UK Women's Basketball

Kentucky women hope Duke disdain helps fill up Rupp

Duke's Elizabeth Williams (1) reacts following a basket against Auburn during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Friday, Nov. 18, 2011. Duke won 73-50. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Duke's Elizabeth Williams (1) reacts following a basket against Auburn during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Friday, Nov. 18, 2011. Duke won 73-50. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) ASSOCIATED PRESS

Matthew Mitchell isn't afraid to dance.

He'll moonwalk his way into a recruit's home.

The Kentucky women's basketball coach will Dougie until he's drained if it means fans will pay attention.

Mitchell, a marketing major in college, will do just about anything to draw a crowd.

And he knows there's at least one name that grabs UK fans' attention: Duke.

Mitchell is not afraid to open up the chests and pull out the half-broken hearts of Kentucky fans if it will get them into Rupp Arena on Thursday when his No. 10 Cats take on No. 6 Duke.

"In Kentucky sports history, it was such an unbelievable event and people are still hurt by it, so I will use anything I can to motivate people for this event," he said Tuesday.

Sure the women's programs at Duke and UK had nothing to do with Christian Laettner or "the shot" or whether or not to guard the inbounds pass in the 1992 NCAA East Regional finals.

But Mitchell will use all of the above to try to fill up Rupp with Duke haters.

"If that gets anybody interested, then that's good," he said.

Mitchell knows that this game can't possibly live up to that game — the game — but he believes that with two top-10 teams playing, it will be a good show.

"This could be a tremendous game," he said. "Duke is really, really good. (Starting center) Elizabeth Williams is probably the best post player we'll face this season. ... They have some awfully tough players."

Unbeaten UK is coming off its biggest win of the season, a 20-point blowout of then-No. 10 Louisville on Sunday.

Sixth-ranked Duke (6-1) has won two in a row with its only loss this season coming by two points to third-ranked Notre Dame.

"Duke has established an unbelievable women's basketball program and we're trying to do the same thing," Mitchell said.

In Durham last season, UK fell 54-48 in an intense back-and-forth game. Mitchell would like to push the speed and control the tempo this time around.

"We'll have to keep it real up-tempo and try to rush them a little bit and see if they can execute against our pressure," he said.

Pressure has been UK's signature the past few seasons, but it's been especially effective this season when the Cats have forced 34.5 turnovers a game, thanks in part to their 16.6 steals per contest (fourth in the nation).

Kentucky leads the country in turnover margin, forcing 15.4 more miscues than it commits a game.

Mitchell hopes all of that combined with a Duke disdain will help UK fill Rupp Arena.

When he first came to Kentucky as an assistant under Mickie DeMoss, he remembers taking a tour of Rupp for the first time.

He recalled his former boss saying: "I believe we're going to sell this place out one day."

He'd definitely dance if that happens.

"We haven't done that yet, but it's been a dream for a long time to put a huge crowd in Rupp for a women's basketball game," he said.

December dollar deal

The UK marketing people are doing their part to help Mitchell realize his dream, discounting tickets to the Cats' three home games in December to $1 each.

As of Monday afternoon, 11,082 tickets had been sold for Thursday's game, putting it on pace to break the Kentucky women's basketball attendance record of 13,689 set in 2006 when the Cats bested top-ranked Tennessee.

In order to get the $1 ticket special, tickets must be bought in advance at the Joe Craft Center Ticket Office. That price will not be available on game day at the Rupp Arena or Memorial Coliseum ticket offices.

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