LEXINGTON, Ky. — The non-conference portion of Kentucky women's basketball's 2021-22 season is over. The No.19 Wildcats handed South Carolina Upstate a 67-44 loss Sunday afternoon to snap a two-game losing streak.
UK took the floor without starter Robyn Benton, who was sidelined with an ankle injury. Benton's status is day-to-day according to head coach Kyra Elzy.
Rhyne Howard led the way with a game-high 22 points. She also recorded six steals, four rebounds and three assists. Freshman guard Jada Walker, in her second collegiate start, chipped in 13 points to help out Howard. Jasmine Massengill and Dre'Una Edwards also contributed 11 points each. Edwards also grabbed 12 rebounds, recording her fifth straight double-double of the season.
"I feel like we were ready to play again, but I also feel like that game getting canceled was kind of like an extra breath for us," Howard told local media after the game. "The Louisville game like we played hard, we were all locked in, it just didn't fall our way so we just needed to get back in the win column on this one."
For the fifth time this season, Kentucky had a slow start. The Wildcats scored just five points in the first quarter, making just two baskets from the field and missing six three-point attempts for their worst start to a game this season.
The Wildcats came out with a sense of urgency in the second quarter. UK outscored the Spartans 21-9 in the quarter, taking the lead for good with 2:58 left until halftime, which they led 26-23. UK followed that up with a 18-0 run in the third quarter, holding the Spartans to just seven points in the quarter.
Howard took over from there, scoring 17 of her game-high 22 points in the second half after a rough start, missing all five of her field goal attempts in the first quarter (0-4 from 3pt range). Cats were up by 24 heading into the fourth quarter.
"As a coach you never want to start slow. The first four minutes are very important to the game, but sometimes it does happen and you have to play through it," head coach Kyra Elzy said. "In the second and third quarter I thought intensity-wise that was more of what we were looking for. But we have to be better."
Elzy now holds a 14-4 record in regular season non-conference games as Kentucky's head coach.
Kentucky returns to action on December 30th when they begin conference play. The Wildcats will travel to Auburn to open SEC play. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. and will air on SEC Network Plus.