They call her 3k for a reason.
Chasity Patterson poured in over 3,100 points throughout her impressive high school career and she relived those scoring glory days during a season-opening win over Murray State on Wednesday afternoon. The No. 11 Kentucky Wildcats senior point guard dropped in 30 points against the Racers–with National Player of the Year candidate Rhyne Howard watching in street clothes from the front line of the bench–which was just two off her career-high of 32 points.
Howard was shockingly suspended exactly one hour prior to tipoff and she’ll miss the ‘Cats second outing of the year against Belmont this Sunday, as well. Interim head coach Kyra Elzy established her lockerroom presence before her coaching stint could even begin and it surely sent a message to the rest of the team: no one, not even the best player in the country, is free from punishment.
As a result of the suspension, an indirect effect from Howard’s benching was the quick emergence of Patterson as a secondary go-to scorer who will be able to capably fill it up, whether or not Howard is on the floor. It might seem trivial at the moment, considering the ‘Cats still won by 26 against a non-Power 5 program, but it was an immediate sign that Kentucky doesn’t necessarily need Howard to be successful. While she will obviously help and increases the program’s ceiling to heights it’s never been to before, a team can’t make a Final Four with just one really good player; they need at least two, maybe three. Chasity Patterson’s 30 point performance over MSU on Wednesday was just more evidence, on top of her SEC Sixth Woman of the Year campaign from the backend of the 2019-20 season, that she’s ready to be Kentucky’s second really good player.
Patterson came out aggressive early. She had little time to prepare for her situation either, admitting after the game that she didn’t even know Howard and senior forward Tatyana Wyatt would be sidelined due to suspension until they took the court. But Patterson stepped up, putting to bed any early, nonsensical discussions about “is this team more than Rhyne Howard?”. Standing at 5-foot-6 and always one of the smallest two or three players on the court, she put her head down and attacked the rim.
“Coming into this game, I knew I wanted to get to the (free throw) line a lot,” Patterson said. “I wanted to attack the rim and play inside out so that was my approach to the game.”
13 of her 30 points came in the first quarter, scoring the first nine of the afternoon for UK off two triples and an and-1 play mixed in between, before executing this perfect fastbreak pass to a rim-running center.
Good point guards–veteran point guards–reward their post players. Following a fantastic block by Olivia Owens, Patterson waits for the jumbling defense to commit to her as she inches closer to the paint before floating an easy pass over the backline of the defense.
Patterson didn’t waste any time establishing her go-to pick-and-roll partner in Owens, a 6-foot-4 former five-star recruit and transfer from Maryland who was granted immediate eligibility over the summer. The pair went to work on multiple occasions in the halfcourt, breaking down the Racers defense for downhill action that usually led to something productive.
Patterson’s maturity continued to shine throughout the first-half. Not just through sneaking into the paint, drawing fouls, and draining 3s, but also by manipulating the simplicity of the game.
On this play, she calls for a high screen from KeKe McKinney and points to the side she wants the screen set. Once the screen is established and her defender is anticipating it, Patterson hesitates left and jets to her right, checking hips with the Murray State defender who is called for an easy foul. She goes to the line and connects on two more free throws.
The confounding mistakes she made a season ago appeared to either vanish entirely, until the second-half began, that is, once fatigue and five physical first-half trips to the free-throw line began to set in. Patterson completely misplayed an end-of-clock situation with roughly six seconds remaining in the third quarter where she casually dribbled the ball for over half the time and barely made it across halfcourt by the time the buzzer went off. Coach Elzy, clearly one not to be trifled with, lit into her point guard on the sidelines.
Patterson posted 21 points on 5-6 shooting, 2-2 from deep, and 9-9 from the charity stripe in 16 first-half minutes, but went for just nine points on 3-7 shooting, 0-2 from deep, and 3-4 from the line in 12 second-half minutes.
But the immediate difference between Wednesday’s game and her junior season was actually on the defensive end, an area that Patterson stressed during the preseason she had worked on tirelessly during the extended break over the spring and into the fall.
“So proud of Chasity Patterson,” Coach Elzy said after her first career head coaching win. “She has been intentional all summer about taking responsibility of playing the point guard position. I thought she was aggressive offensively, she took the shots when she was open, she made sure that we got into our sets and ran our plays efficiently and effectively, but I am super proud of how hard she played defensively. That’s one thing we challenged her on all summer, and I thought she stepped up to the plate today.”
Patterson finished the night with an insane eight steals (with one turnover, mind you), four of them involving Murray State’s star player and Preseason OVC All-First Team member Macey Turley. The MSU point guard and native of Murray, KY was also named to the All-OVC First Team last season as a sophomore, leading the Racers with 16.7 points per game a season ago. But on Wednesday, Turley was held to just seven points on 3-10 shooting with three turnovers. Patterson locked her down whenever the two matched up.
Six of Patterson’s eight steals in the outing came as she was pestering in the backcourt and every single one of them resulted in some of sort of positive outcome for the Wildcats, whether she quickly put the ball up herself or found her teammates as they caught up to the play.
Even when the fatigue did hinder her on-court impact, Patterson never gave up on plays. Here, she gambles–and losses–on the steal attempt, but recovers with impressive quickness to bother the shooter and forces a missed layup. Owens snags the rebound, hands it off to Patterson, and Kentucky is out to the races yet again.
One 30-point performance isn’t quite the same as 3,000, but the point guard position is in excellent hands with Patterson.