LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Kyra Elzy isn’t worried about her team’s mindset going into the NCAA Tournament.
The Wildcats (17-8) have lost three of their past five games but more than a week following a 77-66 loss to Georgia in the Southeastern Conference quarterfinals, Elzy said her squad is mentally prepared to start dancing.
“We have had some of our best practices of the year,” she said. “I like the energy, I like the focus and we are looking forward to going to Texas to make a run.”
Kentucky is the fourth seed in the Riverwalk Region and will take on No. 13 seed Idaho State at 2 p.m. Sunday in the opening round. Moments after learning their first-round opponent in San Antonio, the Wildcats began making preparations for the trip to Texas.
“The staff is already hard at work breaking down film,” Elzy said. “This team has been resilient all year. We’e had our ups and downs, but I love together we are. We battle together and there is an overall excitement. This is what you play for — March Madness here we are.”
The top seed in Kentucky’s region is Connecticut and for the Wildcats to make a run, Elzy said her squad will have to “sell out defensively." She added her squad also must “have a balanced scoring attack” in order to prolong the season.
“We need to have our heart on the floor, no matter what defense we are in,” she said. “When we are at our best, we’re pushing the ball in transition and we have three or four people scoring in double figures.”
The Wildcats will be led by junior Rhyne Howard, the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year. Howard leads the team in scoring with 20.7 points per game. Elzy said Howard’s contributions go beyond her scoring contributions and added, “she’s one of the best in the game.”
“What makes Rhyne special is that she the one through the five and also (she) makes people around her better,” Elzy said. “She has matured into a vocal leader this year and her teammates want to do well for her as well. I think having Rhyne is a big advantage, but I just think we have so much talent across the board and that’s what makes is a dangerous team during this time.”
A graduate of Oldham County High School, Elzy said her first appearance in the tournament as a head coach is an “honor.”
“I am a Kentucky girl through and through, born and raised (in this state),” she said. “It’s a big responsibility. We represent the state of Kentucky, the community in Lexington, and (we want to) make them proud and them be behind this team is more than what I can ask for. … it’s truly an honor.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.