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Defense, Bench Propels No. 11 Kentucky Over No. 12 Texas A&M 76-54

Blair Green tied a career high with 13 points while Rhyne Howard led UK with 24

Written by UK staff

LEXINGTON, Ky. – LEXINGTON, Ky. – Rhyne Howard scored 24 points as the 11th-ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team topped No. 12 Texas A&M 76-54 on Thursday night at Memorial Coliseum.

The game was the seventh straight in which Howard has scored at least 20 points. The last UK player to accomplish that feat was Maci Morris, who did so in seven straight contests from February 8 through March 1, 2018.

Howard made nine of 19 from the field, including three of 10 from behind the arc. The sophomore was three of four at the line and tied her season high with 11 rebounds in the game.

Kentucky (15-2, 4-1 SEC) got 15 points from Sabrina Haines and 13 from Blair Green, who tied her career high in the game. The Cats got a big night from the bench, outscoring A&M 17-2 in bench points. Kentucky forced just 14 turnovers, but scored 23 points off those A&M miscues.

The game was tied 2-2 early before Howard scored on a jumper and one, giving the Cats a 5-2 lead. But the Aggies answered in the same fashion as Ciera Johnson made a layup and a free throw to tie the game at five apiece.

Kentucky then got four consecutive points from Sabrina Haines, on a basket and two free throws, to lead 9-5 with 5:21 left in the first. However, Kentucky would go cold at that point and A&M would take an 11-9 lead. In fact, the Cats would not score for nearly five minutes, until Jaida Roper hit a three with 29 seconds left in the period. But the Aggies got a layup from N’dea Jones with 16 seconds to play in the period and A&M would lead 13-12 after 10 minutes of play.

In the second period, Kentucky scored five in a row to grab a 17-13 advantage. After a pair of free throws by A&M’s Jones, the Cats would score five consecutive points, including a three from Blair Green, to extend the lead to 22-15 and force an A&M timeout.

Out of the timeout, A&M’s Kayla Wells hit a three, but was answered by UK’s Haines, making the score 25-21. Wells would hit another three, and UK again had a response, this time from Green, to give the Cats a 28-21 advantage with 3:09 left in the half. The Cats would get a three from Chasity Patterson and a layup by Nae Nae Cole to close the first half, and UK took a 33-21 lead into the break. Green and Howard each had eight points in the first half for the Cats.

In the third period, both teams came out hot, with A&M making three of its first four shots, while Kentucky hit four of its first six. Kentucky led 41-29 after the early exchange that included a pair of baskets from Howard. A&M would chip into the lead, getting within nine on three occasions, but each time, the Cats had an answer. Kentucky would lead 49-40 after three periods of play.

Kentucky scored the first five points of the fourth period to lead 54-40. But A&M fought back, scoring four in a row to make it 54-44 with 8:12 to go. But a 20-6 run in the fourth blew the game open. The Cats would eventually lead by as many as 24 before claiming the 22-point victory.

Texas A&M (14-3, 2-2) played without All-SEC performer Chennedy Carter, who missed the game due to an injured ankle. Wells and Williams each had 18 points for the Aggies.

Kentucky returns to action on Sunday, visiting Baton Rouge to take on LSU. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on the SEC Network.

For more information on the Kentucky women’s basketball team, visit UKathletics.com or follow @KentuckyWBB on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

UK ATHLETICS COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLIC RELATIONS
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL POSTGAME NOTES

NO. 11 KENTUCKY VS. NO. 12 TEXAS A&M

THURSDAY, JANUARY 16

MEMORIAL COLISEUM – LEXINGTON, KY.  

No. 11 Kentucky 76, Texas A&M 54 – FINAL

Team Records and Series Notes

  • Kentucky is 15-2 (4-1 SEC), while Texas A&M is 14-3 (2-2 SEC).   
  • Kentucky is 838-542 all-time, including 457-157 inside Memorial Coliseum.  
    • UK is 170-31 all-time in Memorial Coliseum under Matthew Mitchell, including 9-0 this season.
  • This was the 11th all-time meeting between Kentucky and Texas A&M in women’s basketball.
    • The Aggies lead the all-time series in games played 6-5, including a 3-2 mark in games played in Lexington. This snapped a three-game home losing streak to TAMU for Kentucky.  
  • Matthew Mitchell is in his 13th season as the head coach of the Wildcats.
    • Mitchell is 326-156 overall in his career and 296-127 during his tenure at Kentucky.
  • Kentucky is ranked 11 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 and No. 11 in the latest USA Today/Coaches Top 25. 
    • UK has 53 wins against ranked foes under Matthew Mitchell, including a 2-2 mark this season.
    • Thursday’s win was UK’s first over a top-12 ranked team since defeating No. 11 Texas A&M on Feb. 28, 2016 in College Station. 

