Wildcats secure first power-five victory, defeat Gophers 80-74 in Minnesota


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats guard Amiya Jenkins (20) dribbles the ball up the court 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

Ali Cetinok, Assistant Sports Editor

After a solid showing Sunday, Kentucky womens basketball (7-1) was able to maintain its momentum and defeat Minnesota (5-4) for a third consecutive victory.

The win marked the first true road game win of the season by Kentucky, playing in Williams Arena in Minneapolis for the only true road matchup of the season thus far.

It was thanks in big part to Jada Walker, who scored 19 points, and Robyn Benton, who finished not far behind with 18.

Minnesota would start the game off better than Kentucky however, making four of its first five shots to jump out to a 11-4 lead. The Cats would then go on 8-0 and 10-0 runs to take a 22-13 lead in the first quarter. 

The Wildcats and Gophers would exchange leads all night with runs from both teams throughout the game ensuring neither side could hold a firm advantage for any extended period of time. 

That said, Minnesota had every chance to tie and even win the game with 50 seconds to play, but Alanna Micheaux missed two free throws and, with less than 30 seconds to play, Walker hit a pair of free throws herself to make it a four-point game at 78-74.

Benton would ultimately ice the game with a layup with 15 seconds to play to ensure Kyra Elzy’s squad came home with a much-needed win in a hostile environment. 

“So proud of our team, this was a gutsy road win against a tough Minnesota team, credit to them,” Elzy said. “A great environment but so proud of our team I thought we grew up today.”

Finishing as the Cats’ highest scorer once again, Walker continued to prove on Wednesday that her versatility makes her a difference maker for Kentucky in tough games.

“A point guard that can hit pressure free throws, brings the ball up, and scores on all three levels… I’m glad she’s a Wildcat.” Elzy said. 

Kentucky found itself in foul trouble throughout the night, forcing Elzy to rely a lot on her bench often, something that she believes is, not only something her team is prepared for, but also a strength of her squad that pushed them over the hump not just in Minneapolis on Wednesday, but in every game thus far into the season. 

“On any given night it can be any person, and everyone has to be ready. We prepare that way, we practice that way,” Elzy said. “I think when you see people step up in the game, they’re comfortable because of our preparation.”

As a team Kentucky shot 45% from the field and 73% from the free throw line. The Wildcats also had 46 rebounds to Minnesota’s 33 and four more steals than the Gophers, though they only shot 36% from beyond the arc.

Ajae Petty also had an eye-catching performance against the Gophers, finishing with 16 points, four boards and three assists while teammate Blair Green also earned herself 11 points with seven rebounds.

Maddie Scherr also scored six points and five rebounds with five assists to add her name to the list of high-level performers as well.

Playing in just her second game of the season, Kennedy Cambridge also had five points without missing a single shot on the night, going 2-2 from the field and 1-1 from three, though it was her effort on defense that caught the eye of Elzy. 

“I think Kennedy brings us a different edge defensively,” Elzy said. “She has that dog mentality that I’m looking for. She has a great feel for the game, is competitive and knows how to win. What makes Kennedy different is (that) she understands her role and she wants to do it well.”

After winning its first true road game of the season, Kentucky returns to action on Sunday, Dec. 11, hosting Louisville inside Rupp Arena. Tipoff against the Cardinals is set for 1 p.m. EST and can be viewed live on ESPN.