The 4th-seeded Kentucky Hoops team (21-10) opens NCAA Tournament in the Lexington Region today in Memorial Coliseum against the 13th-seeded Belmont Bruins (27-7). Tipoff is at 12:10 on ESPN2 with the winner advancing to play either Ohio State or Western Kentucky on Sunday.
Kentucky enters the game having last played two weeks ago in Greenville, South Carolina in the SEC Tournament. The Wildcats fell to the eventual champions, the South Carolina Gamecocks, in a tough 12-point loss. Guards Jaida Roper and Taylor Murray were both dinged up during the tourney but should be good to go against the Bruins.
The Bruins, on the other hand, are red hot, winners of 21 straight and holders of a sweep of the Ohio Valley Conference regular season and tournament championships. Belmont did not register a single defeat during their campaign for the league crown.
Belmont's leading scorer is junior Vanderbilt transfer, Kylee Smith. The 5'11 forward averages 15.7 points per contest and is shooting 41 percent for the season---35 percent from beyond the arc. She also averages 5.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
A balanced supporting cast joins Smith in the starting lineup.
Fort Wayne, Indiana native Darby Maggard, a sophomore guard, is tiny but fierce. Maggard averages 14.3 points-per-game and is dead-eye from the field, 49 percent overall and downtown.
6-3 junior center Sally McCabe anchors the post. She averages a healthy 12 points and eight rebounds a contest. Senior Lauren Thompson and sophomore Jenny Roy join McCabe on the frontline. The pair are capable scorers and both shoot over 50 percent from the floor.
The Bruins employ a nine-woman rotation and average 78 points a game on 46 percent shooting, 37 percent from behind the 3-point line. They outrebound their opponents by a +12 margin and are an excellent passing team, averaging 18 dimes over the course of the season.
Belmont is also a solid defensive team. They only allow 65 points-per-game, and their opponents average 40 percent shooting against them. The Bruins defend the perimeter well, giving up only five triples a contest (30 percent shooting).
NCAA Tournament: #4 Kentucky vs #13 Belmont
When: Friday, March 17
Game Time: Noon ET
Where: Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky.
TV: ESPN2 (regional)
Online Stream: Watch ESPN
Radio: UK Sports Radio Network (630AM in Lexington)
Game Center: Free audio and live stats