UK Women's Basketball

Former Paul Dunbar star Ebony Rowe back in Lexington to take on Cats

When she starred at Paul Dunbar, Ebony Rowe was known for her steady play and calm demeanor on the court.

She quietly went about her work, breaking all sorts of Bulldogs records.

Not much has changed except the uniform.

Now Rowe stars for Middle Tennessee State, which will play at No. 11 Kentucky on Wednesday night.

It seems only natural that the 6-foot-1 freshman forward said she's not nervous about playing back in front of her hometown crowd and against several former teammates.

"I'm more excited than anything," she said Tuesday. "There's not really pressure. I'm just excited to get to play with everybody. ... I'm treating it like any other game. I'll just try to work hard."

That work ethic is what makes her such a good player, UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said when asked about Rowe, who leads the Blue Raiders (9-3) in scoring (16.3) and rebounding (9.3).

"She works extremely hard," Mitchell said. "She's not going to take any possession off, and that poses a huge challenge for our defensive players. She really works the entire possession. She's very, very tough, very physical and strong."

Rowe chose MTSU over several in-state schools and Ivy League programs, yet she never received an offer from UK. But she said she won't be playing with a chip on her shoulder.

"I never had the mind-set that I was going to UK," she said. "I'm just excited to play against them."

In Rowe's Middle debut, she scored 25 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. Twice she's been named the Sun Belt Player of the Week.

She has scored in double figures in all but one game this season, and she has five double-doubles, including two in a row. Rowe headlines a balanced team, which has six players averaging 7.5 points or better.

This Middle team is much different than the one UK fell to last season, ending the Cats' 11-0 win streak to start the year.

The Raiders lost four starters off that team, and their current roster includes 11 players who are sophomores or younger.

Rowe will be back in Lexington again on Jan. 4, when she will have her jersey retired at Paul Dunbar. She is the Bulldogs' all-time leading rebounder (1,515) and second all-time in career scoring (1,743). She also was the school's career blocks leader.

Two in a row

Kentucky will play two straight home games on Wednesday and Thursday.

After Wednesday night's game versus Middle Tennessee, UK will play host to Tennessee-Martin on Thursday night. The Skyhawks played at Louisville on Tuesday night.

Mitchell said he couldn't recall how the schedule worked out that way, but he's trying to take as many positives from the quick turnaround as possible. He noted this is good preparation for events such as the Southeastern Conference Tournament, where you have to play games on back-to-back days.

"It's a good mental test for the players," he said. "It's really a mental exercise and a good opportunity for this young team."

Father, son reunion

UK assistant coach Matt Insell will take on his father, Middle Tennessee State Coach Rick Insell, for the second straight season. The elder Insell won the contest last season 57-51.