UK women’s basketball shows fight in 1st game vs. ranked foe

The Kentucky women’s basketball team came up short in its first game this season against a ranked opponent, but the Wildcats showed plenty of fight against a top-15 foe.

UK lost to No. 11 Virginia Tech, 82-74, on Monday afternoon in the first of two games the Cats will play in the Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flamingo Championship in the Bahamas.

Kentucky trailed 29-8 after the first quarter, 44-23 at halftime and 67-49 after the third quarter, but head coach Kyra Elzy’s team used a 17-2 run in the closing minutes of the game to cut the gap to just six points against the Hokies.

UK (4-1) found itself down just six points with 44 seconds to go before Virginia Tech (4-0) held on for the win.

Kentucky outscored Virginia Tech by 13 (66-53) over the final three quarters.

“There’s no moral victories, make no mistakes about it. We came here to win. We came here to fight,” Elzy told reporters via Zoom after the game. “What I love about this team (is) we have heart … down the stretch we emptied our tank to get back into the game and that just shows you that we have fight in us.”

What did Elzy think went wrong in that lopsided first quarter?

“I thought we panicked. … I thought we took some quick shots. I thought they were physical with us early,” Elzy said. “We drove downhill (and) missed some bunnies, missed some outside shots. I thought they made us play fast. … We just didn’t adjust well.”

The Cats were led in scoring by sophomore guard Jada Walker with 17 points, while graduate student guard Robyn Benton had 13 points and transfer forward Ajae Petty added 12.

Kentucky again struggled with its perimeter shooting on Monday: The Cats went 2-for-9 on three-pointers, and for the season UK is just 21-of-94 (22.3%) from behind the arc.

While Kentucky never led in the game, the Cats found success in turning defense into offense. UK forced Virginia Tech into 20 turnovers, and held a 29-14 advantage in points off turnovers.

UK has now forced 20 or more turnovers in four of five games this season.

Jada Walker led Kentucky with 17 points Monday as the Wildcats were defeated for the first time this season. UK Athletics

Virginia Tech — which was picked to finish second in the ACC this season — got a significant contribution from returning ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley, as the senior center finished with a game-high 25 points and 13 rebounds.

The Hokies entered Monday’s game averaging 82.3 points per game, and stayed on that trajectory thanks to an additional 16 points from senior guard Ashley Owusu, 15 points from graduate student forward Taylor Soule and 14 points from junior guard Georgia Amoore.

Virginia Tech outrebounded Kentucky, 43-32, in the game.

UK will finish its trip to the Bahamas with a Wednesday afternoon game against Dayton (0-4).

Dayton was to play Ole Miss on Monday night in the Bahamas.

Next game

Kentucky vs. Dayton

When: 4:30 p.m. Wednesday

What: Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flamingo Championship in the Bahamas

Online: FloHoops (subscription needed)

Cameron Drummond works as a sports reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader with a focus on Kentucky men’s basketball recruiting and the UK men’s basketball team, horse racing, soccer and other sports in Central Kentucky. Drummond is a first-generation American who was born and raised in Texas, before graduating from Indiana University. He is a fluent Spanish speaker who previously worked as a community news reporter in Austin, Texas.

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