LOUISVILLE — There will be dozens of familiar faces in the stands for A'dia Mathies.
The Louisville native who starred for Iroquois will be back home when Kentucky plays in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday against Liberty in Freedom Hall.
The thought of playing in front of so many friends and family might scare some freshmen. But not Mathies, the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year and the No. 19 Cats' second-leading scorer.
"It gets me more amped up," she said this week.
Coach Matthew Mitchell believes it when he hears it.
"There's a part of me that's sort of sensing she may have an unbelievable tournament," he said Thursday. "If she does, we're going to be tough to beat."
He noted that Mathies is one of the rare freshmen whose numbers improved in conference play.
Being a freshman might be the reason she isn't getting tight at this point in the season.
"I really don't feel any more pressure," said Mathies, who averages 13.2 points and 4.8 rebounds. "Since this is my first year, I really don't know what I'm supposed to be feeling right now. I'm just going to go out there and play."
It's been nine games since Carly Morrow has played meaningful minutes for UK. The guard, who started 25 games this season, has been battling illness and what Mitchell called "extreme fatigue."
The coach said team doctors are waiting for some tests to try to pinpoint the problem, but he said this week that he's cautiously optimistic that she'll be available. Morrow did practice with the team in Freedom Hall on Friday.
"She's had pretty good energy levels," he said of Morrow's practices this week. "We'll get a feel for it and I know if she's able to go, she'll give us everything she has."
Mitchell lamented that he is starting to sound like a broken record, but he noted that undersized UK will have to contend with yet another team that is bigger than the Cats at every position.
The Flames start two players taller than 6-foot-3, including sophomore Avery Warley, who averages 10.8 points and 8.4 rebounds.
But it's not just Warley who crashes the boards for Liberty, which leads the nation in rebounding margin, beating opponents on the boards by an average of 14 a game.
■ Rebecca Gray, the only UK player to ever play in an NCAA Tournament game, also has the distinction of being the only player to play against Liberty as well. She scored seven points off the North Carolina bench in a win over Liberty on Dec. 30, 2007.
■ Blair Barnhart, daughter of UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart, is a freshman goalkeeper on Liberty's lacrosse team.
■ Freshman Bernisha Pinkett was a former high school teammate of Liberty's Warley.
■ Kentucky hasn't won in Freedom Hall since 1999. The Cats are 9-11 all-time at the Louisville venue.
■ Liberty is 1-14 in its history against Southeastern Conference teams, including 0-8 in the NCAA Tournament. The Flames' lone win over an SEC opponent was over Kentucky in 1999. It's also the only Big South Conference win over the SEC.