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Kentucky Kernel

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Kentucky Kernel

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Kentucky women’s basketball outlasts Samford 72-59 on New Year’s Eve

Kentucky players celebrate winning the game after the Kentucky vs. ETSU womens basketball game on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023, at the Clive M. Beck Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 74-66 Photo by Travis Fannon | Staff

Kentucky women’s basketball topped the Samford Bulldogs inside of the Clive M. Beck Center on New Year’s Eve by a score of 72-59.

The Wildcats and Samford traded early blows in the first quarter, but Kentucky was able to jump out to a seven-point lead after the Bulldogs turned the ball over on three of their first nine possessions.

Despite this, Samford found its stride, troubling the Wildcats with a 7-0 run to take a 23-21 lead in the second quarter.

“We weren’t on the same page,” head coach Kyra Elzy said. “We weren’t in sync. We were supposed to be in one coverage, the guard was doing one thing and the post was doing another, just talking about when we do the proper coverage, we’re not having to rotate to give up open threes.”

Out of the timeout, the Bulldogs and Wildcats continued to trade baskets, but it was Ajae Petty who made her presence known for the Wildcats. Petty had three offensive rebounds in the second half on her way to a first-half double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds. She would finish the game with 22 points and 13 rebounds.

“I like that,” said Elzy. “That means we tried to attempt to box someone out. We like that… We’ve been talking about that.”

After going into the half up 32-30, Kentucky opened the third quarter on a 7-0 run to take a nine-point lead, forcing the Bulldogs to take a timeout.

“[We tried] just not to come out flat and continue to play hard,” said Petty. “The last two practices we had we did really well with our defensive intensity. Everyone was up playing defense so that’s what we said we were trying to come back out and do.”

In similar fashion to its contest against Lipscomb, Kentucky was again strong in the fourth quarter, pulling away from the Bulldogs with a 14-3 run thanks to buckets from four different Wildcats.

“We seem to like the fourth quarter,” said Elzy. “I wish we’d like the first, second, third and the fourth, but we do like the fourth. I do give credit to Coach [Lee] Taylor, I thought he’s done a great job of getting us in shape being able to play the pace that we want to play for the duration of a game. So hopefully we can use the fourth quarter all the way through.”

Maddie Scherr added 14 points and eight rebounds to Petty’s performance, with 11 of those points coming in the second half.

“You know, I thought we started rebounding and running so they were able to space the floor,” said Elzy. “I thought Maddie passed up some shots early. Just trying to feel her way off the ball screen. I thought she was open. But you know, I want her to have a field on the floor. Take it when she feels good. And not, but I thought she was more aggressive in the second half of shooting the ball off the ball screen.”

Elzy was also sure to compliment Brooklynn Miles for her 13-point, six-assist performance.

“So proud,” said Elzy. “I gave her a shout-out in the locker room. I thought her intensity defensively was exactly what we needed her vocal leadership she just passed on the ball. But also, I thought she adjusted to how they were playing her early in the season. When they weren’t guarding her, she would just stand today we talked to her about cutting and we’ve been talking to her all nonconference and so to see her cut, make layups make plays, and be aggressive, and that’s what we’re gonna need from her.”

Kentucky will return to Rupp Arena on Thursday, Jan. 4, at 7 p.m. ET, where it will take on the Arkansas Razorbacks. That game will be televised on the SEC Network+.

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