Senior guard Jaida Roper wasn’t about to let Rhyne Howard be the only Kentucky Wildcat to drop 30 points this season.
Just one game after Howard poured in a career-high of 30 points against Samford on Sunday, Roper matched her teammate, popping off for 30 of her own points in front of the Rupp Arena crowd as the No. 14 UK Hoops (10-0) squad secured a 91-36 blowout win over the Winthrop Eagles (1-6) on Wednesday night.
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) December 12, 2019
Roper’s excellent night came on 12-13 shooting from the field, including a 3-4 clip from deep. She also added three rebounds, four assists, and two steals to complete her best individual performance in a blue and white jersey.
Four other Wildcats managed to hit the double-digit mark in scoring; Sabrina Haines (11 points), Tatyana Wyatt (10), Blair Green (13), and Howard (12) all made significant contributions on a night where UK shot 52.4 percent from the field and 13-23 from beyond the arc. The team’s 13 made triples were one short of tying the school record for most made in one game. The ‘Cats are actually on pace to shatter the program record for most made 3s in a season, a figure they surpassed last season.
Kentucky was able to limit Winthrop to just 29.8 percent shooting from the field and a 2-12 clip from deep. The Eagles turned the ball over a total of 35 times – the most miscues forced by the ‘Cats all season – with 23 of those coming in the first half.
While the final score would indicate a blowout, it was the only the first half of action that created the lopsided outcome. Kentucky burst out to an 18-8 lead halfway through the first quarter as Roper made her first three shots of the game. It was around this time that Howard also appeared to twist her ankle which caused her to take a seat on the bench. Once the ankle was wrapped up, she came back out on the floor, playing the rest of the first half, however, she did not play at all in the second half.
Head coach Matthew Mitchell said in the postgame press conference that Howard’s absence was more precautionary than anything with the game in hand and a matchup against Louisville on Sunday. She is expected to be healthy and ready to go when the Cards come to town.
Howard and Roper were working like a well-oiled machine in the first 10 minutes of play, feeding passes to and from each other as they shared the wealth of points. Roper finished the quarter with 15 points – which tied her career-high – while Howard added nine of her own.
Winthrop actually shot 6-9 from the field in the first quarter, but 13 team turnovers allowed Kentucky to constantly be in attack mode on offense. After the first-period buzzer sounded, UK had complete control of the game with a 32-12 lead.
The second quarter was much of the same from the ‘Cats. A flurry of triples rained down early in the period as Wyatt and Green helped keep the hot shooting going. Kentucky started the game out 10-13 from beyond the arc before cooling off a bit in the second half.
Another three from Howard put her at a perfect 4-4 from deep and the ‘Cats were rolling at the intermission with a 54-18 lead.
But coming out of halftime, the high energy from the first 20 minutes had vanished. Winthrop outscored the ‘Cats 6-2 through the first three-and-a-half minutes of the third, forcing Mitchell into a timeout.
The offense had come to a full-stop without Howard and points were hard to come by. A few buckets courtesy of Roper and Green towards the end of the period struck some life into both the team and the home crowd, but it was not a pretty stretch of basketball from either team.
The third quarter would be the most evenly contested 10 minutes of the night as Kentucky held a slight 16-12 advantage. Heading into the fourth quarter with Howard resting on the bench, UK was still cruising with a 70-30 lead.
The final quarter mirrored the third, but the outcome was never in doubt. Roper added another nine points in the fourth to reach the 30-point plateau. She drove in for a layup and was fouled, giving her 29 points before knocking down the and-one, putting the final stamp on her career evening.
Kentucky outscored Winthrop 21-6 in the fourth, sealing the game with a 55-point blowout victory.
All nine players that entered the game for the ‘Cats scored at least three points. Amanda Paschal finished with four points, three rebounds, five assists, and two steals while KeKe McKinney registered four points, five rebounds, three blocks, and four steals.
Kem Nwabudu led the Eagles in scoring with nine points.
With the tune-up game now out of the way, Kentucky can set it’s focus on the matchup with No. 7 Louisville on Sunday. That game will once again be in Rupp Arena at 1 p.m. and you can watch it live on ESPN.