UK Women's Basketball

Record start, national ranking in play for UK

Kentucky will try to break a five-game losing streak to its biggest rival on Sunday.

Kentucky will be going for the program's best start with 10 straight wins on Sunday.

With 6,500 tickets already sold, Kentucky probably will be playing in front of its biggest crowd of the season on Sunday.

Kentucky will be looking for a big win against a quality opponent that might get it back in the national polls for the first time since 2006.

But Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell is doing his best to get his players to forget all of the above and focus on beating Louisville at Memorial Coliseum on Sunday.

"Our team doesn't need to get caught up in breaking a streak; our team doesn't need to get caught up in trying to prove something to somebody," he said on Friday. "We don't need to get lost in the fact that it's a big game and a rivalry game."

That's easier said than done, coach.

"We're trying to win, and that's just a plus if we can get it over Louisville," point guard Amber Smith said when asked about the outside factors versus Louisville. "I'm glad it's set up like this. I wouldn't have it any other way."

Senior Amani Franklin, who has lost three straight to the Cardinals, says UK's 9-0 start has given it a boost going into this game.

"They've beaten us five games in a row," she said. "We're going to come out this year with a little more confidence, believing we can get this win."

Smith and Franklin are from Florida and Georgia, respectively. A win over Louisville definitely means something to them, but the meaning doubles to a kid from Kentucky, such as Rebecca Gray, a former star at Scott County.

"I've only been a Scott County Cardinals fan," she said. "That's the only Cardinal I've ever liked.

"Five (losses) in a row — more than two losses in a row is two too many."

On the Louisville side, former Henry Clay standout Gwen Rucker said her Cardinals are aware they're not coming in as the favorite despite winning five straight in the series and advancing to the championship game of the NCAA Tournament last season.

"We're definitely the underdog," she said.

Rucker noted that injuries have Louisville without a true point guard, that Louisville is coming off a 30-point loss at Tennessee earlier this week, that the Cards are without graduated All-American Angel McCoughtry.

But she also noted that strange things often happen in rivalry games.

"It's all going to come down to who has the most heart," Rucker said. "Whenever you play in these games, it's not about who's the most talented. ... It's about who wants to beat the other team the worst."

Rucker, of course, has a special interest.

"Me being from Lexington, I have to represent," she said. "I have to show I didn't pick the wrong school."

Rucker's coach, Jeff Walz, hasn't lost to Kentucky in his two seasons. And much like Mitchell, Walz is doing his best to squash the rivalry talk, too.

"Everybody wants to talk about the game, but it's another game on the schedule that we prepare for the same way as we prepare for any other one," he said. "We don't try to put too much stock in one game or another, and I think that's why we've had the success we've had here the past two years."

Louisville is led by Becky Burke's 16.3 points a game, but she has had to take over some unfamiliar point guard duties as of late.

Louisville native Monique Reid chips in 14 points a game. None of the Cardinals' top nine players is smaller than 5-foot-11, which has Mitchell concerned about matchups.

"They have plenty of talent that can give us tremendous trouble," he said. "I'm very concerned about their size and strength inside. It's going to be our biggest challenge yet. ... It's going to be a really, really tough game for us."