Kentucky womens basketball puts defensive improvement on full display against UNCG


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats guard Jada Walker (11) dribbles the ball during the Kentucky vs. UNC Greensboro womens basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 82-56. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Samantha Money, Assistant Sports Editor

Kentucky womens basketball took the court inside Memorial Coliseum for the first time in 17 days to take on UNC Greensboro on Sunday.

In between home games, the Wildcats traveled to the Bahamas for the Baha Mar Bahamas Hoops event in which they faced off against their first ranked opponent of the season in the form of Virginia Tech. 

Since that last home game against Bellarmine on Nov. 17, now having a ranked matchup under its belt, Kentucky fans were treated to a more aggressive and energetic team taking the court.

A common talking point for Kentucky head coach Kyra Elzy, and even a handful of players, all season has been about the team’s dissatisfaction with its defensive performances. 

That’s even in spite of Jada Walker’s consistent aggression with the ball, with the sophomore averaging 3.8 steals per game.

Simply put, defensive goals have been at the forefront of Kentucky’s game. 

Following the loss to Virginia Tech, Elzy discussed how the team let its offense affect its defense, a favorite phrase of the former Tennessee Volunteer.

The week prior, against Bellarmine, veteran Blair Green spoke to the same problem, despite the Cats leaving the court with the win that day. 

Despite it seemingly being a recurring issue destined to plague the Cats all season long, the defensive issues seemed to disintegrate almost entirely against the Spartans of UNC Greensboro.

Kentucky accumulated 38 rebounds and 12 steals on the court, which seemed to satisfy the players.

“I feel like our defensive intensity is way better and just being more aggressive,” Walker said. “Try not to foul as much and then just do a better job on the boards trying to rebound. We’re going for the rebounds even though we may not get all of them, we’re showing a better effort going into the boards.” 

The additional days off also saw no shortage of conditioning for the Cats, which transfer Ajae Petty, who achieved her first career double double against UNCG, attributed to the team’s stamina on the court.

“It also helps us lock into details when we’re fatigued,” Petty said.  “A lot of teams aren’t going to be in the shape that we’re in because of the conditioning that we do in practice.” 

With both Elzy and the team being thrilled with the offensive successes of the game, the continuous progression of powerful defense is something that Cats were more than proud of.

“We do a lot of drills where we have to get the rebound and run, if we don’t, we have to run as a consequence,” Walker said. “So, just preaching that every day in practice and it’s making it easier in games for us to just get them down, push and beat teams and then forcing them to just cough the ball up, speeding them up, instead of the other way around.” 

Looking ahead, Kentucky’s next opportunity to put its defense to the test against a ranked opponent will be against No. 18 Louisville on Sunday, Dec. 11, at 1 p.m. EST inside Rupp Arena. Tipoff will be aired live on ESPN.