Team Notes

  • Kentucky used the starting combination of sophomore guard Rhyne Howard, senior guards Sabrina Haines and Jaida Roper, junior forward Tatyana Wyatt and sophomore guard Blair Green. 
    • This was the third time this season that UK has used this starting combination, sitting 3-0.
    • UK lost the tip for the eighth time this season.
    • Sophomore guard Blair Green scored first for Kentucky, marking the first time she has been the first to score this season. 
    • Junior forward KeKe McKinney is still listed day-to-day with a severe migraine-like headache.
  • The Wildcats jumped out to a 9-5 lead in the game but after Sabrina Haines hit a jumper with 5:47 to go in the first quarter, UK went 1-of-9 from the field scoring just five points. TAMU went on a 6-0 run after the Haines jumper to take a 11-9 lead. Roper hit a 3-pointer late to put UK back on top but TAMU hit a layup towards the end of the period to take a 13-12 lead into the second quarter. 
  • Kentucky outscored Texas A&M 21-8 in the second quarter, including ending the stanza on a 8-0 run.
    • UK went 8-of-15 from the field in the second quarter, including 5-of-7 from 3.
    • Blair Green scored six points in the quarter hitting two big 3s.
    • The Aggies were 2-of-11 from the field in the second quarter and had six turnovers.
    • The Wildcats scored eight points off turnovers in the second quarter alone.
    • Six of UK’s eight fast-break points came in the second quarter.
    • TAMU missed each of its last five shots and was held scoreless for the final 3:39 of the period.
  • The Wildcats held Texas A&M to 21 first-half points which was the Aggies fewest point total in the first half this season. The previous low was 30 against Georgia Tech. 
  • UK is 4-1 this season and 2-1 in league play when it trails at the half.
    • This was the third time this season that TAMU has trailed at the break, sitting 1-2 in those games.
  • The Aggies outscored the Wildcats in the third quarter 19-16 as Kentucky hit one of its last seven field goal attempts. 
  • Kentucky outscored Texas A&M 27-14 in the fourth quarter to secure the win.
    • The Wildcats went 10-of-12 from the field in the fourth quarter, including 5-of-6 from 3.
  • Texas A&M’s 54 points in the game tied its fewest point total of the season.
  • UK scored 23 points off Texas A&M turnovers, marking the 14th time this season UK has scored 20 or more points off opponent turnovers. 
  • Kentucky hit 11 3-pointers in the game, marking the ninth time this season UK has hit 10 or more 3s in a game. The Wildcats are 8-1 in those games.
  • UK limited Texas A&M to just 37.3 percent from the field, while the Wildcats went 28-of-57 for 49 percent. 
    • UK is 10-0 this season when it shoots a higher percentage than its opponent and 15-0 when an opponent shoots worse than 50 percent from the field. 
  • The Aggies entered the game averaging 43.6 rebounds per game with a +11.9-rebounding margin but the Wildcats out rebounded TAMU 33-29. 
    • This is the second game in a row that the Wildcats have won the rebounding margin.
  • Kentucky has now won back-to-back SEC games by 20+ points for the first time since 2012-13 when UK did it three times against Missouri, Mississippi State and Auburn in mid-January.
  • The Wildcats went 9-of-10 from the free-throw line in the game.

