LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 7/6 Kentucky women’s basketball team heads to southern California this weekend in preparation for a two-game road swing. The Wildcats will meet Pepperdine on Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. PST/10 p.m. EST in the Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu, Calif., followed by a matchup with UC Santa Barbara on Friday, Dec. 21 at 3 p.m. PST/6 p.m. EST in Santa Barbara, Calif., at The Thunderdome.
The games can be heard on the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price calling the action. Fans can follow the UK Hoops team on Twitter at @UKHoopCats and use #UKHoops to comment on the game.
The trip gives California natives Brittany Henderson and DeNesha Stallworth the opportunity to play in their home state in front of their friends and family. Henderson, a senior forward, hails from Pasadena, Calif., while Stallworth, a junior transfer from Cal, is a native of Richmond, Calif. Henderson played her prep career at John Muir High School, while Stallworth played at Pinole Valley. Stallworth went on to play two seasons at California before transferring to Kentucky last season.
“Each year we like to give our players an experience and see a part of the country that they don’t normally see or sometimes people take trips to different locations during Thanksgiving for tournaments,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “Our thinking was to give our kids a great experience and also at the same time get Brittany Henderson and DeNesha Stallworth back to California. It’s tough on their family and friends to get to watch them. We are real fortunate that most of our players are pretty close to or at least on the east coast where they can get into Lexington pretty easily. Just to get them out there and give them that experience in playing in front of family and friends is important.”
The Wildcats (8-1) return to game action after a week off for final exams. Prior to their break, the Cats defeated a tough Middle Tennessee squad 68-46 for their seventh consecutive win. The winning streak ties for 10th nationally.
“Our players have had a really good week for final exams and I know they are relieved that today is the final day and we had a couple of players that finished up and everyone else is done,” Mitchell said. “Being able to take some time as a team to get together and spend a good amount of time together I think will be beneficial. We are looking forward to it. We will need to go out and play really well to get two wins and I think that will be important heading into Christmas.”
Overall, UK ranks seventh in the nation in scoring margin, outscoring its opponent by +26.2 points per game. UK also ranks third nationally in turnover margin (10.89) as the Wildcats are forcing 27.7 turnovers per game, while committing just 16.8.
Leading the way has been senior and All-America candidate A’dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.). The 5-foot-9 guard averages a team-high 13.0 points, 2.7 assists and 2.2 steals per game. Dominating the inside game is the dynamic post duo of Stallworth and junior forward Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) who average 11.3 and 5.4 points per game, respectively. Walker tops the team in rebounding with 7.9 rpg, while Stallworth, who is the reigning Southeastern Conference Player of the Week, averages 5.4 rpg and a team-high 1.7 blocks per game.
Pepperdine is 3-5 overall after a 70-64 win over Seattle on Friday evening at home. Overall, junior forward Robie Mayberry leads Pepperdine in scoring (11.6) and rebounds (5.8) this season. Senior guard Shay Cooney-Williams follows with 10.8 ppg, while leading the team in assists (28) and 3-pointers (16).
UK is just 1-0 all-time vs. Pepperdine after a 73-64 win over the Waves in 1991. The Wildcats are 2-0 vs. UC Santa Barbara with wins in 2008 (69-58) and 2009 (68-54).