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What We Learned From Another 30-Point UK Hoops Win

(UK Athletics | Britney Howard)

(UK Athletics | Britney Howard)

30-point wins are becoming a rather common theme amongst the Kentucky Wildcats women’s basketball team.

No. 15 UK Hoops 79-49 drumming of Samford on Sunday afternoon in Memorial Coliseum was the second consecutive game in which the ‘Cats have won by at least 30 and the third time in the last four outings. The one game they didn’t win by 30 was during a 29-point, 81-52 win over Austin Peay. Kentucky has won its last five games by an average of 35.4 points.

Granted, the competition holds a current overall record of just 18-23, but Kentucky is straight-up demolishing these teams. All five of those games had Kentucky up big at halftime as they cruised in the second halves.

Against Samford, that trend continued. Kentucky led by 21 at the half before finishing with the 30-point win. Here’s what we learned from another great all-around team performance.

Rhyne Howard’s career afternoon

She’d been stuck in the upper-20s for weeks, but sophomore Rhyne Howard finally hit the 30-point mark as she connected on 11 of her 19 shots including five of eight on shots from beyond the arc.

Coming into Sunday’s game, Howard had already posted games of 24 points (twice), 27, and most recently a 29-point outing in the previous game against Charlotte. As a freshman, Howard reached the 29-point club once and recorded 25 in four other games.

“My teammates and coaches were trying to tell me how many more points I needed,” Howard said after the game. “So they were telling me to stay aggressive and they were helping me get in, so it felt good to finally break 29 points.”

With a little over three minutes left, freshman Emma King dumped off a pass to Howard in the paint, who put up an off-balance mid-range jumper that bumped her up to 30 points. She would immediately take a seat on the bench to a chorus of cheers from the holiday crowd.

For the season, Howard is now averaging 20.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game – both team-highs. She’s hitting her shots at a 42.8 percent clip through nine games but has boosted that number to nearly 50 percent over her last five outings. She’s also knocking down 40 percent of her three-point attempts in the same span. She’s also also corralled at least five boards in seven of her nine games.

The hot shooting isn’t going anywhere

The first few games of the season were littered with cold shooting stretches and poor field goal percentages. Whatever issues were plauging the ‘Cats during that time have apparently vanished.

Kentucky shot under 40 percent from the field through its first four games of the season. Even the fifth game of the season – a 25-point whooping of Morehead State – saw the ‘Cats shoot 39.7 percent. But it was that game against the in-state squad that sparked some sort of change in the future.

Since that win over MSU, UK has shot better than 46 percent in all four games. Two of those wins – against Samford and Austin Peay – saw the ‘Cats break the 52 percent mark. It’s not just Howard who is shooting better, either. The entire roster, from top to bottom, is knocking down shots.

Sophomore Blair Green was 13-39 from the field through the first five games. She has since shot 14-24 in her last four outings.

Junior KeKe McKinney was 12-28 through five games. She’s 15-25 since then.

Senior Ogechi Anyagaligbo was 7-15 through five games but has bumped that up to 11-18 in the last four.

Shots that they once missed are simply finding the bottom of the net – and it’s a trend that doesn’t appear to slow down.

Just in time.

Chasity Patterson’s return is drawing near

Junior point guard Chasity Patterson has been with the UK Hoops team for an entire year now. She transferred to UK after one season at Texas, where she saw limited playing time. Out of high school, the 5-foot-5 guard was ranked as the top point guard in the entire class of 2017 and was the Preseason Freshman of the Year in the Big 12.

Patterson struggled to find the floor at Texas, averaging just seven minutes per game, and decided to sit out a year so she could land in Lexington. She’s been a highly anticipated player that the coaching staff has gone out of its way to rave about. Now nine games into the season, Patterson’s time is almost here.

She’ll make her Kentucky debut when the team travels to the West Coast for a matchup against California on Dec. 21, but don’t expect her to come out looking rusty. She’s been working just as hard as the ladies who’ve been on the court all season long.

“We’re so excited,” Mitchell said about Patterson in the post-game press conference. “We’re 12-13 days away now from her taking the floor for the Wildcats and it’s something that we’re very excited about. The only day off she has is during these two hours of the game that we play. She works out really hard before the game to try to get in a game simulation.”

(UK Athletics | Britney Howard)

It’ll be interesting to see how the coaching staff incorporates Patterson, considering Kentucky already boasts three (or four, if you count Howard) guards who play a ton of minutes. Jaida Roper and Amanda Paschal have asserted themselves as reliable game managers who can create plays and stuff ball handlers on defense (those two combined for 12 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds, and just two turnovers on Sunday). It will be difficult for Patterson to steal some of those minutes. Senior Sabrina Haines has been shooting the ball far too well for her minutes to take a dip, as well.

What Patterson will bring is more depth. The ‘Cats already have a steady stable of frontcourt players with McKinney, Tatyana Wyatt, Anyagaligboand Nae Nae Cole. Add in Green and Howard – who can play either the guard or forward position – and Kentucky has a deep rotation down low. Patterson will provide a much-needed boost from the backcourt off the bench, although it will likely come at the cost of playing time for the freshmen, King.

“She [Patterson] is completely integrated into the team,” Mitchell continued. We’ll soon find out just how seamless she can make the transition.

Louisville is right around the corner

With the Samford game out of the way, Kentucky just has one more matchup to get through before the showdown with the No. 2 Louisville Cardinals next Sunday in Rupp Arena.

Louisville’s ranking will surely drop from near the top following a seven-point loss to Ohio State, despite knocking off the top-ranked Oregon Ducks a week ago. However, they are still clearly a top-team in the nation. It will be the biggest game of the year for the ‘Cats up until that point.

Coach Mitchell and the players said they’ll be getting up plenty of shots at Rupp this week in preparation for playing in the larger venue. Depth perception will definitely be a factor; the atmosphere is just different in an arena that holds over 20,000 fans compared to the 8,500 that Memorial Colisuem occupies.

Kentucky still needs to take care of Winthrop this Wednesday, but another win would take the ‘Cats into Rupp Arena with a 10-0 record against its biggest rival.

Article written by Zack Geoghegan

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