The Kentucky women's basketball team announced its 2004-05 schedule, which features 17 home games and 13 opponents that advanced to post-season play last March, including five teams ranked in the final Top 25 polls. In addition to the tough 14-game Southeastern Conference slate, other highlights on the Wildcats' schedule include a three-game stand at the Paradise Jam in the US Virgin Islands and three games at Rupp Arena.
"I think we have a good schedule," UK Coach Mickie DeMoss said. "It has a little bit of everything. We are playing a lot of different teams from different conferences and I think the non-conference schedule will help us prepare for the SEC. We also have 17 home games and I think with the young team we have, with six newcomers, it's important that we have a chance to get some confidence and get them playing time early."
After two exhibition games in early November, UK begins non-conference play with two straight home games, including the regular-season home opener vs. Horizon League member Butler on Nov. 19 and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference foe Florida A&M on Nov. 21. Four days later the Cats will travel to St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands to participate in the fourth-annual Paradise Jam during the Thanksgiving holidays. UK will meet Oregon State, South Dakota State and Rutgers during the three-game event.
"This tournament is a great opportunity to get tested early," DeMoss said. "It's also a good trip for our seniors, a reward for them for everything they've done for the program. Hopefully we'll have a strong showing as it will make a statement for us early."
The Wildcats remain on the road for three of their next four games, traveling to Evanston, Ill., to meet Northwestern on Dec. 1 before going head-to-head with intrastate rival Louisville on Dec. 5 in Freedom Hall. UK mixes in a home game vs. first-time opponent Charleston Southern of the Big South Conference on Dec. 10 before hitting the road again on Dec. 12 at Marshall.
A three-game tilt spans through Christmas with home contests vs. UAB on Dec. 18 and Southland Conference member Nicholls State on Dec. 21 at Rupp Arena, plus a road trip to the Queen City on Dec. 28 against Xavier. The Cats return to Rupp Arena on Dec. 30, playing host to Atlantic Coast Conference foe and first-time opponent Wake Forest. UK also hosts Northeast Conference champion St. Francis of Loretto, Pa., on Jan. 2 and Longwood, located in Farmville, Va., on Jan. 4 in Memorial Coliseum to conclude the non-conference state. The Red Flash of St. Francis finished 25-6 overall and a perfect 18-0 record in league play last season, advancing to its eighth-straight NCAA tournament. Longwood is coached by Lexington native Shirley Duncan, a UK graduate (Class of 1956) and former Eastern Kentucky (1975-79) head coach. The 22-year Longwood veteran led the Lancers to a 17-9 mark last season.
The SEC portion of the schedule will begin on Jan. 9 when the Cats travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to take on Alabama.
"What can you say about the SEC except I don't see it getting any easier," DeMoss said. "Tennessee, LSU, and Georgia probably will be ranked in the top four in the country. Vanderbilt probably will be ranked. Alabama had a good recruiting year. Auburn has a new coach in Nell Fortner and is getting things rolling down there. Everyone is good and that's why it's the best conference in the country."
Highlights of UK's home conference schedule include playing host to nationally-ranked Georgia on Jan. 13 in Rupp Arena and South Carolina in Memorial on Jan. 30 for Alumni Weekend. SEC Tournament champion Vanderbilt visits the Bluegrass on Jan. 27 and former UK coach Sharon Fanning's Mississippi State Bulldogs travel to Lexington on Feb. 20.
Kentucky also will play host to Ole Miss on Jan. 16, Florida on Feb. 10 and will face Arkansas on Feb. 27 for the regular-season finale. Three Wildcat seniors, Sara Potts, Keiko Tate and Danyelle Payne, will be honored in Senior Day ceremonies prior to the Arkansas game.
UK travels to Knoxville, Tenn., to face DeMoss' former school and perennial power, Tennessee, on Sunday, Jan. 23.
Other highlights of the schedule include:
· UK's 17 homes games are the most since playing 17 in the 1983-84 season. Fourteen games will be played at Memorial Coliseum, including two exhibition games and three at Rupp Arena (Nicholls State, Wake Forest and Georgia). The last time UK played three games at Rupp was during the 1979-80 season.
· Thirteen of UK's opponents advanced to post-season play, including five teams ranked in the final Top 25 polls.
· UK will honor three seniors (Sara Potts, Keiko Tate, and Danyelle Payne) on Sunday, Feb. 27 during Senior Day ceremonies prior to the Cats tipping off against Arkansas.
· Alumni Weekend is set for Sunday, Jan. 30 vs. South Carolina.
· In the rotating SEC 14-game schedule, the Cats will face Georgia, Mississippi State and South Carolina in home-and-home series. UK will play UGA and MSU in a home-and-home series until 2005. South Carolina will remain as the Cats' permanent SEC home-and-home opponent.