Kentucky’s Jada Walker and Blair Green speak with media before the big UK/UofL showdown in Rupp (Dr. John Huang Photo).
(LEXINGTON, Ky.) – Sorry if you clicked on this column thinking ahead to New Year’s Eve. Sure, the Kentucky and Louisville men’s basketball teams will be duking it out at Rupp Arena before the ball drops on 2022. But prior to that—a scant two days away—the Cats and Cards women’s teams will be taking the big stage for bragging rights within the state.
It’s a big game alright—even bigger than the men’s side. There’s a heck of a lot at stake, and the game promises to be much more competitive than the more publicized upcoming one in three weeks.
Here are some good reasons why fans need to tune in to Cats versus Cards on Sunday.
Kyra Elzy’s squad is fun to watch. The team is off to a 7 – 1 start, including an 80 – 74 victory over a solid Minnesota team in their first true road game of the season. The Cats have been resilient, scrappy, and intense—hallmarks of Elzy-coached teams over the past couple of years.
“I do think our identity does lay on the defensive side of the basketball,” said Elzy at the pre-Louisville press conference. “Our ability to change up our defense, push the ball in transition. For me, we are getting closer to where I want us to be. We haven’t reached the pinnacle yet—but I think our identity is showing right now.”
Kentucky is ranked first in the SEC and 10th nationally in turnovers forced per game (25.0), while they’re first in the league and 21st nationally in turnover margin (7.88). Amazingly, the Wildcats have outscored their opponents, 219 – 96, off turnovers.
Sophomore point guard Jada Walker leads the conference in steals (27) and steals per game (3.38). If that weren’t enough, she also leads the team in scoring with 15.4 points per game. Robyn Benton (14.8 ppg) and Blair Green (10.4 ppg) are also averaging double digits. Newcomer Ajae Petty leads the team in rebounding at 6.3 per game.
Beating an arch-rival is always a thrill. Louisville comes into this one with a surprisingly pedestrian 6 – 4 record. The Cards play hard, they’re extremely physical, and they return a preseason All-American in Hailey Van Lith. Louisville was highly ranked in the preseason but has struggled against less-than-stellar competition. Jeff Walz’s squad has, however, beaten Kentucky five times in a row.
“It’s always a big game,” admitted Green. “It’s a game with a lot of energy and we always have a big turnout and crowd…I don’t think we have beaten Louisville the last couple of years that I’ve been here for my career, but I would love to be sent out with a win against Louisville.”
The Cards are definitely beatable this year. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to rejoice with Blair.
The game is played in Rupp Arena. Although Coach Elzy loves Memorial Coliseum, there’s aways a marketing advantage to playing downtown. It’s a different environment where players get excited. Lights, camera, and ESPN brings out the best (or worst) in everyone.
“We love playing in Rupp [especially in our black jerseys],” confirmed Walker. “It’s a great atmosphere, big games are played there, and we show up.”
No excuses for not showing up. So far this year, there have been four or five women’s games that have conflicted directly with the men. There’s no conflict this Sunday—no excuse for not coming out and supporting the program.
“We definitely need everyone’s help to get this win,” Green pleaded. “And we would love to have energy. [The crowd] makes a huge impact for us when we’re on the court, and we love to play with our fans. If we could have everyone come out and fill the seats in Rupp and help send me home with a win against Louisville.”
Coach Elzy, as all coaches do, claim that the next game is always the biggest. But she knows in her heart that the game versus Louisville just means a little bit more.
“We haven’t been talking about [the rivalry] because we’ve been playing other teams,” she said. “They do understand what it means. We’ll start talking about it today because they’re the next game on our schedule. But I don’t think we need to talk to them about being pumped up and motivated to play when you have a group of Kentucky girls on the roster playing Louisville.
Like I said, Cats versus Cards will be worth tuning in. The game will be televised on ESPN at 1:00 p.m. Better yet, make a personal appearance at Rupp Arena and cheer the team on.
Dr. John Huang is a UK columnist for Nolan Group Media and editor-in-chief of JustTheCats.com. He also covers the NFL and MLB for Sports View America. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs. If you enjoy his writing, be sure to check out his new book, KENTUCKY PASSION. https://www.amazon.com/Kentucky-Passion-Wildcat-Wisdom-Inspiration/dp/1684351669
One thought on “Cats versus Cards always worth tuning in”
Good article, because I’m really wanting to know more about the girls team of my dad’s collage. GO WILDCATS!