An hour before tipoff, nobody knew what the No. 13 Kentucky Wildcats women’s basketball team would look like.
Rhyne Howard had just been ruled out for at least the next two weeks due to a fractured pinky. The nation’s third-leading scorer injured herself in Kentucky’s win over Auburn on Monday, but she came back late in the game to seal a close win for the ‘Cats. The postgame diagnosis revealed a fracture. This would be the first game all year that Howard sat on the bench in street clothes.
Her teammates responded to the pressure, and dominated the Missouri Tigers, 62-47, behind excellent defense and an all-around team scoring effort.
Amanda Paschal popped off for a career-high of 18 points while shooting 8-14 from the field to go along with her five rebounds and three assists. 13 of her points came in the second half and she played all 20 minutes of the final two quarters.
Also finishing in double-figures were Chasity Patterson and Blair Green. Patterson went for 12 points on 5-9 shooting while Green added 11 points, seven rebounds, and three steals. Sabrina Haines registered nine points and four steals while KeKe McKinney hauled in six rebounds in her second game back from severe migraines.
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) January 31, 2020
Missouri opened up the game with a quick 5-0 lead and prevented Kentucky from scoring for the first two-and-a-half minutes. Haines would open up the scoring with a bucket thanks to a good look from Green. The ‘Cats would rattle off a quick 6-0 run to take the lead and they would never give it back.
Kentucky was able to blow the game open early thanks to incredible defensive pressure. Missouri turned the ball over five times in the first five minutes and finished the first 10 minutes with eight total miscues. Once the ‘Cats shook off the opening minute jitters, they jetted ahead. Kentucky started the game 0-5 form the floor but then shot 4-5 after that.
With Howard out and center Ogechi Anyagaligbo in the concussion protocol, Emma King found her way into some surprise minutes. The freshman had not played since a two-minute spurt against Florida a few weeks ago. Before that, she hadn’t seen the court since Dec. 11 of 2019. On Thursday, she played 12 minutes.
Unfortunately, those extra minutes came with some struggles. King shot 0-5 from the floor, missing the rim entirely on three of those shots.
Kentucky was able to hold the Tigers without a field goal for the final NINE minutes of the first quarter and they led 11-7 after the first 10 minutes.
The ‘Cats second-quarter was the best for either team. A game-high of 23 points in the frame pushed Kentucky into an insurmountable lead. It started with an and-one from Tatyana Wyatt which trickled into several fantastic offensive sets in a matter of a few minutes. The ball was moving faster than Mizzou could defend and every player had a chance to make something happen.
UK opened up a 16-5 run in the 2nd to take a commanding advantage not even halfway through the quarter. The Tigers, who came into the game as a top-5 SEC team in terms of three-pointers made, didn’t make one triple in the entire first half. They shot 0-8 from deep in the first half.
Kentucky was dealing with some slight foul trouble – Haines, Patterson, and Jaida Roper all had two fouls at halftime – but some big shots from Green before the half gave the ‘Cats a 34-17 lead at the intermission. Outside of Aijha Blackwell – who shot 4-9 in the first half for Mizzou – the Tigers were a combined 2-16 in the first half.
The third quarter opened up with the same level of intensity from Kentucky. A quick three from Green was followed by a beautiful mid-range from Paschal and the ‘Cats held Mizzou without a field goal for over three minutes to take a 40-20 lead.
Missouri didn’t hit their first three of the game until midway through the third when Jordan Chavis chucked up a desperation shot to beat the shot clock buzzer from several feet behind the line.
Haines, Patterson, and Roper would all pick up their third fouls before the fourth quarter, however, Kentucky maintained a 47-31 lead. Paschal would drop in nine more points to hit her career-high in the final quarter.
. @RiP_MoneyDart on the team stepping up with Howard out.
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) January 31, 2020
As a team, the ‘Cats shot 25-55 from the floor (45.5 percent) but were an unusual 4-16 (25 percent) from beyond the arc. They were – as expected – outrebounded, 38-31, but won the turnover battle by a landslide. UK turned the ball over 13 times compared to MU’s 20, which the ‘Cats were able to convert into 21 points.
Mizzou was led by a team-high of 17 points from the freshman, Blackwell, while senior Amber Smith added 12 points. The Tigers finished the night shooting just 30.6 percent from the field and a miserable 2-18 mark from deep.
Kentucky’s next matchup will be in Lexington on Sunday when they host the Florida Gators. Howard won’t play in that game, either, but Thursday’s win without her was exciting. Others stepped up in massive ways and they cruised to an easy win. Until the superstar sophomore comes back, they’ll need that type of effort in every game.