Live. Breathe. Blue. Kentucky Women's Basketball - Size Matters

Embattled Kentucky head coach Kyra Elzy not happy with the referees during game versus No. 1-ranked South Carolina (Danny Pendleton Photo Credit) Embattled Kentucky head coach Kyra Elzy not happy with the referees during game versus No. 1-ranked South Carolina (Danny Pendleton Photo Credit)

In South Carolina’s 103 – 55 Senior Day thrashing of Kentucky on Sunday, one play stood out.

With 3:30 left on the clock and the game well in hand, South Carolina’s Chloe Kitts caught a lob pass over Kentucky’s Cassidy Rowe and easily laid it in the bucket for a commanding 43-point lead.

What you may not know is that Kitts is 6-foot-2, a former high school All-American, and a gold medalist in the 2022 FIBA U18 Americas Championship. Rowe on the other hand stands 5-foot-5, was a scrappy in state high school prospect who battled injuries for much of her career.

The difference between Kitts and Rowe pretty much captures the separation between Kentucky’s current state of the union and Carolina’s current status as the No. 1 team in the land. Carolina (27 – 0, 14 – 0 SEC) is big, fast, talented, and deep. Kentucky (11 – 17, 4 – 10 SEC) is…well…Kentucky.

In their two games this year, the Gamecocks outscored the Wildcats 201 – 91 overall, 106 – 38 in points in the paint, 66 – 10 in points off turnovers, and 45 – 10 in fastbreak points. If that weren’t jaw dropping enough, throw in an 82 – 59 differential on the boards, an 87 – 44 mismatch in bench points, and the fact that Carolina’s 6-foot-7 Kamilla Cardoso didn’t even play in the latter game, and the massive disparity between the two programs becomes almost too much to stomach.

Many in BBN are angry and upset, and based on the results on the court, rightly so. They’re looking for blame, and head coach Kyra Elzy bears the brunt of their dismay. One look at my social media feed, and there’s no doubt the pitchforks and torches are out in full force.

But let’s be fair, Elzy’s resume alone isn’t awful. This is her fourth season as head coach, having served eight seasons previously as an assistant. During her time at the helm, she’s 60 – 57 having garnered two straight NCAA tournament appearances right out of the gate. In her second year, she led Kentucky to only their 2nd ever SEC tournament championship (the first in over 40 years). Last year (12 – 19, 2 – 14 in the conference) was admittedly a disappointment. Barring a miraculous turnaround, the results this year won’t be much better.

From a personal standpoint, I love what Elzy stands for: accountability, hard work, discipline, servant leadership, and family. Those qualities also resonate with Mitch Barnhart, who gave Elzy a contract extension after that big conference tournament win in 2022. Mitch signed the Oldham County native through the 2027 season and is paying her over three quarters of a million dollars every year through then.

And despite the tough times, it’s important to point out that Kentucky’s players haven’t quit. The Kentucky connection of Emma King, Cassidy Rowe, Maddie Scherr, and Amiya Jenkins are especially fun to root for. Everyone’s still focused and playing hard. And it’s not like the team is totally devoid of talent, either.

Scherr is a proven competitor. Eniya Russell and Brooklynn Miles can ball with the best of them. Saniah Tyler is fearless, and Ajae Petty—who led the Cats against South Carolina with 16 points and 8 rebounds—can trade jabs with anyone in the SEC. No one’s intimidated or overwhelmed in the least when facing such daunting competition.

It's just that everyone’s way too small. They’re grossly outsized in every aspect of the game.

“We utilized our height,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley explained. “We worked inside out. They put their small lineup in, and we just wanted to make sure that we were taking advantage of the mismatch. They do have a mismatch.”

Mismatch is an understatement. That brings us to the elephant in the room. Does Kyra Elzy have what it takes to move this program forward? More specifically, can she RECRUIT the Jamies and Josephines needed to avoid these mismatches in the future?

So far, that simply hasn’t been the case. The Wildcats have not been able to successfully recruit the dominant players during Elzy’s tenure. The heralded ones that do arrive either don’t seem to develop or they end up transferring out. Injuries and illnesses—such as with Tionna Herron and Nyah Leveretter—have taken a toll. Surprise transfers have disrupted team continuity to no end. Treasure Hunt, Jazmine Massengill, Jada Walker, Dre Edwards, and Kennedy Cambridge were all supposed to be long-term pieces of the winning puzzle.

They’re no longer around.

With Coach Elzy, there also always seems to be a suspension or two along the way. Rhyne Howard, Tatianna Wyatt, and Dre Edwards were all grounded at one point by the dreaded “coach’s decision.” This year, Zennia Thomas was unceremoniously dismissed from the team after over a month in silent purgatory. With everything being kept mum, we have no earthly idea of the reasons involved in these disciplinary actions. Is it academics or disruptive behavior or something more sinister? The silence only adds to the uncertainty and drama surrounding Elzy’s coaching prowess.

The reality is that for Kentucky women’s basketball fans, this is not a fun time. But take heart, this too shall pass. But only if recruiting ratchets up drastically. Size matters in this day and age. If Coach Elzy can’t succeed in that regard, Mitch will have no choice but to find someone else who can.

Meanwhile, the season’s not over. There are two regular season games left versus Ole Miss at home and LSU on the road. The SEC tournament looms large after that. One thing’s for certain—don’t look for this team to quit.

“I would just say to go in and try to play your hardest and do what you can do,” Petty said, when asked about how she approaches the current talent disparity. “There’s a lot of depth on [South Carolina]. Me personally, I’m not going in thinking ‘Oh, I’m scared of this person.’ I’m going in thinking, ‘Well let’s see how I can measure up.’”

Size matters. Based on the scoreboard, the Cats have a lot of measuring up to do.

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. You can follow Dr. Huang on social media @KYHuangs and check out all his books at