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No. 17 UK women open NCAA play against Princeton in North Carolina

Maci Morris (UK Athletics Photo)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 17 University of Kentucky women’s basketball team has been selected as an at-large team in the 2019 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, earning the Wildcats’ ninth appearance in the last 10 seasons in the event. Sixth-seeded Kentucky (24-7) will face 11th-seeded Princeton (22-9) in the first round on Saturday inside Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C. The game will air live on ESPN2 (regionalization applied) at 11 a.m. ET.

For the first time since 2013, the Wildcats will travel for the first and second rounds after hosting each of the last four appearances. NC State will play as the host of the first- and second- round games which will be held Saturday and Monday. The other first-round matchup in Raleigh features third-seeded NC State against 14th-seeded Maine at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Ticket information will be available at gopack.com.

The Wildcats earned a No. 6 seed in the event, marking the second time the Wildcats have been a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This is the first time since 2006 that UK has not earned a top-four seed in the event. The last time UK held a No. 6 seed was in the 1999 tournament when it played in Los Angeles defeating Nebraska 98-92 in the first round before falling to UCLA in the second round.

Kentucky is 20-14 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including a 16-8 record under Mitchell. The best finishes for UK came in 2013, 2012, 2010 and 1982 when the Wildcats fell one win shy of the Final Four. This is Kentucky’s 15th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament and first since hosting the first and second rounds in 2016-17. The Wildcats are 11-3 all-time in first-round games and are 8-0 under Mitchell in opening round games.

The Wildcats enter the event with a 24-7 record and ranked 17th in both the Associated Press Top 25 and USA Today/Coaches Top 25. Kentucky went 11-5 in conference play to earn the No. 4 seed in the 2019 Southeastern Conference Tournament, the 10th time under Mitchell that UK has finished top four in the league.

UK has been led this season by freshman guard Rhyne Howard who last week was named espnW National Freshman of the Year. The rookie is averaging 16.3 points per game with 6.7 rebounds per game and has made a team-high tying 68 3s. Howard has also added 70 assists and 64 steals. Senior guard Maci Morris is averaging 14.9 points per game and has it 68 3s with a 3-point percentage of 38.6 percent, which ranks top-10 nationally. Fellow senior guard Taylor Murray is averaging 12.5 points per game and leads UK with 115 assists and 98 steals.

Princeton (22-9) defeated Penn 65-54 on Sunday to claim the Ivy League Tournament Championship and secure an automatic bid into the event. The Tigers enter the tournament on a 12-game winning streak having rolled through Ivy League competition the last two months. Princeton lose seven of its first eight games to start the season.

The Tigers have been led this season by Bella Alarie is averaging 23.0 points per game with 10.4 rebounds per game while Carlie Littlefield is averaging 13.5 points per game with 88 assists. Gabrielle Rush is averaging 12.5 points per game and has hit 87 3-pointers this season. As a team, Princeton is averaging 70.7 points per game hitting 6.8 3s per game. 

Kentucky was one of seven Southeastern Conference teams to be awarded a bid to the NCAA Tournament on Monday evening. Mississippi State earned an automatic bid to the tournament after winning the conference tournament, and is a No. 1 seed in the Portland Regional. South Carolina, Missouri, Auburn, Texas A&M and Tennessee are also going to the Big Dance.

Also earning No. 1 seeds are Louisville, Notre Dame and Baylor. Baylor and Notre Dame each won its respective conference tournament titles to receive automatic bids. The Final Four will be played April 5 and 7 at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay, Fla.

For more information on the Kentucky women’s basketball team, visit UKathletics.com or follow @KentuckyWBB on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

2019 First and Second Round Schedule

Reynolds Coliseum – Raleigh, N.C.

First Round – Saturday, March 23

(6) Kentucky vs. (11) Princeton – 11 ET – ESPN2 (regionalization applies)

(3) NC State vs. (14) Maine – 1 p.m. ET – ESPN2 (regionalization applies)

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