RECAP: Kentucky WBB dismantles Merrimack in 90-56 victory
Special Offer
Kentucky Wildcats

Breaking news. In-depth analysis. Ad-free.

7-Day Free TrialSubscribe Now

RECAP: Kentucky WBB dismantles Merrimack in 90-56 victory

Grant Grubbsabout 2 months


Article written by:Grant GrubbsGrant Grubbs


Photo by Dr. Michael Huang | Kentucky Sports Radio

If you were to look up the word dominant in the dictionary, you’d find Kentucky’s Women’s Basketball’s performance against Merrimack as the definition.

On Sunday afternoon, the No. 16 Wildcats (6-1) dominated the Merrimack Warriors (2-5) 90-56. From the first whistle to the final buzzer, the ‘Cats commanded the game’s pace, never trailing Merrimack once. The victory is the ‘Cats sixth win at home this season and fourth victory in a row.

Rhyne Howard led Kentucky’s Merrimack demolition with 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists. The reigning SEC Player of the Year shot 7-13 from the field and 7-7 from the free-throw line. Moreover, Howard moved to fourth on Kentucky’s all-time scoring list.

As a squad, Kentucky was fantastic. The ‘Cats shot a season-high 54% from the field. Additionally, Kentucky Women’s Basketball strengthened a weak point, going 75% from the stripe.

Here’s how the ‘Cats pulled off one of their most lopsided victories of the year.

Defense proves deadly early

From the tip, Kentucky’s defense smelled blood in the water. The ‘Cats began the game in a full-court press. Per usual, the strategy wielded devastating results on the Wildcats’ opponent.

In just the first period, the ‘Cats forced seven Merrimack turnovers. More importantly, the ‘Cats capitalized on the Warriors’ errors, going a 13-0 run midway through the period. Through the first 20 minutes of play, Kentucky scored 17 points off turnovers, compared to Merrimack’s four.

While the UK defense can kill an opponent, it can also hurt themselves. This issue was evident in the second period.

Slow second for Kentucky WBB

If the first period was pedal to the medal, the second quarter was like a slow joyride. Unfortunately, the joy didn’t always belong to the ‘Cats.

In the second frame, Merrimack turned Kentucky’s strength against them. Going on an 8-0 run early in the quarter, the Warriors were using UK’s fast pace to find open 3-point buckets. Head coach Kyra Elzy brought Merrimack’s fun to an end with a quick timeout.

Elzy spoke on the defensive change after the game.

“We were letting the ball in the middle so it left us very vulnerable on the wings,” Elzy said. “We adjusted to get the speed dribble on the sideline, and that allows help side so we can get our rotation.”

Elzy’s small push was enough to get her team back on the right track. The ‘Cats extended their lead another six points in the quarter to head into halftime with a comfortable 46-31 lead.

Another sluggish period for UK

If you watched the second period, you didn’t need to watch the third. Once again, Kentucky gradually cracked Merrimack’s zone and the Warriors found open shots off Kentucky’s press. Nevertheless, the end of the third period showed promise.

Kentucky finally began to solve Merrimack’s Rubik’s Cube of a defense. Placing Howard at the free-throw line with Dre’Una Edwards and Olivia Owens on the blocks, the ‘Cats were finding easy buckets. Elzy discussed the team’s offensive gameplan after the contest.

“Anytime Rhyne Howard’s in the middle she’s a great decision-maker. Obviously, she can score but her ability to pass and make the right read makes our zone look really good,” Elzy said. “I was happy on what we did there in our zone offense.”

Kentucky’s newfound strategy proved effective. The ‘Cats closed out the quarter on an 8-0 run to take a 65-43 lead going into the final frame.

Kentucky WBB finished Merrimack in the fourth

Kentucky Women’s Basketball put a crack in Merrimack’s defense in the third period. They blew the Warriors’ defense wide open in the fourth.

Everybody was finding success. Ranging from an Emma King and-one to a Howard scoop-and-score, nothing could go wrong for the ‘Cats. Perhaps the most exciting development in the final period was senior Jazmine Massengill’s scoring splurge.

Massengill drained two 3-pointers in the frame to reach a season-high 13 points. Elzy was happy with what she saw from her veteran leader.

“She’s very cognitive of her assist to turnover ratio and I tease her. I was like ‘I want you to have the same approach hunting shots,’” Elzy said. “She hunted shots today and she’s really efficient when she shoots the ball. She just doesn’t shoot them enough.”

When the final buzzer sounded, nobody was surprised by the score: a 90-56 Wildcats’ victory. Kentucky’s defense overwhelmed the Warriors, causing 27 turnovers and leading to 38 points off Merrimack’s mistakes. Of course, the defensive end of the court wasn’t the only place the ‘Cats shined.

Along with Howard and Massengill, Edwards and Robyn Benton scored double-digits. Edwards recorded another double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Benton added 12 points of her own. This contest marks the fifth time this season UK has had four or more players score double-digits.

Looking toward next game

Kentucky Women’s Basketball Sunday victory is an excellent precursor to their Thursday contest against a tough DePaul squad. Kentucky will play against the Blue Demons in Lexington, but not necessarily at home.

The ‘Cats will take on DePaul in Rupp Arena at 7 p.m. on Dec. 9. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.

Loading comments...