior Rebecca Greenwell, is averaging 20.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, while UK’s leading lady, Makayla Epps, is averaging 17.9 points per game.
“They can beat you from the perimeter and can beat you inside. They are really powerful and athletic and big and can rebound,” Mitchell said. “It is going to be a really big test for our defense.”
2. Taylor Murray is still touch-and-go.
The sophomore guard has already missed the last two games due to an injury, and it looks as though she may be sitting this one out as well. The Wildcats will certainly miss Murray, who is averaging 12.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, against an efficient Duke team, but Mitchell doesn’t want to rush her return.
“It’s a lot harder to win a game without her than it is to win with her, so we certainly hope we can have her available tomorrow night, but we just won’t know until game time” Mitchell said. “We’re not going to do anything that hampers her ability long term.”
3. Yes, UK vs. Duke is a rivalry for the women, too
Although there’s far less hate compared to the men’s teams, the two programs are still very competitive. Tonight’s game marks the sixth straight season for this match-up, with the Blue Devils holding a 3-2 advantage. Last season, Kentucky defeated Duke 71-61 in Rupp Arena. However, the Cats have never won in Durham.
“When we were in the early stages of trying to develop our program, we felt like playing some of the top schools that our men’s team has had great rivalries with could be valuable, and it so happens that Duke has developed a great women’s basketball program as well,” Mitchell said. “The one thing missing in the series so far is us winning at Duke… so we would love to get a win over there.”
Watch out for any intentional tripping… just saying.
The game will be shown live on ACC Network Extra through WatchESPN, and the call will be available on Fox Sports 1580AM and ukathletics.com. Be sure to tune in tonight at 7 p.m. – it’s sure to be an exciting game.