The No. 14 Kentucky Wildcats dominating 94-52 win over the Ole Miss Rebels on Thursday night down in Oxford saw flashbacks to the win from this past Sunday over the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
The similarities were frightening, yet encouraging:
Mississippi State led Kentucky 6-0 in the first 90 seconds on that game, which forced the ‘Cats into an early timeout. Ole Miss led Kentucky 7-0 in the first 105 seconds, which also forced the ‘Cats into an early timeout.
Out of that timeout against MSU, Kentucky proceeded to go on a 19-3 run to end the quarter. On Thursday, Kentucky once again responded to an early deficit, popping off on an 18-3 run to close the period. UK won both of those games and completely outplayed the Rebels on their home floor.
Now a rematch with No. 1 ranked South Carolina looms. A shot to avenge the 27-point loss the Gamecocks handed them down in Columbia roughly six weeks ago. This time, Kentucky will have the home crowd behind them, and they might be playing their best basketball of the season at the perfect time.
It was an all-around team performance from the ‘Cats, who saw five players score in double-figures for just the second time all season. Rhyne Howard led all scorers with 21 points on an efficient 8-11 shooting to go along with her seven rebounds. She also tied a season-high with five steals.
Chasity Patterson and Sabrina Haines both poured in 15 points apiece. Patterson shot 5-12 from the floor while snagging three rebounds (all in the first quarter) and dishing out five assists. Haines knocked down three triples and grabbed four rebounds in the process.
Jaida Roper and Blair Green rounded out the scoring for Kentucky as they both dropped in 10 points each. Roper was fantastic all evening on both sides of the court, finishing with six assists, two steals, and just one turnover. As for Green, it was the first time in five outings that she’s managed to hit double-figures. She also recorded two rebounds and one steal in 17 minutes.
Kentucky opened up the night against Ole Miss missing all four of its opening shots. In fact, they went the first three minutes without a field goal. A pair of free throws from Roper were the only points Kentucky put on the board before Green finally put a stop to the drought with her first made triple since the Missouri game on Jan. 30.
Ole Miss would respond with a triple of their own and the second of the night to take a 10-5 lead. That outside jumper for the Rebels came at the 5:45 mark; they would not score the rest of the quarter.
Patterson closed the period with seven of the ‘Cats next 11 points. And in classic Patterson style, she put up those points in a hurry. After starting 0-4 from the floor, UK finished the first quarter connecting on six of eight shots.
From there, the rout was on.
Ole Miss turned the ball over for the ninth time on the opening possession of the second quarter and Haines made them pay, drilling a free-throw line jumper the next time down the floor. Then Howard began to heat up.
The National Player of the Year contender went off for seven points in under two minutes, pushing the UK lead to 11 points. After that, KeKe McKinney buried a three then set up Roper for a fancy floater thanks to perfect execution out of the pick-and-roll that ballooned the advantage to 16 points.
Ole Miss did not score a field goal for the final 6:45 of the second quarter and made just two free-throws in that time. Heading into the half, the Rebels trailed 36-18 despite Kentucky shooting only 40 percent from the floor. Rebounding and turnovers helped the ‘Cats secure an early lead. They outrebounded Ole Miss 21-14 in the first half while forcing them into 14 turnovers.
If Ole Miss had any belief they could come out of the locker room and put pressure on Kentucky, that was quickly smashed. Howard swatted away an Ole Miss shot at the rim on the first third-quarter possession which immediately led to a Haines three. The ‘Cats would get a stop the next time down the floor and Howard floated into a difficult mid-range shot that she made look easy. To make matters worse for the Rebels, Haines would draw a charge on the very next possession and then continued to come down the floor, call for the ball, and drill another triple.
Kentucky’s 8-0 run to start the third quarter forced Ole Miss into a timeout just two minutes into the half. But unlike what the ‘Cats did in the first quarter, Ole Miss could not make a comeback.
The defense let up slightly, but the offense took their game to another level. Kentucky started the third period making seven of nine shots (3-4 from deep) and grew the lead to 30-plus points in the blink of an eye. Howard was willing home shots that she had no business making, something she does on a regular basis at this point (I guess she does have a business in making them. At this point they’re layups for her). Green canned her second triple of the evening and Patterson – the shortest player on the floor – registered an impressive block.
The fourth quarter felt like Howard could have rattled off 20 more points had head coach Matthew Mitchell elected to keep her in the game. She hit two insane jumpers to open the fourth before closing the night with 21 points, just two off her season average.
Freshman Emma King was able to find some clock in the midst of the blowout, clocking 10 minutes for just the fifth time this season. Unfortunately, she missed all four of her shot attempts, but looked confident in the offense and played some surprisingly effective defense.
Kentucky’s lead would max out at 45 points before landing on the 42-point win. 94 points marked a season-high for the ‘Cats. A second-half field goal percentage of 61.8 and a 7-12 clip from beyond the arc were more than enough to take care of an Ole Miss team that is now 0-13 in SEC play. The Rebels turned the ball over 21 times – the 20th time this season Kentucky has forced the opponent into at least 20 turnovers – and were outrebounded 40-26, just the fifth time this season that UK corralled at least 40 boards and the first time since Dec. 1.
McKinney’s night ended with just three points but not before she added six rebounds and two assists. Tatyana Wyatt contributed nine points on 4-7 shooting, including a made triple. Ogechi Anyagaligbo registered four points and six boards while Amanda Paschal went for seven points, three rebounds, six assists, and ZERO turnovers.
The Wildcats were nearly perfect from the charity stripe, missing just one of their 14 attempts. They finished the night shooting over 50 percent from the field and were 11-23 from deep. Kentucky assisted on 23 of their made buckets and turned the ball over just eight times for an assist/turnover ratio of 2.875 – the second-best ratio they’ve posted all season long.
Outside of the first two minutes, this game was all Kentucky. It had been a while since the ladies ran a team out of the building like this. It was the first time since Roper’s 30-point game against Winthrop in Rupp Arena back in December that Kentucky truly blew out the opponent.
With this game out of the way, a date with the Gamecocks has officially been set. South Carolina hasn’t lost in 20 games. They are, without a doubt, the best team in women’s college basketball. They embarrassed Kentucky the last time out. The ‘Cats will be looking for revenge in Memorial Coliseum this Sunday (general admission tickets are available through ticketmaster.com for just $3 using the promo code Play4Kay).