The first two games of the season saw Kentucky sophomore Rhyne Howard struggle to find her rhythm. On Wednesday night against Stetson, she made sure to shake off any early rust.
Behind 24 points from Howard, the No. 13 Kentucky Wildcats (3-0) controlled the Stetson Hatters (1-1) from the opening tip to secure a 67-48 victory in Memorial Coliseum.
Game numero tres. ✅
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) November 14, 2019
The Wildcats were aided by a dominating performance on the glass from junior forwards KeKe McKinney and Tatyana Wyatt, who posted a combined 19 points and 10 rebounds. McKinney recorded her career first double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds to go along with four assists. Wyatt finished with nine points and 10 rebounds while Howard also contributed five rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block to her stat line.
Unlike the first two games, Kentucky came out scoring with confidence. Howard poured in 12 of UK’s first 13 points in the first quarter. Head coach Matthew Mitchell ran several plays in a row all designed to free up Howard and they worked to perfection almost every time.
Howard started the game 5-7 from the field, making both of her attempts from deep. Her hot shooting start gave Kentucky a 13-8 lead after the first 10 minutes.
For Stetson, they had trouble breaking down the Wildcat defense. Led by McKinney, who had two blocks and was active all night long, Kentucky was able to hold the Hatters to just 36.5 percent shooting from the field and a 4-17 mark from three. Stetson shot just 4-16 in the first quarter
McKinney’s energy carried over into the second quarter as she quickly snagged an offensive rebound for an easy putback layup. Her frontcourt teammate, Wyatt, immediately followed with her own offensive rebound and putback lay-in.
The pace of the game began to speed up in Kentucky’s favor and the full-court press was able to settle in and pressure the Stetson ball handlers. In the first half, UK forced eight turnovers and another 16 in the second half.
At the intermission, the Wildcats were up 32-20.
In the third period, the ‘Cats pounced early, especially on defense. At one point, Kentucky forced Stetson into five turnovers over a four-minute span. Nine third-quarter turnovers from Stetson allowed Kentucky to thrive in transition. The Wildcats finished the game with 29 points off turnovers.
Heading into the final frame, UK held a 49-30 lead that they maintained throughout the final 10 minutes. Despite Stetson jumping out to a quick 9-4 run to open the period, the ‘Cats battled back.
The Hatters were taking the ball to the basket on every possession, drawing four early foul calls and putting pressure on Kentucky’s frontcourt. But a nice find from McKinney to Howard for a layup was followed with a Sabrina Haines and-one that pushed Kentucky to a 16-point lead at the final TV timeout.
Two free throws late in the game from McKinney completed her double-double performance and sealed the win for the ‘Cats.
Kentucky was able to hold Stetson’s premier scorer, Day’Neshia Banks, to just two points on 1-8 shooting, mostly due to McKinney’s impressive effort on defense.
Haines added eight points and six rebounds, although she missed out on six points as she shot just 2-8 from the free-throw line.
Sophomore Blair Green and senior Jaida Roper both had off shooting nights, combining for just a 3-15 mark from the field. Roper did add eight assists and four steals, as well.
Stetson actually shot slightly better from the field than Kentucky, but they attempted 22 fewer shots than the Wildcats thanks to 19 offensive rebounds that resulted in 22 second-chance points.
Neither team had a good night from the perimeter with Kentucky shooting 4-20 from deep and Stetson going 4-17.
Kentucky’s next game will have them traveling to Charlottesville, VA this Saturday to take on the Virginia Cavaliers at 5 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on ACCN Extra.