The no. 19 Lady Bulldogs played well in their first exhibition outing of the season on Thursday, November 4, in a 78-60 loss to the no. 19 Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington, KY.
The game was a great way to start the season for both squads. Union got the experience of playing against a top-flight DI program and one of the best players in the country, All-American Makayla Epps. Kentucky also benefited, as they got the experience of playing real competition heading into regular season play. And of course, as is the case with all of these DI vs. DII matchups, Union will receive financial compensation for the basketball program.
“They give us a lot of experience going into conference play,” Mark Campbell, Union University head coach, told Good News 93.1. “There’s going to be a high expectation, and we like it that way.”
Union certainly lived up to those expectations on Thursday. The Bulldogs out-shot UK by a mark of 44% to Kentucky’s 38%. Union also hit a solid percentage from beyond the arc (42%) and looked very comfortable offensively.
“It was very encouraging, especially since we were not playing for score and just to get better,” said sophomore guard Jada Smith, Union’s leading returning scorer. “Of course it was not perfect, but for a first game we played really hard and it gives us a lot of confidence moving forward.”
The one place Union did not excel was on the boards. The Bulldogs were out-rebounded by a staggering mark of 50-25, including Kentucky’s 25-4 advantage on the offensive glass.
“[We have to be] a lot more physical and remember to find bodies instead of going straight for the ball,” Smith said. “When you don’t have the athleticism matched, it’s all about being physical, because you won’t be able to out-jump a 6’3″ athlete.”
The Lady Bulldogs hope to gain more experience during a back-to-back this weekend. Union faces Martin Methodist College on Saturday at 2:00 pm in their homecoming game followed by a Sunday roadtrip to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores in Nashville in their final exhibition before the start of the regular season.