LAS VEGAS – Kentucky’s Big Blue Nation heads west to face Pac-12 powerhouse Utah on Wednesday, Dec. 18 at T-Mobile Arena. Tickets for the game go on sale to the public on Tuesday, Sept. 3 at 10 a.m. PT, event organizer bdG Sports announced today. The annual event, dubbed the Neon Hoops Showcase, benefits Coaches vs. Cancer with tip-off set for 8 p.m. PT that evening.
“When we put together this trip for Las Vegas, we wanted to make it special for the Big Blue Nation,” said Kentucky head coach John Calipari. “We were already scheduled to play in Vegas for the CBS Sports Classic but we wanted to give our fans more than just one game. Not only do we have that, but now we face a program like Utah that has tradition and talent. This is going to be a tough game for us. If it’s anything like our last trip to Las Vegas, this will be an unbelievable experience for our fans.”
Kentucky, expected to be ranked among the top-five nationally, adds another elite freshman class to a strong core of returning players. Returnees Ashton Hagans, E.J. Montgomery, Nick Richards and Immanuel Quickley will be joined by five-star incoming freshmen Kahlil Whitney, Tyrese Maxey and Keion Brooks Jr., as well as four-star prospects Johnny Juzang and Dontaie Allen.
Calipari led the Wildcats to a 30-7 record and an Elite Eight finish last season. A 2015 inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame, Calipari has coached in six Final Fours, three NCAA Championships games and won the 2012 NCAA Championship with UK.
Coach Larry Krystkowiak’s Utah roster will showcase a bevy of new faces as well. The Runnin’ Utes added 10 new players to the roster but will be bolstered by returning starters Timmy Allen and Riley Battin. Utah has finished among the top three in the Pac-12 in four of the past five years with 20+ wins in four of those years, including two NCAA Tournament appearances.
“We are looking forward to the challenge against Kentucky in a great atmosphere in T-Mobile Arena,” said Krystkowiak. “Historically, there have been some great matchups, and we are hoping to add another historic chapter. It will be a heckuva challenge against one of the top programs in the country, and it will benefit a great cause in Coaches vs. Cancer.”
Kentucky and Utah have a long history in the sport, dating back to the 1944 NIT. Between 1993 and 2005, the teams met in the NCAA Tournament six times, with Kentucky winning all six games. In 1998, the “Comeback Cats” rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat the Utes in the NCAA Championship game. Last year, UK beat Utah 88-61 at Rupp Arena.
The event benefits Coaches vs. Cancer, an initiative spearheaded by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (www.nabc.com) and the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org). Tickets can be purchased at AXS.com, t-mobilearena.com or by calling 888-9AXS-TIX.
For complete information, visit www.neonhoopsvegas.com or on social media at @NeonHoopsLV.