RECAP: Kentucky WBB falls again in 63-54 heartbreak against Ole Miss
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RECAP: Kentucky WBB falls again in 63-54 heartbreak against Ole Miss

Grant Grubbs01/23/22

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Article written by:Grant GrubbsGrant Grubbs

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Photo by Eddie Justice | UK Athletics

Kentucky Women’s Basketball has now lost four games in a row for the first time since the 2017-2018 season.

On Sunday afternoon, the No. 23 Wildcats (8-7) fell 62-53 to the Ole Miss Rebels (17-2) in Rupp Arena. The loss brings UK’s SEC record down to 1-4, with their only win coming over No. 13 Georgia in the conference-opener.

There was more than momentum against the ‘Cats on Sunday. The team was missing two of its best players in Dre’Una Edwards and Robyn Benton. Edwards was unavailable for the second game in a row due to disciplinary issues while Benton was out after suffering an ankle injury on Thursday.

With her fellow ‘Cats missing, Howard put on a show. The 6-foot-2 guard dropped her fourth double-double of the season with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Further, Howard played all but one minute of the contest.

As a team, Kentucky had difficulty scoring. The team shot 19-53 (36%) from the field and 0-6 from beyond the arc. Additionally, the ‘Cats went 16-22 from the charity stripe.

Here’s how the Rebels squashed a Kentucky uprising.

Slow start for Kentuckly WBB

Kentucky’s missing pieces were apparent in the first period. The ‘Cats struggled to find baskets, allowing Ole Miss to jump out to an early 13-1 lead. Further, Kentucky couldn’t take care of the ball.

Head coach Kyra Elzy spoke on the team’s early turnovers during the postgame press conference.

“We were too casual with the basketball. We didn’t pass fake, we threw a lazy pass or we didn’t meet the pass, and they’re aggressive defensively.”

Ole Miss’ aggression paid off. The ‘Cats had six turnovers in the first quarter alone. Nonetheless, the ‘Cats battled back. Kentucky rattled off eight unanswered points to cut the Rebels’ lead to 18-13 at the end of the period.

Promising second period

Ole Miss kept a relatively comfortable lead over Kentucky for the first few minutes of the second frame. Then, disaster struck: Shakira Austin picked up her second foul.

With Austin on the bench, Kentucky came to life. The Wildcats went on a 7-0 run, and Rupp Arena loved every second of it. Distracted by the roars of the crowd, Ole Missed couldn’t find the bottom of the net. The Rebels went 5-19 from the field in the frame and, at one point, missed 11 straight shot attempts.

Despite Howard having a subpar first-half performance, Kentucky went into the break only trailing 28-25.

Rhyne Howard gets hot in the third

Austin’s foul troubles weren’t going anywhere in the second half. Just over a minute into the third period, Austin committed her third foul of the contest. However, the ‘Cats didn’t capitalize immediately.

Once again, turnovers plagued UK. The ‘Cats choked away five possession in the first three minutes of the half. Nevertheless, things began to take a turn. Howard was heating up.

The reigning SEC Player of the Year dropped eight points in the frame on 4-6 shooting. Howard’s thrilling third frame was capped off with a fancy, fullcourt pass to Emma King for an and-one layup.

Elzy discussed King’s breakout performance after the game.

“I’m very proud of Emma. I gave her a hug in the back. Emma and I had a heart-to-heart and she asked me what she needed to do for this team and one of the things I told her was I love her work ethic,” Elzy said. “I needed her to be my hustle player, and I thought she stepped in and did that today.”

Kentucky headed into the final 10 minutes of the game down 46-42.

Kentucky WBB can’t close the gap

Ole Miss began the fourth quarter with the same issue that irritated them in the third: Shakira Austin foul trouble. Howard got Austin her fourth foul with a sweet and-one.

Despite Howard’s best efforts, Ole Miss proved to be too much. For each Kentucky basket, Ole Miss found two. To make matters worse, Kentucky failed to find Howard a shot in the final two minutes of the contest.

In spite of Kentucky’s best efforts, Ole Miss walked away with a 63-54 victory; the Rebels’ third win in a row over the ‘Cats.

For the third straight game, Kentucky failed to reach double-digit assists. The ‘Cats, who had once been second in the nation in assists per game, now aren’t even in the top 25.

Kentucky also committed far too many turnovers. UK had 18 turnovers, compared to Ole Miss’ 13. Accordingly, the Rebels nearly doubled the ‘Cats points off turnovers.

The team performance from UK represented their individual statistics. For the first time this season, Howard was the only ‘Cat to score double figures. Treasure Hunt was the only other player on the team to score more than six points.

Although Kentucky Women’s Basketball lost, they scored a moral victory. This team gave Ole Miss a run for their money without two of their top contributors. After Kentucky’s loss against Florida, Elzy spoke about soul-searching, it seems like this team is starting to find theirs.

The Wildcats have a busy week ahead of them as they will have three contests in seven days. Kentucky Women’s Basketball will hit the road to face Auburn on Jan. 25 at 8 p.m.

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