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Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy expects high-scoring Iowa to be a challenge for Wildcats in NCAA second round

By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

Kentucky will have its hands full when it takes on Iowa State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Tuesday.

The fourth-seeded Wildcats (18-8) advanced following a 71-63 win over Idaho State Sunday in San Antonio, while the Hawkeyes, a No. 5 seed, easily disposed of Central Michigan, 87-72 in their tournament opener. Both teams are in the Riverwalk Regional.

Kentucky’s top task will be stopping Iowa freshman Caitlin Clark, one of the top newcomers in the nation and is averaging 26.5 points per game. Clark scored 23 points in the tournament opener for Iowa, which has won five of its past six games and is scoring 86.6 points per game.

Blair Green drives to the basket in a 71-63 in over Idaho State during the First Round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. (Photo by Eddie Justice, UK Athletics)

“They’re a very good team,” Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy said. “Caitlin Clark is a phenomenal player and scorer and so we will have our hands full. We have to approach it the same way (as the last game) — defense first. We must get our defense set, be intense, and locked in on the game plan. We may have to change our defense up, it might not just be one certain defense to get the job done.”

In the win over Idaho State on Sunday, the Wildcats placed three players in double figures as 10 players entered the scoring column. Elzy said balanced scoring will continue to be an emphasis for the Wildcats for the duration of the tournament.

“When we are at our best, we have three or four people scoring in double figures,” she said. “Our bench has stepped up all year long. We hit a little lull in the SEC Tournament, but to see them step back up and step up to the challenge (was good for us). The phrase we used all week was step up, step up, we can no longer be in our comfort zone — everyone step up and do their job, and we did that (against Idaho State).”

Following a 78-66 loss to Georgia in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, Elzy sought more scoring contributions from her squad and Blair Green and Dre’ Edwards answered the call. Green and Edwards combined for 19 points off the bench in Sunday’s win over the Bengals.

“They both practiced extremely well (after the SEC Tournament) and playing with confidence,” she said. “They both stepped upon to the challenge that I gave them in the individual meetings. I was not surprised because both of them had practiced extremely well.”

After missing the tournament last year because of the ongoing pandemic, Elzy is glad to be back in the prestigious event.

“(Last year) it was like you have no closure,” she said. “This year, we have talked about a focused mindset and have fun. I’m trying to take it all in and our team is taking it all in. You cannot take this opportunity for granted, it is hard.”

Gamatracker: Kentucky vs. Iowa, 3:30 p.m. (EST) Tuesday. TV/Radio: ESPNU, UK Radio Network.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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