Player Notes

  • Sophomore guard Rhyne Howard scored a game-high 24 points adding 11 rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
    • This was the third double-double of the season for Howard and the eighth of her career.
    • Howard has scored 20 or more points in seven straight game, the longest streak since Maci Morris scored 20+ in seven straight games in 2017-18. 
      • Howard has scored in double figures in every game but one this season, including 20 or more points in 12 games. 
    • Howard has 930 career points needing just 70 more to join the 1,000-point club. She is on pace to be the second fastest to 1,000 in program history. 
    • In 49, career game Howard has recorded some impressive numbers:
      • Hit at least one 3 in 43 career games
      • Made three or more 3s in 21 games
      • Made five or more 3s in 9 games
      • Scored 10+ points in 42 games
      • Scored 15+ points in 34 games
      • Scored 20+ points in 22 games
      • Scored 25+ points in 13 games
      • Scored 30+ points in 3 games
      • Led UK in scoring in 30 games
      • Led UK in rebounding in 27 games
  • Senior guard Sabrina Haines scored 15 points in the game, going 5-of-8 from the field, 3-of-5 from 3 and 2-of-2 from the free-throw line.  
    • Haines has scored 10 or more points in 11 games this season.
    • Haines went 3-of-5 from long range in the game and has a 3 in every game but two.
    • Haines has hit three or more 3s in seven games.
  • Sophomore guard Blair Green tied a career high with 13 points in the game, going 5-of-8 from the field and 3-of-5 from 3.
    • Green had eight points in the first half, including two huge 3s in the second quarter. 
  • Junior guard Chasity Patterson scored nine points in the game with a 3-pointer. 
  • Senior center Nae Nae Cole came off the bench to play 22 huge minutes for the Wildcats, scoring four points with two rebounds, a steal and a block.
    • The 22 minutes is a career high for Cole.

UK ATHLETICS COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLIC RELATIONS
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL POSTGAME QUOTES

NO. 11 KENTUCKY VS. NO. 12 TEXAS A&M

THURSDAY, JANUARY 16

MEMORIAL COLISEUM – LEXINGTON, KY.  

*** Due to a technical issue, we are not able to provide Coach Mitchell quotes from tonight’s game. We are sorry for any inconvenience. ***

Kentucky Players

#5, Blair Green, So., G

On how important it is for you to see a shot go in …

“It helps a whole lot. I wish I could have seen them go in a little bit sooner, at Florida, but that’s alright.”

On your role on the team …

“Yeah, I feel more confident that I have a bigger role this year. So, just rhythm and getting more minutes.”

On her mentality when Rhyne Howard was in foul trouble …

“Just, we’ve got to pick her up and just keep playing and just keep playing hard like she would want us to because she’s a big key to our team and gives us a lot of points, a lot of rebounds, so we really just had to step it up and keep giving her confidence.”

On knowing your role …

“I think I’ve just been really letting the game come to me, just making that sure pass. If I’m open, taking my shot when I feel it. He always gives me the green light to do what I need to do. I think he has confidence in me. Just, as a sophomore and playing into this role, just coming out and giving the team what it needs.”

On what it means to beat a No. 12 Texas A&M team …

“It’s such a big, really big game for us. In the SEC, they’ve always been a top team, Texas A&M, so to be able to come out here and beat them by double digits, that’s just a big confidence booster for us and that really looks good for our program.”

On whether you feel extra cheers for herself in Memorial, a Kentucky native …

“Yeah, but I think our fans are great overall. They just love everyone, no matter where you’re from. They’re very welcoming.”

#10, Rhyne Howard, So., G

On if you said anything to the team when you were on the bench with foul trouble …

“No. I just told them, ‘You’ve got it, keep shooting.’ Other than that, I let the coaches take over.”

On Nae Nae Cole …

“Nae Nae was a huge part. That’s basically what we’re looking for every time Nae Nae gets on the floor. She was a big presence down there, getting rebounds and doing everything we needed her to do.”

On your slow start on Thursday …

“It didn’t change my shots. I was still getting open looks from the beginning, they just started falling for me after I kept shooting.”

On how much fun the team has …

“Pretty much everything we do, we just make sure we have fun. Because things could always go in the opposite direction and not go our way, so we’ve just got to make sure we stay positive and keep each other up.”

On whether the crowd roots harder for Kentucky native Blair Green …

“Yeah, every time she hits a big shot, they always go wild for her. So does everybody on the court and on the bench. We’re all cheering for her, we cheer for everybody. We pretty much keep it even.”

