Wow. Rhyne Howard is GOOD good.
Coming off a career-high performance of 37 points in the No. 14 Kentucky Wildcats most recent win over Tennessee, the superstar sophomore exploded for another new career-high, this time dropping in 43 points.
Yes, you read that correctly. 43 points. Forty-three. She tied a school record for most points in a game.
Howard scored 43 points. ?
It ties the school record.
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) January 10, 2020
Howard is currently in a class of her own. There might not be another player in women’s college basketball that is as good as Howard is at this very moment.
In their third SEC game of the year and second on the road, the ‘Cats (13-2) secured an 81-71 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide (10-6).
While Howard was elite, her teammates won’t go unnoticed. The ‘Cats shot 16-31 from beyond the arc after starting the game off just 2-10. Six players hit a three for Kentucky and 16 made shots from deep set a school record.
Kentucky forced ‘Bama into 17 team turnovers and just a 4-13 clip from deep. Without KeKe McKinney, who was sidelined before tip-off with a serious migraine, Kentucky was only outrebounded by three, 35-32.
While the final score favors Kentucky, the game did not start out that way.
The ‘Cats scored just nine points in the first quarter and were missing everything out of the gate. They were 3-16 from the field and 2-9 from three, but stayed in the game with 11 rebounds – the most they recorded in any quarter.
Howard and Chasity Patterson hit a pair of triples and the team was playing solid overall defense, they just couldn’t make any of their several open shots. They quickly fell into a 15-9 hole after the first 10 minutes, but the star of the night decided to get to work.
In the second quarter, Howard announced her arrival. She shot 5-5 in the period for 12 points while Kentucky as a team was 5-9 from deep. After struggling to get anything to drop, Kentucky couldn’t miss and the defense stepped up. ‘Bama scored just nine points in the second while the ‘Cats poured in 28 to take a commanding 37-24 lead into the intermission.
Amanda Paschal scored all 10 of her points in the second quarter alone, hitting a pair of threes and playing excellent defense to create even more scoring opportunities. Kentucky forced Alabama into 10 first-half turnovers.
A shot right before the halftime buzzer gave Howard 17 points.
In the second half, Alabama attacked Kentucky’s weakness: a lack of size.
With McKinney on the bench, the Crimson Tide began attacking the rim at will. They finished the night with 27 free-throw attempts, 19 of them coming in the final two quarters. Overall, ‘Bama was 19-27 from the charity stripe and they were able to keep themselves in the game because of it.
Alabama opened up the third quarter with a quick 6-0 run that forced a timeout from head coach Matthew Mitchell. Kentucky had just three turnovers through the first 20 minutes but got careless as the game wore on.
Out of the timeout, Blair Green got rolling. She came out drilling a three-pointer which she immediately followed with a big offensive rebound leading to free-throws that got both coach Mitchell and McKinney clapping with smiles off the bench.
Shortly after, Howard started to go nuts. She was knocking down tough, contested layups, playing excellent defense on the block in the place of McKinney, and dropping in more shots from deep. She finished with 11 points in the third quarter while Green contributed seven of her own.
Alabama got back-to-back and-one opportunities to keep the game close and they were in the bonus with over three minutes left, which earned them a few more easy points.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Kentucky led 61-49 and Howard was up to 28 points.
The final 10 minutes were all Kentucky and all Howard. She opened the fourth with a quick three that was smoother than butter to set the tone.
Alabama was able to cut the lead to as little as seven points halfway through the period, but the ‘Cats always had a response. Howard crossed into the 40-point threshold with four minutes left in the game before settling on 43. It marks the fifth consecutive game she’s scored at 25 points – a program record. The only qualm you could have with her is she shot just 8-13 from the free-throw line.
Shooting 46 percent from the field for the game, Kentucky held off Alabama to secure a 71-61 win on the road.
On top of her 43 points, Howard added six rebounds, two blocks, and five steals while shooting 14-21 from the floor and 7-11 from beyond the arc.
Paschal (10 points) and Sabrina Haines (11) were the only other Wildcats to hit double-digits in scoring. Patterson finished with six points on two made threes while Tatyana Wyatt recorded three points, four rebounds, and one block.
Alabama was led by 15 points apiece from Ariyah Copeland and Jasmine Walker.
Kentucky’s next game will be on the road again, this time against Florida in Gainesville on Sunday at noon on ESPNU.