Blair Green had arguably her worst game while wearing a Kentucky uniform in the Wildcats’ most recent outing against the Florida Gators. She followed it up with her best the very next game.
The No. 11 Kentucky Wildcats women’s basketball team took advantage of a key injury to the No. 12 Texas A&M Aggies to earn the team’s fourth straight win, 76-54.
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) January 17, 2020
Kentucky was powered by 24 points from Rhyne Howard, who also added 11 rebounds, four assists, two blocks, one steal, and just one turnover in 29 minutes. The super-soph shot 9-19 from the floor and was 3-10 from beyond the arc.
Green tied her career-high with 13 points on Thursday night after shooting 1-11 against the Gators earlier this week. She shot 5-8 from the floor and came out looking to shoot, knocking down her first look of the game. Sabrina Haines was the third and final Wildcat to score in double-figures, recording 15 points, five rebounds, and three assists.
Texas A&M was without their star player, Chenneedy Carter, who was named the Preseason SEC Player of the Year and is the conference’s second-leading scorer. She sprained her ankle in the Aggies’ most recent loss to LSU and her absence reverberated throughout the A&M bench all game long.
KeKe McKinney was also sidelined for the ‘Cats due to a severe migraine that has kept her out for the three straight games now. Typically a valuable starter and the team’s top defender, not having her down low posed some issues for the Kentucky frontline, but ones they were able to overcome.
The ‘Cats shot 49 percent from the floor and 44 percent from deep while outrebounding the Aggies, 33-29. Kentucky held A&M to just 37 percent shooting and forced them into 14 turnovers.
Kentucky started the game 4-16 from the field and 1-9 from beyond the arc in the first quarter. Howard opened up the night with two consecutive misses from deep and the Aggies were attacking Kentucky’s lack of size in the paint.
Howard quickly bounced back, driving in for an and-one and Kentucky took a quick 5-2 lead. But the offense would stall for the rest of the quarter. The ‘Cats were getting lucky with a couple of shots late in the shot clock, however, those makes came as a result of little ball movement.
Ciera Johnson was being force-fed the ball down low by the Aggie guards. At 6-foot-4, Johnson towered over every Kentucky defender and scored the first seven points of the game for A&M.
Two fouls on Tatyana Wyatt forced head coach Matthew Mitchell’s hand and he brought in center Nae Nae Cole to show a different look. Cole had been suspended the previous three games but played 22 minutes on Thursday. Coming into the game, she had appeared in 51 minutes all season.
Kentucky finished the first quarter just 1-9 from three and held a slight 13-12 lead.
In the second quarter, Cole provided a game-changing spark.
Howard picked up her second foul early in the second and Cole had the task of guarding Johnson. After nine points in the first 10 minutes, Cole held Johnson to zero in the next 10 minutes and forced her into registered four turnovers. Even without Howard, Kentucky found a way to put up points while executing a brilliant zone defense that limited A&M to just a 2-11 mark from the field in the second quarter.
At the half, the ‘Cats were up 33-21 as Howard was just 3-9 from the floor in 11 minutes. Green, Haines, and Chasity Patterson combined for 14 of Kentucky’s 21 second-quarter points.
To kick off the second half, both teams were trading baskets. Wyatt was tagged with her third foul not even one minute into the third quarter, feeding more minutes to Cole and Ogechi Anyagaligbo.
The Aggies actually won the third period, 19-16, and cut the lead to 11 as we entered the final 10 minutes.
That’s when the ‘Cats finally took over. Kentucky poured in 27 points in the fourth, powered by 10 from Howard and another eight points from Haines. Green drilled a big three early that culminated into a 10-12 shooting clip for the team in the fourth quarter. UK only missed one three in that period, too, making five out of six attempts.
Another big three from Haines fired up not only herself but coach Mitchell and the entire Memorial crowd, as well. Howard and Haines would drop in a few more buckets down the stretch to put the game out of reach as Kentucky ultimately won the game by 22 points.
Johnson finished with 18 points for the Aggies, shooting 6-11 from the floor while pulling down five boards. N’Dea Jones registered a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds for A&M while Kayla Wells added another 18 points, making her first three shots from the perimeter to start the game.
Kentucky rounded out its production with nine points and two rebounds Patterson while the backcourt duo of Jaida Roper and Amanda Paschal combined for nine points, five assists, and zero turnovers.
As a team, the ‘Cats turned the ball over just 11 times and were given a major boost with 17 points off the bench.
With the win, Kentucky moves to 4-1 in the conference and into a four-game winning streak. They’ll try to keep it alive in their next outing when they face the LSU Tigers on the road this Sunday at 2 p.m. on the SEC Network.