UK Women's Basketball

UK women will start new year with a bang against Lady Vols

mcornelison@herald-leader.com

There are many question marks going into this season for Kentucky.

But with the release of the Southeastern Conference schedule Tuesday, there’s no question that 2017 will start off with a bang.

Coach Matthew Mitchell’s Cats will open league play on New Year’s Day with a trip to Knoxville to meet up with rival Tennessee on ESPN2.

It will be a return trip to Knoxville for UK assistant coach Kyra Elzy, who was let go by head coach Holly Warlick after last season and returned to UK where she previously coached.

It is the first time in eight years that the Cats have opened conference play against the Lady Vols.

That game is one of many highlights of a schedule that includes rotating home-and-home series with Georgia as well as Missouri.

The Cats will meet up with regular home-and-home foe South Carolina on Feb. 2 in Memorial Coliseum and then in the season finale at Columbia, S.C.

Those heated rivalry games likely get cranked up a notch this season with former UK player Alexis Jennings transferring to South Carolina. The junior forward will sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules.

The Feb. 26 game at South Carolina will be played on one of the ESPN networks.

January will start with a bang and end with a grind, including UK playing four of its final six games on the road at Alabama (Jan. 12), at Louisiana State (Jan. 19), at Auburn (Jan. 22) and at Missouri (Jan. 30). Those surround home games against Georgia on Jan. 15 and Ole Miss on Jan. 26.

Elzy is one of three new assistant coaches for Kentucky, which has undergone a dramatic roster shift this offseason that included the transfers of five players, a graduate transfer and a dismissal.

The attrition included all three assistant coaches — one who was fired and two who took other jobs.

Other departures included several members of the 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes.

Because of the exodus, UK is left with seven scholarship players for this season and two preferred walk-ons in Jessica Hardin (former Bellarmine player from Monticello) and Rachel Potter (a former standout at Pikeville).

Among the returnees are several key players from last year’s NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 team including senior stars in guard Makayla Epps (17.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists per game) and forward Evelyn Akhator (11.5 points, 9.3 rebounds).

Jennifer Smith: 859-231-3241, @jenheraldleader

2016-17 Kentucky schedule

(Home games in capital letters; all times p.m. unless noted)

Nov. 3: UNION (TENN.), 7

Nov. 11: MIAMI, FLA., 7

Nov. 12: ALBANY, 7

Nov. 17: NEW HAMPSHIRE, 11 a.m.

Nov. 19: at Colorado, TBA

Nov. 23: MOREHEAD STATE, 7

Nov. 27: SAMFORD, 2

Dec. 1: OKLAHOMA, 7 (SEC Network)

Dec. 4: at Louisville, 2

Dec. 9: MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE, 7

Dec. 11: x-ARIZONA STATE, 1 (SEC Network)

Dec. 18: RADFORD, 2

Dec. 21: WASHINGTON STATE, Noon

Dec. 29: at Duke, 7

Jan. 1: at Tennessee, 4 (ESPN2)

Jan. 5: MISSOURI, 7 (SEC Network)

Jan. 8: TEXAS A&M, 2 (SEC Network)

Jan. 12: at Alabama, 8

Jan. 15: GEORGIA, 3 (SEC Network)

Jan. 19: at LSU, 8

Jan. 22: at Auburn, 3 (SEC Network)

Jan. 26: MISSISSIPPI, 7

Jan. 30: at Missouri, 7 (SEC Network)

Feb. 2: SOUTH CAROLINA, 7 (SEC Network)

Feb. 5: VANDERBILT, Noon (SEC Network)

Feb. 9: at Georgia, 7

Feb. 16: at Arkansas, 8

Feb. 19: FLORIDA, 1 (SEC Network)

Feb. 23: MISSISSIPPI STATE, 7

Feb. 26: at South Carolina, 2 or 5 (ESPNU or ESPN2)

x-in Rupp Arena.

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