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RECAP: No. 12 Kentucky WBB escapes Auburn with 76-71 win over the Tigers

(UK Athletics)

(UK Athletics)

Kentucky was back to full health on Thursday night and it resulted in an important road win.

The No. 12 Wildcats Women’s Basketball Team (11-3, 4-2 in SEC) fought off the Auburn Tigers (5-8, 0-5 in SEC) down the stretch as they’ll head back to Lexington with a 76-71 win. Kentucky didn’t score for the final 2:43 of action, but 18 points from Blair Green and another 14 from Rhyne Howard propelled the ‘Cats to its second win in a row.

Green’s 18 points on 7-9 shooting (2-3 from beyond the arc) came after a career-high 22 points against Vanderbilt. Howard stuffed the stat sheet against the Auburn 3-2 zone defense, posting 14 points, five rebounds, four assists, one block, and two steals on a 4-8 shooting clip.

At the beginning of the day, the status of four separate Kentucky players–including Howard–was still up in the air. Jazmine Massengill, Robyn Benton, and Kameron Roach were all back with the team after sitting out the win against Vandy due to COVID-19 protocols while Howard returned after a minor ankle injury sidelined her for one game, as well. With three key pieces of the rotation back in the lineup, headlined by a National Player of the Year candidate, Kentucky was in position for a comfortable win.

However, Auburn proved to be a tough out.

At the first media timeout, Auburn held a slight 10-9 lead and was attacking the offensive glass with ferocity. Kentucky was turning the ball over as they eased into the Tigers’ full-court pressure, but were hitting open shots whenever they were able to penetrate the defense.

The ‘Cats shot 8-12 in the first quarter and 4-7 from beyond the arc as they pushed ahead towards the end of the period to take a 22-17 advantage. Despite five turnovers from UK and a slow start from Howard, seven different Wildcats had scored through the opening 10 minutes.

Green came alive in the second quarter, adding seven of her 18 points in this frame. Kentucky needed every bit of production from the Bluegrass native, as well, as the team shot just 8-21 in the second period. The offensive rebounding advantage for Auburn kept them in the game as they struggled to score on a stout Kentucky defense. Nine first-half offensive boards for the Tigers and seven second-chance points allowed them to stay within striking distance, 40-32, at the intermission.

To open up the second half, Green picked up exactly where she left off, immediately draining another triple to give Kentucky a double-digit lead. She would add another quick five points before the media timeout and the ‘Cats ballooned its lead to 14 at one point in the third quarter, the largest deficit of the night for Auburn.

But less than three minutes of action later, it was back down to just a six-point edge for the ‘Cats, and head coach Kyra Elzy quickly called a timeout to settle her squad. Howard would return to the court after sitting out the previous five minutes with three fouls and Kentucky wasted no time extending the lead back to double-digits before landing on a 59-50 lead heading into the final frame.

Once again, Green opened up the period for Kentucky, nailing one of her several mid-range jump shots she had on the night. Howard finally woke up on offense, drilling a contested triple that gave the ‘Cats a 12-point edge with 9:02 left. It wasn’t until there was 1:07 left in regulation that Auburn was able to trim the UK lead down to just five points. But some timely defense from the ‘Cats forced Auburn into tough shots that didn’t fall.

Howard and Green would ice the win away for Kentucky with a pair of free-throws each as the ‘Cats earned the 76-71 victory.

Kentucky finished the game shooting 47 percent from the field (20 assists on 28 made field goals) and 10-28 from 3-point range. After five turnovers through the first 10 minutes, the ‘Cats were only driven into 10 miscues across the next three quarters while forcing Auburn into 14 of its own turnovers on the night. The Tigers shot 40 percent overall and just 26 percent from deep, although they did win the rebounding battle, 41-38, and scored more points in the paint, 38-28.

Along with Howard and Green, Benton and Dre’Una Edwards also finished in double-figures, adding 10 points apiece. All nine Wildcats who saw the court on Thursday scored at least three points. Massengill recorded three points, three rebounds, and seven assists while Chasity Patterson went for seven points, three rebounds, five assists, and four steals.

Kentucky’s next matchup will be this Sunday on the road against No. 25 Tennessee with tipoff scheduled for 2:00 p.m. EST on ESPN2.

Article written by Zack Geoghegan

Recruiting reporter for KSR. Follow me on Twitter: @ZGeogheganKSR

1 Comment for RECAP: No. 12 Kentucky WBB escapes Auburn with 76-71 win over the Tigers

  1. stx1968
    1:25 pm January 22, 2021 Permalink

    Crazy that KSR seems to be employing multiple people to write stories about WBB that get zero engagement. Is this just the sport they dump off on interns or something?