ST. THOMAS, V.I. – The Kentucky women's basketball team rallied from a double-digit, second-half deficit to beat North Carolina 85-75 on Saturday at the Paradise Jam. The win completed a three-day, three-game sweep of the event by the Cats.
The victory is the Wildcats' first-ever win against the Tar Heels. Entering Saturday's matchup, Kentucky was 0-5 all-time against UNC.
The last meeting was March 21, 2011, when the Tar Heels took down UK 86-74 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Freshman Rhyne Howard led the Cats with 25 points and 12 rebounds on Saturday. Senior guard Taylor Murray also had a big game, scoring 23 points, dishing out 10 assists, grabbing six rebounds and recording seven steals in the game. Senior Maci Morris added 18 points for the Cats in the game.
Kentucky (7-0) forced 27 North Carolina turnovers and converted those into 34 points. The Cats committed just 14 turnovers, leading to 17 Tar Heels' points.
Kentucky got its long-range game going early, with a pair of three-pointers from Morris and one from Howard. The game was tied 9-9 when North Carolina went on a 13-2 run to take a 22-11 lead, as the Cats missed eight straight shots from the field. But Kentucky mounted a rally of its own late in the period, outscoring the Tar Heels 12-3 to cut the lead to 25-23 after one quarter. The Cats hit five of eight from beyond the arc in the quarter. Howard had 13 points and Morris had eight.
UNC scored the first five points of the second quarter to lead 30-23. Kentucky would get consecutive baskets from Murray, and a Tatyana Wyatt layup, to slice the lead to 30-29 with 6:12 left in the half. Jaida Roper tied the game, 30-30, on a free throw with 5:30 left in the half, but North Carolina went on a 10-2 run to lead 40-32 with 3:05 remaining in the half. The Cats, who played in foul trouble most of the second quarter, would get within four, but would trail 47-38 at the half.
North Carolina scored first in the third period, on a three-pointer by Stephanie Watts, who led all scorers with 27 points in the game, to take a 50-38 advantage. But as they did the entire game, the Cats fought back. Kentucky scored the next six points to cut the lead in half, 50-44. However, the Tar Heels responded with a 10-3 run to lead 60-47 with 3:43 left in the third quarter. Kentucky, again, was not done, scoring the last seven points of the quarter to trail 60-54 with 10 minutes to play.
Early in the fourth quarter, Kentucky continued to chip away at the UNC lead, eventually tying the game 64-64 on a long-range three by Roper. The Cats would continue the run, 14-4 in total, to take a 68-64 lead with 6:35 left. UNC would score the next five to lead 69-68, but Kentucky would close the game on a 17-6 run to win by 10. The Cats outscored the Tar Heels 31-15 in the final 10 minutes of play.
Kentucky returns to action on Wednesday, facing intrastate rival Morehead State at Memorial Coliseum. Tipoff is set for noon ET and the game can be seen on SEC Network+.