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The Kentucky women’s basketball season is fast approaching, with the Wildcats scheduled to play an exhibition game against Lee University on Nov. 4 ahead of the season opener against Presbyterian College on Nov. 9.
But fans have gotten a couple advance looks at head coach Kyra Elzy and the 2021-22 UK team in recent weeks, first at Big Blue Madness on Oct. 15 and again Sunday afternoon, as the Wildcats held a Blue-White scrimmage that was open to the public.
The scrimmage saw the 2021-22 UK team all play on the Blue squad. The White team featured male practice squad players and former UK women’s basketball players Azia Bishop, Makayla Epps and Amber Smith, who is also an assistant coach for the Wildcats.
The scrimmage used four eight-minute quarters, two minutes shorter than the actual game length of 10 minutes per quarter, and the scrimmage took place in front of a couple hundred fans inside Memorial Coliseum.
The scrimmage was won by the Blue team, 77-42, and the Blue squad led 14-10, 32-20, and 51-28 after each of the first three quarters.
Here are three observations from Sunday’s Blue-White scrimmage.
1. Edwards, Howard can score in a variety of ways.
Kentucky’s two leading scorers in the scrimmage were senior guard Rhyne Howard and redshirt junior forward Dre’una Edwards. Howard had 22 points and Edwards had 20 to lead the Blue squad, and those points came in different ways.
Both Edwards and Howard connected from behind the arc on three-pointers, something that was more significant for Edwards than Howard. Over her three seasons at UK, Howard has been a career 38.1% three-point shooter, having hoisted more than 560 three-point attempts since 2018.
In her debut season with UK last season, Edwards attempted just 29 three-point shots, but connected on 12 of them, good enough for a success rate of 41.4%.
The Wildcats only had two players last season that averaged double-figure scoring numbers: Howard with 20.7 points per game and Chasity Patterson with 12.4. With Patterson now playing professionally, one of the candidates to replace her scoring output is Edwards, who averaged 9.7 points per contest last season.
Edwards has been a player frequently mentioned by head coach Kyra Elzy this offseason as a top performer, and a change to her shot diet to get Edwards more three-point attempts this season is something to monitor.
2. Kentucky unveils potential starting lineup.
The Blue team used the same lineup of senior guards Jazmine Massengill, Robyn Benton, Blair Green and Howard, along with Edwards, to begin the first and second quarters. The same lineup was also used to start the second half, but Benton was swapped for redshirt junior center Olivia Owens.
The quintet of Massengill-Benton-Green-Howard-Edwards got the most playing time together of any group during the scrimmage, and offered a potential look at the starting lineup UK could begin the season with next month.
Regardless of the lineup Elzy chooses for the season opener against Presbyterian, it will be a new one for the Wildcats.
Each of Kentucky’s 27 starting lineups last season featured the now-departed Patterson.
Ten of the 11 players on the UK roster took part in Sunday’s scrimmage, with sophomore guard Treasure Hunt being the lone player who didn’t participate. Hunt spent most of the scrimmage on an exercise bike located behind the Blue team’s bench.
Elzy and the team did not meet with the media after the scrimmage but was scheduled to take questions during its annual Media Day event on Monday.
3. Like every team, the Cats are a work in progress.
It’s still October, which means second-year head coach Elzy still has plenty of things to work on with her team.
During Sunday’s scrimmage, Elzy several times called timeout after a poor defensive transition sequence from the Blue team. You could hear Elzy shout to players, imploring them to either compete better for a rebound or to more quickly initiate an offensive set.
Freshman guard Jada Walker was on the receiving end of a couple of these requests from Elzy, as was sophomore forward Nyah Leveretter.
An obvious goal of the scrimmage was to work on different sets and situations. By the fourth quarter, both the Blue team and the White team used a defensive press.
After the scrimmage, Elzy briefly addressed the crowd.
“This is such a fun and exciting team, can’t wait to pack out Memorial this year,” Elzy told the crowd. “So bring your friends and their friends and their friends and everybody that you can bring. We need all the excitement in Memorial Coliseum this year.”
Playing teams with different stylistic approaches will also be evident in Kentucky’s non-conference schedule.
Last season, the Wildcats played only eight non-conference games before Southeastern Conference play began. This season, UK will play 11 non-conference contests, including high-profile road games at No. 8 Indiana in November and No. 6 Louisville in December.
Kentucky is ranked No. 13 in the preseason Associated Press poll.
Sunday’s scoring stats
▪ Rhyne Howard, 22 points; Dre’una Edwards, 20; Blair Green, 15; Olivia Owens, 6; Jada Walker, 5; Emma King, 4; Robyn Benton, 3; Nyah Leveretter, 2.
▪ Five different UK players — Walker, Edwards, Benton, Green and Howard — made a three-pointer during the scrimmage.
Important upcoming UK dates
Nov. 4: Exhibition vs. Lee University, 7 p.m. (No TV)
Nov. 9: Season opener vs. Presbyterian, 7 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)