By EVAN CRANE, UK Athletics
GREENVILLE, S.C. – National Player of the Year candidate and Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Rhyne Howard scored 24 points as the third-seeded Kentucky women’s basketball team handled sixth-seeded Tennessee 86-65 on Friday night in the quarterfinals of the 2020 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Howard had plenty of support from her teammates. A total of nine Wildcats scored in the game, with Tatyana Wyatt (14 points), Sabrina Haines (12) and Chasity Patterson (11) each scoring in double figures.
“Rhyne certainly leads the way, has just had a phenomenal year. She is an explosive scorer. But if you look at all of our significant wins this year, when we’ve played well, we have great balance,” Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said.
“Just so proud of the team for getting focused this entire week. We started the week off with a loss that we felt like we had control of the game in Nashville, let that slip away from us. So really proud of the team for bouncing back once again. We’ve not lost two in a row this year. They’ve always had that resilience about them.
“It’s a tough group. This was a big win for us. We needed to come in here and I think validate our seed and let people know we were a dangerous team here in the postseason.”
Kentucky forced 19 UT turnovers and converted those into 19 points. The Cats shot the ball very well from behind the arc, hitting 11 of 24 (45.8 percent) of their three pointers in the game. UK also came out even in the rebounding battle, 36-36, against a taller Tennessee team.
“I just thought the determination of the players right from the jump. It was not only the rebounds we were getting, it was how we were doing it. I thought we were very aggressive just snatching rebounds with two hands, just establishing a presence on the boards early,” Mitchell said.
Kentucky advances to Saturday’s SEC Tournament semifinals where they will face Mississippi State at approximately 7 p.m. ET. The game can be seen on ESPNU. Kentucky upset Mississippi State in Lexington in February.
“They’re extremely talented, very fast, well-coached. They have some size. We have some issues there. They’ve got a little more size and length at some positions,” Mitchell said. “But we have to be ready for a real, real tough game. They’re an outstanding team.
“We played real hard and were able to earn a victory. We were proud of that one. Tomorrow will be a tough game. We have to come out and, again, we have to try, to the best of our ability, to play Kentucky basketball and really focus in on the things that are important for us to play well.
“It’s a great opportunity for us. We love playing in this tournament. We’re happy to have another opportunity in it.”