Only three games remain before the University of Kentucky women's basketball team begins the grind of Southeastern Conference play.
And the Cats seem determined to enjoy them.
Kentucky plays the second game of a two-game West Coast swing Friday night when it visits UC Santa Barbara.
Kentucky (9-1) is coming off an 80-62 victory at Pepperdine Tuesday. The Gauchos (4-6) also went on the road Tuesday, falling 67-39 at BYU.
The trip has given 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, while Stallworth, a junior forward, is from Richmond. 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," UK 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."
Stallworth led the Cats with 17 points against Pepperdine. Henderson contributed two points, five rebounds and two blocks in 16 minutes off the bench.
Seventh-ranked Kentucky, which has won eight games in a row since falling to defending national champion Baylor in the season's third game, has two non-conference games remaining after the West Coast trip. Alcorn State (Dec. 28) and Marist (Dec. 30) visit Memorial Coliseum.
The Wildcats open SEC play Jan. 3 against Florida.
UC Santa Barbara will be facing an SEC opponent for the second time this season. The Gauchos beat Mississippi State 60-43 in the Hardwood Tournament of Hope at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on Nov. 21.
Senior forward Sweets Underwood leads UC Santa Barbara in scoring (11.7 points per game) and rebounding (8.7).