Kentucky WBB wins opener behind defense, Rhyne Howard's double-double
Rhyne Howard had 14 points, 11 rebounds and five assists as the 13th-ranked Kentucky women's basketball team used a strong defensive effort to top Mount St. Mary's 67-44 on Tuesday night at Memorial Coliseum.
Kentucky (1-0) held Mount St. Mary's to 15 of 54 (27.8 percent) from the field and forced the Mountaineers into 28 turnovers in the game. The Cats hit just 22 of 66 (33.3 percent) from the field, but Kentucky converted 17 of 24 from the free-throw line.
Howard suffered through a tough shooting night, hitting just four of 16 from the field. But Kentucky also got double-figure scoring efforts from Jaida Roper (13 points) and Tatyana Wyatt (10).
In the first quarter, Kentucky scored on a quick basket in the paint from Wyatt and three-pointer by Howard, giving the Cats a 5-0 lead in the early minutes. After Kentucky built a 9-4 lead, Mount St. Mary's would score eight of the game's next 10 points to take a 12-11 lead. However, the Cats would get baskets from Blair Green and Wyatt with under a minute left in the first period to lead 15-12 at the end of the first period.
After an Emma King free throw gave Kentucky a 16-12 lead early in the second period, Mount St. Mary's got within one, 16-15, on a three-pointer from Jatarrikah Settle. Kentucky would add to its lead on a jumper from Roper, then both teams went cold. Neither team scored for 2:38, and that's when Mount St. Mary's tied the game at 18 apiece on a three from Aryna Taylor.
Kentucky went nearly four minutes without scoring, but the Cats got baskets from Nae Nae Cole, Sabrina Haines and KeKe McKinney to take a 24-18 lead late in the period. Kentucky would take a 27-21 advantage into the half. The Cats forced 14 turnovers in the first half and scored 13 points off those mistakes. But the Mountaineers kept it close with five three-pointers, compared to just one for Kentucky.
In the third period, both teams were cold from the field. Kentucky missed its first seven shots, while Mount St. Mary's missed its first six. The only points in the first four minutes of the period were a pair of free throws from Roper, giving the Cats a 29-21 advantage. Wyatt completed the three-point play, on a layup and a free throw, with 5:48 left in the third period to give UK a 32-21 lead. The Cats would build the lead to 15 points and would take a 44-32 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Cats began the fourth quarter on a 5-0 run including a free throw by Roper, a layup and a pair of free throws by Howard. The lead would grow to as many as 29, at 65-36 before the Cats cruised home with the 23-point win.
Kentucky hits the road for its next game, visiting Middle Tennessee on Sunday in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. and the game can be heard on the UK Sports Network.