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WATCH: Rhyne Howard’s Game Winner Gives UK Hoops 63-61 Win Over Cal

(UK Athletics)

(UK Athletics)

Rhyne Howard had an opportunity to beat the Louisville Cardinals last week in Rupp Arena, but her final shot at the buzzer fell just short. Against the Cal Golden Bears on Saturday night, the star sophomore made sure her last-second shot had a different result.

Thanks to Howard’s go-ahead game-winning jumper with under four seconds left, the No. 14 UK Hoops team took down the Bears in California to move to 11-1 on the season.

Howard poured in 29 points on 10-24 shooting from the field and 4-10 from beyond the arc. She also added five rebounds, three assists, and one block in the process. She has at least 26 points in four of her last five outings. Junior Chasity Patterson made her Kentucky debut after sitting out the last two semesters following a transfer from Texas. The 5-foot-5 guard was impressive in her first action for the Wildcats, totaling nine points (second-most on the team) and four steals.

The Golden Bears scored the first bucket of the game and the ‘Cats went nearly two-and-a-half minutes without scoring out of the gate. Thanks to a couple of second-chance buckets from Tatyana Wyatt followed by another from KeKe McKinney, Kentucky’s offense started to click.

UK extended its first-quarter lead to a 12-4 advantage at the first media timeout after back-to-back triples from Howard and Patterson. However, Cal would rattle off a 6-0 run to finish the first 10 minutes of action, pulling the game back to a two-point Kentucky lead heading into the next frame.

The second quarter was tightly contested, with both teams struggling to hit shots. Howard specifically was out of her zone, making just one shot in her 10 first-half looks. She was held scoreless in the second period. Cal was able to keep things close, never trailing by more than four points in the quarter.

Heading into halftime, the game was tied at 22 and both teams combined to shoot just 26.9 percent from the field. Kentucky was 2-12 from deep in the first half of play, but the defense forced 10 turnovers which they turned into 12 points.

The third quarter was easily the best of the night from the ‘Cats. After trading baskets early, Kentucky’s offense woke up.

A three-pointer by Howard have UK a 32-26 lead four minutes into the period and Blair Green dropped in a triple of her own just a couple minutes later. The ‘Cats lived at the free-throw line, attempting 10 shots from the charity stripe in the third quarter alone and making six of them. The lead ballooned to as many as 11 before Cal cut it down to five with two buckets in the final minute of the quarter.

In the fourth, Howard took over to the tune of 19 personal points. She shot 7-11 from the field and hit two shots from deep, taking over the game all by herself. Another 11-point advantage midway through the quarter made it seem as though the ‘Cats might run away with this one.

But a four-minute stretch of just six points for UK allowed Cal to sneak back into the game. Howard missed a jumper with under one minute left and a three-point lead that gave the Bears life. Jazlen Green was fouled with 30 seconds left and hit just one free throw, but missed the second shot which was gobbled up Cal, forcing a held ball.

Trailing by two points with only 22 seconds left, Cal’s CJ West was fouled on a shot for an and-one to tie the game at 61 with only nine seconds left. Fortunately, she would miss the free throw and Kentucky snagged the rebound as they called a timeout to draw up the final play.

Against the Cards a week ago, head coach Matthew Mitchell elected to not call a timeout down one with the clock running out. Howard still got a good look at a shot that would have won the game, it just didn’t drop. With more time to prepare, Howard received the ball near the top of the key, executed a couple of crossover moves, and sliced into the lane for a pull-up jumper that fell straight in.

With a two-point lead and only a few seconds remaining, Kentucky played great defense on the last possession by not fouling and forcing a tough, long look for Cal at the buzzer. The final shot clanked off the front of the rim and the Wildcats secured its 11th win of the season, 63-61.

Despite the victory, it was easily the ladies’ worst offensive performance in a month. Kentucky shot just 35.5 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from three, their worst marks since the middle of November. They did manage to force Cal into 22 total turnovers which they converted into 23 points. The size factor wasn’t a massive issue for the ‘Cats, either, although they were outrebounded 42-36.

Aside from Howard, no other Wildcat reached double-digits in scoring. Wyatt posted four points, eight rebounds, and three steals before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. Jaida Roper – who was in the starting lineup for the first time all season – finished with six points and three assists while Sabrina Haines and McKinney combined for 10 rebounds.

Cal was paced by 18 points from Jaeyln Brown.

With the 12th game of the season in the books, Kentucky is now set to open up SEC play when they take on the No. 5 South Carolina Gamecocks on Jan. 2 in Columbia at 7 p.m. on the SEC Network.

Article written by Zack Geoghegan

Covering all things NBA and UK Hoops. Follow me on Twitter: @ZGeogheganKSR