The No. 13 Kentucky Wildcats (4-0) will sneak out of Charlottesville, VA with a tightly contested 50-47 win over the Virginia Cavaliers (2-2) in the second early-season road test of the year.
Powered by sophomore Rhyne Howard’s second double-double of the season and a game-high 17 points from senior Sabrina Haines, the Wildcats shook off another rough shooting night thanks to an excellent defensive performance that held the Cavaliers to just 31 percent shooting for the game. It was Kentucky’s third win in seven days.
BIG ROAD WIN. ???
50-47, girls in blue pic.twitter.com/uPK7tFRwvC
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) November 17, 2019
Virginia opened up the game with sloppy plays and lazy passes, which Kentucky quickly capitalized on for an early 4-0 lead. However, points would be hard to come by for either team throughout the rest of the game.
The Cavaliers stabilized themselves, rattling off seven straight points to take a 7-4 lead before Kentucky sophomore Blair Green hit a jumper followed by a Haines three.
Haines would score six straight for the ‘Cats late in the first quarter. Howard drilled her first triple of the game right before the buzzer to give Kentucky a 15-12 lead after the first 10 minutes. Virginia was held to just 3-12 shooting in the first period, but that poor shooting would rub off on UK in the next quarter.
The second quarter was arguably the worst Kentucky has played all season.
The ‘Cats shot a mere 2-14 in that frame for seven total points which they coupled with eight turnovers. They were rushing shots that were close to the rim and the offensive rhythm had no purpose. At one point, Kentucky went nearly eight minutes without a point, but the defense saved them.
Despite their shots not falling, Kentucky managed to hold Virginia to 2-9 shooting in the second quarter after head coach Matthew Mitchell rolled out a zone defense. The Cavaliers were able to stay in the game thanks to 15 free throw attempts, which they hit 12 of, but they went the final five minutes of the half without a field goal.
Owning a lowly 28 percent shooting mark from the field in the first 20 minutes, Kentucky kept the game close and trailed 23-22 at the intermission.
Not even one minute into the third quarter, Howard picked up her third foul and was forced to the bench. With the team’s top scorer not in the game, senior Jaida Roper decided to take control of the offense.
Roper began penetrating, creating open looks for her teammates and keeping the UVA defense on its heels. Then, UK’s defense took an extra step, holding Virginia to just seven points in the entire third quarter on 2-8 shooting from the field. Roper drew two charges and the Cavaliers went over six minutes without a point before a much-needed three broke the lengthy drought. A 10-0 run from Kentucky spurred them to a 32-25 lead.
Towards the end of the third, there was a scary moment where junior forward KeKe McKinney went down on the sideline with an apparent ankle injury. She was in visible pain and did not return to the game, but did not leave the bench for the locker room. Coach Mitchell said after the game that she walked off the court and that he will know more at a later time. McKinney finished with five points and three rebounds.
Heading into the final period, Kentucky held a 34-30 lead with the defense playing at a high-level.
Howard opened up the fourth with a quick triple – only her second made field goal of the game at that point – before drawing a charging foul shortly after. Dominique Toussaint hit back-to-back jumpers to inject life into Virginia and both teams finally began to kick start their offenses.
Howard and Roper both powered in and-one plays that propelled the ‘Cats to a six-point lead with four minutes left. Virginia responded with two quick buckets to make it a two-point game and a three-pointer by Jocelyn Willoughby a few possessions later trimmed Kentucky’s lead to just one with under a minute left. The Wildcats would turn the ball over on the very next possession, but the Cavaliers missed a three that would have given them the lead and Howard hit two clutch free throws to secure the win, 50-47.
Both teams combined for 45 total turnovers, 11 of them called for traveling violations. Neither team finished the game shooting better than 32 percent from the field. Kentucky’s 29.8 percent overall shooting was the team’s worst of the season.
Howard finished with 13 points, but on 4-14 shooting and 2-6 from deep. Junior Tatyana Wyatt added five points and four rebounds for Kentucky while Willoughby led the Cavaliers with 18 points.
Check out the final stat sheet below.
Heading back to Lexington with another victory, Kentucky will now prepare themselves for Morehead State, who will visit Memorial Coliseum on Thursday, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. on the SEC Network+.