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Dislocated finger slows down Rhyne Howard but Cats hold off Auburn 68-61

By EVAN CRANE, UK Athletics

Sabrina Haines tied her season-high with 17 points as the 13th-ranked Kentucky women’s team held off Auburn 68-61 on Monday night at Memorial Coliseum. Kentucky (16-3, 5-2 SEC) got a career-high tying 13 points and eight rebounds from KeKe McKinney, who had missed the previous four games due to injury. The junior from Knoxville, Tennessee, made all six of her shots from the field, including her only three-point attempt.

Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard, who entered the game tied for second in the nation in scoring at 23.9 points per game, was held in check by the Tigers in addition to a third-quarter hand injury that limited her to 29 minutes in the game. The sophomore scored just 10 points, on three-of-13 shooting from the field.

Howard, who had just come back into the game, hit a running, left-handed shot in the lane to extend the UK lead to 61-58 with 3:32 left.

Auburn got a basket to cut the UK lead to 61-60 with 3:02 left in the game. Neither team scored again until Jaida Roper hit a pair of free throws with 1:24 left in the game to give UK a three-point lead. On Auburn’s next possession, the Tigers hit a free throw to cut the lead to  63-61 with 54.6 seconds to play.

 Howard was fouled by the Tigers with 29.6 seconds to play and, with a bandaged left hand, the sophomore made both charity tosses to make it 65-61.

Here is what coach Matthew Mitchell and  Howard had to say about her injury after the game:

On how many times have you seen a player seal the game with one hand …

Mitchell: “Yeah, I was a little in the dark there. I thought she could dribble a little bit with the left hand, so that was bad coaching to throw her the ball there, but she somehow got to the free throw line. That was tough and she was tough. She is in some pain right now, so we will have to see what happens and get an x-ray. She got her hands in there trying to tie the ball up, and the player took it away, so it hurt her pinky finger there. So, we will see what happens and go from there, but boy she really came back in after getting some treatment and made some huge plays for us.”

On your shoe being untied in the fourth quarter at the line …

Howard: “The ref was like, ‘Your shoe is untied,’ and I looked down and then the ref said, ‘You sure you’re going to be able to tie that by yourself?’ and I said, ‘Nah,’ and then he said, ‘Well I’m not going to bend down and tie it for you, you better get one of your teammates.’ Shout out to Amanda (Paschal), she got me right.”

 On your finger injury…

Howard: “I dislocated my finger.”

On if you’ve ever dislocated your finger before…

Howard: “Never in a game.”

On battling in the fourth quarter while your fingers were wrapped…

Howard: “It was really hard for me, but I knew that my teammates were going to stick it out, and they had been playing their butts off the whole game and stepping up and just hitting open shots and playing like how they know to play, so I had all the confidence in them to pull it out while I was out.”

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