Women's Hoops: Vanderbilt vs Kentucky Preview

The #6/#8 Vanderbilt Commodores (14-3, 0-1 SEC) seek their first SEC win of the season Thursday night when they host the Kentucky Wildcats (8-6, 1-0 SEC) in Memorial Gym.

Kentucky will present a different challenge than the most recent teams the Commodores have faced. Both Penn State and Louisville rely heavily on scoring production from the guards. In both games, Vanderbilt keyed in on the guards, with a chaser on the top scorers virtually the entire game.

Kentucky, however, looks to their frontcourt. They're led in scoring by 6'4 sophomore center SeSe Helm, who is averaging 17.5 ppg and who also leads the team in rebounding with 6.8 rebounds per game. Helm, who competed with Vandy's Jenni Benningfield on the Kentucky High School girls All-Star team in 2000, is also an excellent free throw shooter, hitting 83.9% of her shots from the line.

She's joined in the frontcourt by 6'1 senior forward LaTonya McDole. McDole is the senior statesman on the team, having stayed on board through the storm that led to a multitude of Kentucky transfers within the past two years. McDole is averaging 9.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

5'8 junior guard Rita Adams is the mainstay in the backcourt, averaging 10.6 points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game, 3.9 steals per game, and 5.5 assists per game. She shoots 31.3% from 3-point range, but has only attempted 16 long range shots this year.  Kentucky's biggest 3-point threat is 6'0 freshman forward Sara Potts, who has hit 25 of the Wildcats' 42 3-pointers this year.

Coach Bernadette Mattox has experimented with the starting lineup. Helm, McDole and Adams have started every game. Potts has started seven games, as have 6'2 freshman Keiko Tate, and 5'9 sophomore guard Danyelle Payne, while 6-0 sophomore forward Shambrica Jones has started five games. Most recently, Payne and Tate started in Alabama, with Potts and Jones coming off the bench.

Unlike many of the teams Vandy has played this year, Kentucky hasn't been a good shooting team from long range. At this point in the season, Kentucky is at the very bottom of the SEC in 3-point shooting, averaging only 3.0 three-pointers per game and only hitting 27.6% of their attempts.  On the other hand, they are second in the SEC in steals, averaging 13+ steals per game. Only South Carolina averages more.

So far this season, Kentucky and Vandy have played three common opponents: Kentucky, Western Kentucky, and Louisville.  Both teams beat Temple. The Wildcats won 81-72 at home; and the Commodores won 84-74 on the road. Kentucky lost at Western Kentucky 84-79, while Vandy won there 102-83. Both teams beat Louisville on their home courts. Kentucky beat the Cardinals 72-53, while Vanderbilt won 71-32.

Gametime is 7 p.m. CT Thursday night. The game will be broadcast on 560 WNSR radio, and the broadcast can be heard on the Internet through the Vanderbilt website. No television is available.

Probable starting lineups:

04  5'8 jr g Rita Adams (10.6 ppg)
03  6'0 fr f Sara Potts (8.9 ppg)
21  6'1 sr f LaTonya McDole (9.6 ppg)
40  6'2 fr f Keiko Tate (5.1 ppg)
53  6'4 so C SeSe Helm (17.5 ppg)

13  6'2  sr  f  Zuzi Klimesova (16.2 ppg)
32  5'11 fr  f  Ashley Earley (6.6 ppg)
21  6'6   jr c Chantelle Anderson (19.8 ppg)
33  6'1  sr g Jillian Danker (10.4 ppg)
22  5'6  jr  g Ashley McElhiney (9.4 ppg)

Kentucky results to date:
Nov 17   Temple  W 64-55
Nov 23   Sam Houston W 100-55    (Memphis Tournament)
Nov 24  @ Memphis    L 55-63    (Memphis Tournament)
Nov 28  @ North Carolina L 64-102
Dec 1   Miami-Florida    W 60-57
Dec 5   @ Miami-Ohio L 64-73
Dec 8   @ Western Ky L 79-84
Dec 16  @ VCU    W 66-61
Dec 19  Louisville   W 72-53
Dec 22  Evansville   L 72-78
Dec 28  Southern Miss    W 59-44    (Dartmouth Tournament)
Dec 29  Lafayette    W 83-60    (Dartmouth Tournament)
Jan 3   Mississippi St   L 54-59
Jan 6   Alabama  W 63-62

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