Kentucky women get No. 2 seed, draw McNeese State

jsmith3@herald-leader.comMarch 12, 2012 

  • Matchup

    Kentucky (25-6)

    Tournament record: 8-8, eight appearances

    Last appearance: 2011

    Scoring leaders: A'dia Mathies 15.7; Bria Goss 11.2; Keyla Snowden 9.4.

    Rebounding leaders: Samarie Walker 6.5; A'dia Mathies 5.3; Bria Goss 4.2

    Assists leaders: Amber Smith 2.7; A'dia Mathies 2.5

    Three-pointers: Keyla Snowden 52, A'dia Mathies 48

    Last ten games: 6-4.

    The skinny: The Wildcats will be playing in their third consecutive NCAA Tournament. Kentucky won its first Southeastern Conference regular season title since 1982 but was upset by LSU in the SEC Tournament semifinals.

    McNeese St. (26-7)

    Tournament record: 0-1, one appearance

    Last appearance: 2011

    Scoring leaders: Ashlyn Baggett 15.7; Caitlyn Baggett 14.2

    Rebounding leaders: Kendra Wells 10.3; Martika Hull 9.2

    Assists leaders: Caitlyn Baggett 4.2; Ashlyn Baggett 2.6

    Three-pointers: Ashlyn Baggett 72; Caitlyn Baggett 65.

    Last ten games: 9-1

    The skinny: McNeese State is in the tournament for the second straight year thanks to the strong play of twin sisters Ashlyn and Caitlyn Baggett.

    Associated Press

  • Women's SEC Tournament

    Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt/Missouri winner
    When: 6 p.m. Friday
    TV/Radio: SportsSouth/WLAP-AM 630

By Keyla Snowden's estimation, things couldn't have gone much better for Kentucky.

"We're a two seed, you can't really get much better than that," the senior guard said with a smile. "We're really excited."

Snowden and her UK teammates cheered loudly when they saw "Kentucky" pop up on the large television screen in Coach Matthew Mitchell's basement Monday night.

The Cats (25-6), who are in their third straight NCAA Tournament, were especially giddy to earn a No. 2 seed, which equals the program's highest seed ever. The last time UK was seeded that high was 1982.

Kentucky starts its journey Saturday afternoon in Ames, Iowa, facing Southland Conference champion McNeese State (26-7), which has won nine straight.

"This is a great night for us," Mitchell told a collection of reporters after the draw was revealed Monday night. "We couldn't be more excited about advancing to the tournament and getting a two seed and a chance to compete for a national championship. It's a real exciting night for our program."

It's especially exciting when put in perspective, the UK coach said.

"It's really remarkable where we've gotten in a relatively short period of time," Mitchell said. "Four years ago we're not in the tournament and three years later, you're a No. 2 seed."

Kentucky, which won the regular-season Southeastern Conference title, was one of eight teams to get in from the SEC. Last year, the league got just four teams into the tournament.

Mitchell seemed pleased with Kentucky's draw, which could include facing Iowa State on its home floor in the second round.

The 10th-seeded Cyclones would have to get past seven seed Green Bay (30-1), which finished the season No. 10 in the Associated Press poll. UK was No. 12 in the final poll.

The distance to Ames means the crowd probably won't have much of a blue hue, but Mitchell said UK is headed to a great basketball town.

"I'll tell you what's great about Ames is they really support women's basketball," he said. "So it should be an outstanding atmosphere."

The numbers back up Mitchell's claims. The Cyclones (18-12) average nearly 10,100 fans a game, which is third in the nation, behind only Tennessee and Louisville.

Potentially having to play a team on its home floor is just part of the intrigue of the women's tournament, the coach said.

"That's the rub here in the tournaments," he said. "It's one of the difficult parts. It makes it exciting and it makes it challenging."

But the coach said Kentucky has plenty of experience playing tough teams on the road.

"We've had some great success this year and we've been able to beat a lot of good teams," he said. "At this time of the year, you better be ready to play well and beat anybody."

The top seed in the Cats' Kingston (R.I.) Regional is Connecticut, a team especially familiar to UK sophomore Samarie Walker, who left the Huskies program last year and transferred to Kentucky.

The forward said she was pretty sure there were some texts from some old teammates waiting for her on her cell phone.

"I felt my phone vibrate a few times," Walker said.

Kentucky's post player said she wasn't going to ponder a potential matchup with her former team until it happens.

"I'm not too worried about them," she said. "All I'm worried about is us and getting better as a team. I'd be excited (if we played them) because that means we'd be in the Elite Eight."

Before hitting UConn, Kentucky would have to get out of Ames and get to Kingston, where a meeting with three seed Miami (25-5) could happen.

McNeese State won the Southland regular-season and tournament championships. Among McNeese's losses this season were a 90-50 defeat to No. 1 Baylor and a 64-43 setback to LSU.

The Cowgirls will be making their second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament. They lost 87-47 to eventual national champion Texas A&M in the first round in 2011.

The first-round matchup will be televised on ESPN2.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com, ukwomen.bloginky.com

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service