Kentucky women’s basketball has no answers for FGCU’s offense in second straight loss

The Kentucky women’s basketball team lost its second consecutive game on Sunday afternoon, falling 59-48 to Florida Gulf Coast at Alico Arena in Fort Myers, Fla.

Just as they had to against Austin Peay on Tuesday night, the Wildcats took the court without senior guard Maddie Scherr. Scherr is still sidelined, and, per UK head coach Kyra Elzy is considered day-to-day after suffering an ankle injury in the Nov. 11 victory over USC Upstate.

Against a sharpshooting Eagles roster, Elzy led with a starting five of Brooklynn Miles, Saniah Tyler, Amiya Jenkins, Emma King and Ajae Petty.

Kentucky entered the matchup averaging at least 40 points in the paint, but scored just 28 in its second loss to an ASUN school this season. The Wildcats shot 19-for-50 (38%) from the field and only 2-for-13 (15%) from three-point range. They finished with 18 turnovers but won the battle of the boards by seven, as well as led in both second chance points and bench points.

In a rematch of a Dec. 18 loss at Memorial Coliseum last season, the Wildcats struggled to take a shot for the first several minutes of the game. The Eagles jetted out to a quick start, opening the game on an 11-0 run before Jenkins put UK on the scoreboard with 5:49 to play in the period. She made a 3-pointer soon after, but the Wildcats couldn’t muster any more than a layup from Miles to trail 18-7 after the first quarter.

“I’m at a loss for the slow start,” Elzy said. “I thought we were very locked in today in shootaround and pregame, you know, so I thought we were mentally ready and focused. That didn’t show, so we’ll go back and look at some different variables there.”

The second quarter was far more balanced, though neither team could find any consistent momentum on the offensive end, and the Wildcats trailed 11 at the half. By that time, the Wildcats had already committed 10 turnovers — which the Eagles had converted into 14 of their points, a problem which only continued to snowball through the remainder of the contest. The Wildcats also struggled to find balanced scoring, with only Jenkins, with nine points, and Petty, with six, managing more than a single bucket in the first half.

FGCU poured it on in the third quarter, going on a nightmarish 10-0 run in less than 90 seconds and nearly doubling the Wildcats’ halftime deficit. UK trailed by 21 points and Elzy was forced to call a timeout to try to stop the bleeding. In the second half of the third period, however, the Wildcats held the Eagles to zero made field goals for more than five minutes before FGCU went on another substantial run, this time 7-0 in less than two minutes.

The Eagles’ lead reached a game-high of 24 in the final seconds of the third period.

The Wildcats did a quality job of limiting the typically talented 3-point shooting team from long range to zero made threes on just four attempts in the first half. They finished with five made threes on 30 attempts.

“I thought we defended the 3-point line,” Elzy said. “Which is what we wanted to do, either make them shoot contested 3s, or run them off the line. We didn’t finish our defense. It was supposed to be one-on-one, wall off, make them score.”

The Wildcats did, albeit too late, go on their own opening-quarter run — 11-0 — to start the fourth, cutting the FGCU lead to 13 and forcing head coach Karl Smesko to call a timeout with 6:02 to play. The Wildcats managed to outscore the Eagles 17-4 in the fourth, but the deficit was too much to overcome.

Elzy said she told her roster they couldn’t have any quit in them ahead of the fourth quarter, regardless of how the previous three periods had played out.

“We had to sell out, offensively and defensively, play our style of basketball,” Elzy said. “So when we were able to get stops, we could push in transition. You know, I thought Mimi and Petty really ignited us. Offensively we were able to throw in to Petty as they were triple teaming her and make some plays that way, but I just thought we played so much harder defensively, which led to easier shots on the offensive end.”

Only five players scored for FGCU, each of its starters. Dolly Cairns paced the Eagles with 16 points. Maddie Antenucci finished with 13, Sofia Persson had 12 and Uju Ezeudu scored 10.

Jenkins paced the Wildcats with 18 points and contributed six rebounds, one assist and one steal. Petty recorded a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds in addition to one assist, two blocks and one steal.

Kentucky’s Ajae Petty (13) had 15 points, 13 rebounds and two block shots in Sunday’s loss to Florida Gulf Coast.
Kentucky’s Ajae Petty (13) had 15 points, 13 rebounds and two block shots in Sunday’s loss to Florida Gulf Coast.
Kentucky guard Brooklyn Miles looks to make a pass against Florida Gulf Coast.
Kentucky guard Brooklyn Miles looks to make a pass against Florida Gulf Coast.

Next game

Kentucky vs. N.C. State

What: Paradise Jam

When: 3:15 p.m. Thursday

Where: U.S. Virgin Islands

Online: ESPN+

Records: Kentucky 2-2; N.C. State 4-0