Injuries troubling as Vandy opens SEC play

NASHVILLE-- As the Vanderbilt women's team opens SEC play Thursday vs. Kentucky in Memorial Gym (7 p.m. CT, 560 WNSR-AM), the status of center Jenni Benningfield and point guard Dee Davis remains uncertain. Whitney D. catches fans up on the status of the two injured Commodores, and offers this game preview.

NASHVILLE-- As the Vanderbilt women's team opens SEC play Thursday vs. Kentucky in Memorial Gym (7 p.m. CT, 560 WNSR-AM), the status of senior center Jenni Benningfield and freshman point guard Dee Davis remains uncertain.

Davis, who is recovering from a stress reaction in her right foot, hasn't played since Dec. 13. Benningfield began experiencing soreness in her right foot last week and didn't start against Syracuse January 2. Both missed the Savannah State game on Monday when they traveled to Durham, North Carolina, to a foot specialist to be fitted with shoe inserts to alleviate the pain.

"He made a shell that's going to go around my foot in my shoe, and he made a special orthotic and a shank, which goes at the bottom," said Davis after practice on Wednesday. "You buy the shoe, and he tears the shoe apart and puts it back together with all that stuff in it."

The plan was that the newly-ordered shoes to be reconstructed would be delivered to his office on Tuesday morning, so that the inserts could be completed in time for Benningfield and Davis to bring them back when they returned to Nashville late Tuesday.

But the shoes weren't delivered on time, and Benningfield and Davis had to return to Nashville without them. The shoes finally arrived at the specialist's office on Wednesday morning. Director of Basketball Operations Kornell Battle flew to North Carolina Wednesday night to bring the completed shoes back to Nashville. In the meantime, both Benningfield and Davis are officially listed as day-to-day.

While it isn't certain whether either Davis or Benningfield will be able to play in tonight's game, it is certain that Vanderbilt fans will get their first look at the newly energized women's basketball team at Kentucky.

The new era at UK, officially dubbed "UK Hoops", began last spring in former coach Bernadette Mattox resigned after compiling a cumulative 7-35 SEC record over the preceding three seasons. Mickie DeMoss, a long-time assistant coach with Pat Summitt at the University of Tennessee was hired to take her place.

Along with hiring one of the top assistant coaches in the country to take over the program, Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart demonstrated unprecedented committment to the women's basketball program.

His first move was to move out of his suite of offices and move Coach DeMoss and her staff into them. He provided for a lucrative marketing budget and enough money in salaries to put the salaries of the assistant coaches in the top third of the SEC. He initiated work on a new practice facility next to Memorial Colliseum and provided the funding to renovate the locker room.

The marketing and promotion efforts have already started to reap results, as season tickets sales for women's basketball at Kentucky have jumped from 140 last year to 2,600 this year.

Despite the changes, however, there will be some familiar faces on the court. Senior center SeSe Helm leads the Wildcats in both scoring and rebounding, averaging 16.4 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. Junior guard Sarah Potts, who sank five 3-pointers against the Commodores in Lexington last season, is averaging 14.9 points per game this year. Sophomore guard Jenny Pfeiffer, who broke her hand mid-season last year, is back and shooting 42.3% from beyond the arc and averaging 11.6 points per game.

So far this year the Wildcats and the Commodores have played two common opponents. In late November, Kentucky defeated Duquesne 90-83 on a neutral court, while Vanderbilt defeated the Dukes 92-60 in Memorial Gym. Both teams beat Louisville in OT on their home courts, with Vanderbilt winning by the score of 73-68 and Kentucky by a score of 84-80.

Tipoff for the game is a 7 p.m., and tickets are still available. The game will be broadcast on WNSR, 560 on the AM dial. Top Stories