Texas A&M Head Coach Gary Blair

Opening Statement …

“We did alright when she (Rhyne Howard) didn’t play in the second quarter. That was the difference in the ball game – the second quarter when Howard was on the bench and we scored eight points and we didn’t take advantage. We missed free throws, we missed bunnies, we missed everything that we had and that’s on us. We’ve seen good defense from Florida State and LSU, to a bunch of good teams, but that’s on us to be able to score under pressure. We were going to the free throw line enough times and not making them… I give Kentucky credit. Howard is an All-American or will be an All-American and I’m sure Matthew (Mitchell) will talk to her a little bit about giving it up instead of shooting a 30-foot 3 like she did one time. She doesn’t need to, that’s how good she is. That’s how good she is, just tone it down because there’s nobody in our league besides (Chelsea) Dungee and (Chennedy) Carter that can create off the bounce and score with contact. Scoring for contact, a football play, a basketball play, that’s what she was able to do and just give them credit and give Kentucky’s other players credit. They knew who to get the ball to and they were doing a great job of shooting in the last 10 seconds of a possession and we were guarding decently and then we came off a couple times and left Howard alone in the corner and you don’t do that. You don’t leave (Sabrina) Haines unattended in the corner, we’re better than that. The hardest thing is, we don’t use an injury as an excuse, we played the game with about zero emotion for being No. 12 in the country and we were up at the end of the first quarter and it looked when they came over to me, we were about six or seven. We’ve got to learn to play with more emotion. We have enough fire power out there that we didn’t hit our shots, we only had about 14 turnovers against Kentucky, but I think we had worked on that before where he didn’t need to press particularly his two-three zone, we just started missing shots in the second quarter when he went to the zone.”

On Blair Green and how big she was in the game …
“Late in the shot clock, I think every one of them. Then she hit a mid-range shot in there that was very good. That’s why she was on the All-Freshman team last year. She’s just very solid. You’ve got to have complimentary players and that’s what Blair Green is. She doesn’t try to do too much, too little, she does just enough. And that’s what you’ve got to have when you’ve got a star player. You’ve got to feed her the ball, let her create for others. A couple of times, Howard did a great job of penetrating, dumping it over where we’d have to rotate to help because we couldn’t guard her one-on-one. And there isn’t a sportswriter in here that could’ve guarded her one-on-one either. But we could have done a better job or forcing her to her left, but we didn’t. She’s very good, folks.”

On Matthew Mitchell and his team’s style …
“First, he’s not undertalented. He’s got talent. They share the ball. He’s playing the system that he played three years ago before all the injuries and defections. Now, he’s got more depth, he can rotate them in. And that will happen, particularly when he gets McKinney back, who is a pretty good shot blocker and he’s got a kid out with an ACL. It’s back to the old-style Kentucky, yay. I hope we don’t see that style that we played today, or we’ll get our butt beat against Florida on Sunday. We’ve got to get better. It’s all on us right now. We scored eight points in the second quarter. We shot 20 percent against LSU in the third quarter and 20 percent in the fourth quarter. It’s not rocket science.”

Texas A&M Players

#4, Shambria Washington, Sr., G  

On Kentucky compared to some of the other teams in the SEC…

“They’re a talented basketball team. They capitalize on their strengthens like Rhyne Howard who really came out and competed tonight. She did both ends, on the boards, offensively and defensively. Credit to them. They’re No. 11 and where they are in the nation for a reason.”

On how they played against Rhyne Howard…

“Very talented. She made the national team for a reason. She’s one of the top players in the SEC for a reason. She works hard on her game so have all the respect for her. She came out and did what her team needed her to do.”

#23, McKinzie Green, Fr., G

On what she learned being in this atmosphere and watching the game…

“It’s just a different atmosphere just because the SEC is the best conference in the country. Their guards had good pressure on us so just getting accustomed to that throughout my career.”

Michael Bennett
Michael Bennett is a life long Kentucky fan that, after 25 years in the medical device industry, is now the host of Just the Cats– a UK sports talk radio show. The sporting events that he has covered have been the fulfillment of a dream of his for many years. Covering UK as a media member while getting an inside look at our beloved Wildcats is nothing short of amazing. If you would like to connect with Michael follow him on Twitter @justthecatradio.
https://justthecats.com

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