By LARRY VAUGHT
With the way she’s playing, it’s impossible for sophomore Rhyne Howard not to be the headline-maker and center of attention for the Kentucky women’s basketball team going into tonight’s Southeastern Conference game with Texas A&M in a matchup of top 15 teams in Memorial Coliseum.
She tied a school record with 43 points at Alabama last week one game after putting in 37 against Tennessee one game earlier. She’s had five straight games with 25 or more points, something no UK player had ever done, before getting 22 at Florida Sunday after having only four at halftime because the Gators wisely focused their defense on her.
She had made at least one 3-pointer in 17 straight games before failing to hit one against the Gators.
However, UK coach Matthew Mitchell said there is “no jealousy whatsoever” by teammates toward Howard, who has 906 points in 48 games and was SEC Player of the Week again this week.
“We understand who we are this year and what we have to be this year. The thing we all have to realize – coaches, players, Rhyne Howard and her teammates – is that she is going to get a lot of attention in the press and she deserves it,” Mitchell said.
“She is a phenomenal player. But we cannot let that divert our focus from the overall objective, and that’s winning games for Kentucky. I think they’re doing a great job of that right now. It’s sincere, it’s genuine, and as long as we stay that way, we will continue to progress as a team.”
That happened Sunday at Florida when UK had to show it could win without Howard dominating – even though for most players 22 points would be a dominant outing. She also had six rebounds, one block and one assist in the Florida win to justify Mitchell’s belief in her team first attitude.