Live. Breathe. Blue. Kentucky Women’s Basketball Back from the Dead

Emma King and Ajae Petty are all smiles while talking to reporters after the Wildcats' 73 - 67 win over Tennessee Tech on Sunday (Photo Credit Dr. John Huang). Emma King and Ajae Petty are all smiles while talking to reporters after the Wildcats' 73 - 67 win over Tennessee Tech on Sunday (Photo Credit Dr. John Huang).

I’m happy to report that Kentucky Women’s Basketball has a pulse. Just last week, Coach Kyra Elzy’s program was left for dead, having lost five games in a row by an average margin of over 22 points per game. Even social media was more toxic than usual. Three straight blowout losses at the recent Paradise Jam tournament had fans wondering if perhaps this current team should just remain buried in the Virgin Islands permanently.

But alas, Elzy and crew did return, and the team has proceeded to rack up two hard-fought wins since arriving back in Lexington. The latest 73 – 67 victory over Tennessee Tech seemed especially encouraging, given the manner in which the Wildcats prevailed.

Ajae Petty’s monster 33-point, 15-rebound performance against the Golden Eagles reminded everyone of how dominant the 6 – 3 senior forward can be when the gameplan calls for getting her the ball inside. But it was Kentucky’s general scrappiness and grit that gave fans that much-needed jolt of hope and hankering that had been sorely missing in the weeks prior.

“We have to fly around,” said an animated Coach Elzy afterwards. “We have to sell out. We just have to play so hard. We’re talented but not talented enough not to play hard. So we have to sell out every game and we have to play together.”

A short-handed Kentucky team did sell out and play together. Cassidy Rowe, starting in place of the injured Maddie Scherr (concussion protocol), took three selfless charges, and Emma King had a career-high 14 points and a career-high tying seven rebounds. Both players flew around the court like their life depended on it or—more importantly—like their teammate’s life depended on it.

“Yeah, absolutely,” King affirmed, when asked if this team needs scrappiness to succeed. “One thing I feel like I just love about this team is I feel like when one person is playing hard, like we just kind of feed off of that and so it was so fun to see people fly around.”

Scrappiness is the critical element this team needs to succeed. As Coach Elzy said, they simply aren’t talented enough to win games on talent alone. Dominant performances like Petty had against Tech are possible if opposing teams are too small to match up. That won’t be the case when the conference schedule rolls around.

Remember in the SEC, it just means more. More height, more bulk, and more bodies to spare. No doubt about it—for this Kentucky team, heart and hustle will need to be the great equalizer.

You can also throw in toughness. That’s something Coach Elzy has emphasized throughout the year. In the aforementioned blowout losses, that toughness just wasn’t there. Against Tennessee Tech, it seemed to magically resurface.

“I think we’re still working on that,” Elzy said, when asked about the team’s identity. “We have to lay our hat on the defensive end…we got to rebound and run or steal the ball and run and that the identity of our team [is] we have to be tough.”

That identity will be put to the test on Wednesday when the Wildcats take on Minnesota at 7pm in Rupp Arena. The Golden Gophers are 7 – 1 on the season and boast enough height inside to keep Petty in check.

It’ll take every bit of scrappiness and toughness to keep Kentucky’s winning streak going.

Dr. John Huang is a retired orthodontist, military veteran, and award-winning author. He currently serves as a reporter and sports columnist for Nolan Group Media. His latest book, “They Call Me Mr. Secretary,” debuted as a top new release. You can follow Dr. Huang on social media @KYHuangs and check out all his books at