Coaching change or not, Kentucky still plans to dominate through its defense.
On Tuesday morning, the Wildcats Women’s Basketball interim head coach Kyra Elzy spoke to the media for her first-ever pregame press conference as a head coach. Kentucky takes on Murray State at 1 p.m. on Wednesday to open up its 2020-21 campaign, a perfect tuneup opportunity for a team that returns several key players but is also trying to work in plenty of fresh faces. Three freshmen and three transfers will look to step on the floor for the first time in a Kentucky uniform. There will surely be some hiccups along the way as the staff tries to incorporate everybody to their liking and benefit.
That could create some uncertainty through the early stages of the season. However, there is one area the ‘Cats are expected to be great at from the opening tip. For Elzy, she’s not demanding offensive domination, but she does expect a defensive showing and effort that mirrors the Matthew Mitchell-led UK teams of the last decade-plus.
“We really want to hang our hat on our defense,” Elzy said during the virtual press conference. “Everyone is kinda nervous, our offense could be helter-skelter early. Let’s hope the ball goes in the basket early, that always helps settle some nerves. But really have just challenged the players: let’s play our heart out on the offensive end, let’s make hustle plays, energy plays, taking charges, trying to get on the floor. We have worked extremely hard this preseason in our offensive execution, so we want to play team basketball on that end, not just take a good shot, but let’s take great shots, move the ball and good things will happen.”
Kentucky’s first two matchups are against Murray State on Wednesday and then on Sunday against Belmont. While they aren’t necessarily power programs on the basketball front, it’s exactly what the ‘Cats will need before two high-profile games against a solid Kansas State squad and a ranked Indiana team next week.
As Elzy said, the offense could very easily struggle out of the gates early on as players such as Dre’Una Edwards, Nyah Levertter, Treasure Hunt, and Olivia Owens all adjust to the new environment. That being said, the foundation of last year’s defense–one of the best in the country–will return in the post through Tatyana Wyatt and KeKe McKinney, plus the steady defensive presences of Rhyne Howard and Chasity Patterson in the backcourt.
It’s important to remember that three prominent ball handlers from a season ago–Sabrina Haines, Jaida Roper, and Amanda Paschal– who all split time initiating the offense are gone and graduated. Patterson showed signs a season ago of being able to fill that role by herself in the future and she’ll get an immediate opportunity to do so, but her positive defensive impact has already been established.
There is length and height across the roster. The expectation is that Kentucky will be an elite-level team on defense from day one, much like they have been under Mitchell in the past. Elzy’s philosophy doesn’t differ far from that of her former boss.
You can check out everything else Elzy had to say about the upcoming game below.