Even though she was sidelined by an injury when Duke visited Kentucky two years ago, Rebecca Greenwell still got a little giddy just walking into the arena where her basketball heroes played.
There’s something about Rupp Arena for a girl from Owensboro that grew up loving Kentucky.
“I’ve always been a big Kentucky men’s basketball fan,” said the former Owensboro Catholic star who now stars for the No. 13 Blue Devils.
“I go to Duke; I still like the men. My family loves UK basketball and still watch all the games and I try to every now and then also. I’m definitely looking forward to playing in Rupp Arena.”
Greenwell was rehabbing an injured knee her true freshman season in 2013 when the Duke women played UK at Rupp Arena. The guard was a little sad she had to remain a spectator.
“Last time we were there it was like 24,000 fans and I was so pumped up,” Greenwell said on Friday. “Even though I was on the bench, I had chills the entire game. I’m just excited to finally be able to play and experience that type of environment.”
Greenwell will be a focal point for Kentucky when the top-15 teams clash Sunday night in Rupp. The 6-foot-1 redshirt sophomore is coming off a career game, scoring 26 points and grabbing eight rebounds in Duke’s 79-41 win over Liberty on Thursday.
She’s led the Blue Devils (9-2) in scoring three times this season and is averaging 14.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. Greenwell is shooting 42.7 percent from the field and 37.3 percent from three-point range.
“I hate to see her play so well right now, because it’s been kind of a headache trying to prepare for her,” said Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell, who recruited Greenwell heavily out of high school.
“I see improvement everywhere in her game. … She plays real hard. She’s started making more plays off the dribble, more effective off the dribble, still a good shooter and great offensive player. Relentless offensive rebounder, just goes to the boards and is aggressive. Really concerned about her talent and her tenacity.”
He said Greenwell and 6-6 sophomore forward Azura Stevens, who has scored in double figures in 25 straight games and is averaging 18.7 points and 9.6 rebounds, “are a tremendous 1-2 punch that pose real problems.”
Stevens led Duke over the Cats last season at Cameron Indoor Arena with 17 points and eight rebounds.
Watch out for puddles
It wasn’t posting up against one of his players or scrambling for a loose ball that caused Mitchell to require knee surgery last week.
It was something much less hazardous: a puddle.
“I was hopping over a rain puddle and landing on a slick sidewalk,” Mitchell explained of his injury that meant surgery on his torn right meniscus. “I did stick the landing, if I can mention, but a little bobble in the knee there.”
Mitchell assured that his knee, which requires no brace or pain medication, will not affect his coaching when the No. 8 Cats face No. 13 Duke at Rupp Arena on Sunday night.
“I am 100 percent,” he told reporters. “Did a great job staying fit before the surgery, bounced right back.”
But will it affect his dancing abilities at the next Big Blue Madness, where he’s been known to do a little James Brown, a little Michael Jackson and more each October?
“I don’t know if it will improve it, but I’ll still be able to do it,” he said. “There’s not much improving on my dancing you can do.”
Jennifer Smith: 859-231-3241, @jenheraldleader