Location: Starkville, Miss.
Time:1:30 p.m. ET
All the marbles, the whole enchilada, the big kahuna, call it whatever you like, but this one is big. A win against Mississippi State and UKHOOPS stands alone atop Mt. SEC. And the air is surely rarefied up there. If you are a Tennessee fan, you have tasted it regularly, an LSU fan, you have gotten a breath or two. But if you are Kentucky, you have not seen that mountaintop since 1982. Remember 1982? I graduated High School that year. Journey, Boston, REO Speedwagon, Bruce Springsteen, and even the likes of Rick Springfield were popular in that day. John Mellencamp was still a cougar.
It was a simpler world back then. Oh for the days. More reminicing after the jump ...In 1982 Head Coach Terry Hall was in the third year after inheriting the Lady Kats from Debbie Yow. Yes, the same Debbie You who now serves as AD at NC State. The same Yow who has basketball coaching in her entire family tree. Debbie is sister to Kay and Susan Yow, and cousin to Virgil Yow, all whom have been Div I Head Coaches for either men or women. Virgil Yow was the first NCAA Head Coach to allow a woman to play for a men's team. (Enter NCAA Stage Right) The Lady Wildcats were led by future All-American Valerie Still and Patty Jo Hedges in those days, and they didn't like to take prisoners. A year later they reached their highest ranking in the coaches poll at #4, which this year's UKHOOPS squad almost reached as well.
But enough about the past, because this team is all about the future. There are three Seniors on this squad, all of whom are contributors in every game. But the true strength lies in UK's underclass players. Amber Smith, a 5th year senior is the point guard and floor leader of this team, but the heart and soul of UK Women's Basketball is A'Dia Mathies. An All-American and SEC Player of the Year candidate, Mathies leads the team in almost every statistical category, including scoring (15.2), steals (2.7), 3-point field goals made (42) and 3-point field goal percentage (.375). She is also second on the team in rebounding (5.3), assists (2.7) and blocks (0.7). That is a leader righ there folks. Mathies brings to mind Jamal Mashburn. She does everything they need her to do, every time it needs done. When Victoria Dunlap graduated last season, there was a huge hole to fill, and the SEC Freshman of The Year was more than ready to step up to the plate.
Mississippi State and Head Coach Sharon Fanning-Otis, yes, the former head coach of the Lady Kats, will be waiting for UK with teeth and paws bared. They are coming off of a hard road loss to Florida and being at home is going to make them that much tougher. Mississippi State is 14-14, 4-11 and wants to end their season on a high note badly. When you stand between a team and a winning or losing record, it's just exactly like being stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Throw in the facts that the game is played in Starkville, and it is MSU's Senior Day, and there are just a world of variables for the UK Ladies to overcome. And if that was not enough, last week Coach Fanning-Otis announced her retirement. Talk about stacking the deck against you. Like we needed more pressure. Emotions are going to be running high enough without all that drama.
It is time to get in the game Big Blue Nation. We DreadHeads are going to need your help to get behind the Hoops squad and help them get through this one and take that SEC Regular Season crown that is at stake in Starkville. You think that the men face big time games every year? How many seasons has it been since the men won the SEC Regular Season Championship? Oh yeah, last year. Thirty years is a really long time between titles. Far too long for any team with the letters KENTUCKY across the chest of their jerseys. Let's go get this one back.
Editing Note: We will use this as the Live Game Thread for today. Everything that need said has already been said. It's time to go to work.