[caption id="attachment_277145" align="aligncenter" width="600"] (UK Athletics)
It's beginning to get silly how good at basketball Rhyne Howard
In a two-point win over the Cal Golden Bears on Saturday that saw Howard drop 29 points and the game-winning shot with under four seconds left, the star sophomore is regularly posting unthinkable numbers.
No. 14 UK Hoops secured a 63-61 road win against an above-average Cal team. It was just another bullet point on Howard's already impressive resumè.
19 fourth-quarter points for the Cleveland, TN native polished off her 29 point outing as she shot 10-24 from the field and 4-10 from the perimeter. It was the follow-up performance to her 26 points in a one-point loss to No. 6 Louisville where she missed the potential game-winning shot. Against Cal, Howard made sure that final shot found the bottom of the net.
Let's quickly recap what Howard has done so far through 12 games this season:
- 24 points on 11-21 shooting against Stetson.
- 24 points on 5-11 shooting from deep in 21 minutes against Morehead State.
- 27 points one game later against Grambling.
- Back-to-back games of 29 points and a career-high 30 points against Charlotte and Samford, respectively.
- 26 points against UL and 29 on Saturday against Cal.
If Howard hadn't endured a minor ankle injury against Winthrop in the tune-up game for the Cards, she might be in the midst of scoring at least 25 points in five straight games (Howard posted 12 points in 13 minutes in the win against Winthrop).
During her freshman campaign, she never really needed
to take over games. Howard still did if she needed to, especially when she knocked in the game-winning shot last season against Arkansas. But Maci Morris and Taylor Murray were dominant enough ball handlers with enough elite skills to create offense on their own. With those two gone, Howard has shown on several occasions that not only can she take over games, but there are times she just should
. That's what we saw in the fourth quarter against Cal; get out of the way and watch Rhyne work.
She's an insanely special talent and must-watch TV.
Chasity Patterson is really good
Following her transfer from Texas, junior point guard Chasity Patterson
was a relatively unknown entity.
Her 3,000-plus points in high school more than justified her No. 4 overall recruiting rank in 2017 and being tabbed as the Big 12 Preseason Freshman of the Year, but a rough first season filled with little playing time resulted in her transferring to Lexington. She was forced to sit out the last two semesters due to NCAA transfer rules but finally made her Kentucky debut on Saturday.
And wow... she is as good as advertised.
"Chasity is an athletic guard with incredible play-making abilities on both ends of the court," head coach Matthew Mitchell said when Patterson's transfer was announced last December
. "She's a high-energy player who possesses a winning pedigree having won 125 games in high school. Chasity fits our system perfectly and when you couple that with the opportunity to compete at the highest level here at Kentucky, it was a perfect match. We are confident that her experience will be a valuable asset to our team."
"Incredible play-making abilities on both ends of the court" was a spot-on analysis. Patterson led the team in steals on Saturday, forcing four throughout the game. There was one steal where she was up in the ball handler's face and literally ripped the ball out and sprinted in stride for an uncontested fast-break layup. At 5-foot-5, it looked like she was playing against kids.
What impressed me most from Patterson was her ball handling. From the moment she stepped on the court, you could tell she has a knack for high-level dribbling. She keeps the ball so close to her body and on such a tight string that it's going to be nearly impossible for anyone to steal her cookies. Patterson opened her first game in a Kentucky uniform by drilling a three not long into her first minutes on the court. She's a dual-threat.
On the night, the Houston native recorded nine points in 24 minutes with four rebounds. She shot just 3-11 from the field and 1-5 from deep, but the shooting numbers will improve as she gets more comfortable on the floor with her teammates. I'll say this about Patterson, it's going to be insanely difficult to justify not starting her going forward. Jaida Roper
was inserted into the starting lineup for the first time all season against Cal with Amanda Paschal
coming off the bench. But Roper is probably suited better for an off-the-bench role as a sparkplug anyways and Paschal is more defensive and passing minded instead of having a score-first mentality.
Alongside Howard and senior Sabrina Haines,
the 'Cats now have three premier scorers at their disposal.
An off-night shooting the ball
To start the 2019-20 season, Kentucky did not consistently make open shots. It wasn't until a blowout win over Grambling five games into the season that the 'Cats were able to shoot over 40 percent from the field for an entire outing.
But something changed after that. In the next six games, starting with Grambling and ending with Louisville, Kentucky shot at least 44 percent in all of those affairs. Three of those games saw the ladies shoot better than 52 percent. In only one game out of those six - a 29-point win over Austin Peay - did Kentucky not shoot at least 34 percent from beyond the arc. The 'Cats shot 10-19 from deep against the Cards, too, the second-highest mark all season.
Against a stingy Cal defense, Kentucky wasn't hitting those same shots. They shot just 22-62 from the field (35.5 percent) and 6-22 from three (27.3 percent). The 'Cats hadn't shot worse than 35 percent from the field since a three-point win over Virginia on Nov. 16 and had failed to shoot at least 30 percent from three in only one other game this season. Maybe it was the West Coast time change, but the shots simply weren't falling.
With a matchup against No. 5 South Carolina coming right at the start of the new year, Kentucky can' afford an off night from the field as we saw on Saturday. That game won't tip off for another week-and-a-half as the ladies will take a holiday break and it'll be a perfect opportunity to address some of the issues the 'Cats have through the con-conference schedule.
Kentucky will visit the Gamecocks on Jan. 2 in Columbia at 7 p.m. on the SEC Network.