GREENVILLE, S.C. — SEC Player of the Year Rhyne Howard scored 33 points, but the 17th-ranked Kentucky women's basketball team fell to Georgia 78-66 on Friday in the Southeastern Conference Women's Basketball Tournament.
Howard added five rebounds, three steals, an assist and a blocked shot in the game. Chasity Patterson scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds for the Cats.
Kentucky struggled from the field early in the game, making just one of its first 11 from the field. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs hit six of their first 14 from the field, building a 15-2 run in the process.
The Cats finally got things going late in the first period. Howard scored on a driving layup and then hit a three to cut the Georgia lead to 15-7 with 2:09 to play in the first quarter. After a pair of Georgia free throws, Treasure Hunt hit a left-wing three to cut the deficit to 17-10. That would be the score at the end of the first period.
Kentucky scored the first points of the second period on a Howard backdoor layup, cutting the UGA lead to 17-12. But the Bulldogs would score the next seven, taking a 24-12 lead with 7:41 left in the half.
The Georgia run came to an end when Hunt hit another three, this one from the top of the key, getting the Cats within 24-15. But Georgia immediately answered on a Gabby Connally three, then Maya Caldwell jumper, giving the Bulldogs a 29-15 lead.
Howard would score Kentucky's final five points of the half but UK would trail 35-20 at the half. Howard had 12 points in the first half and Hunt had six but Kentucky made just eight of 28 (28.6 percent) from the floor in the first half.
Kentucky came out of the locker room with a renewed energy that paid immediate dividends. UK opened the second half with a pair of Jazmine Massengill baskets, followed by a Patterson three and a Tatyana Wyatt layup, all a part of a 9-1 run that cut the Georgia lead to 36-29.
Georgia would answer with a 9-2 run of its own to re-establish a 14-point advantage. After scoring just 20 points in the first half, Kentucky scored 27 in the third quarter, but the Cats trailed 58-47 with 10 minutes left to play.
In the fourth quarter, Kentucky got within single digits on a Massengill driving layup. After Georgia got two Jen Staiti free throws, Wyatt scored in the lane to make it 60-51 Bulldogs. Georgia would respond with an 11-4 run to increase the lead to 16 and put the game out of reach.
Howard would lead a late charge, scoring six points in less than a minute to get UK within nine, 74-65, but the Cats would get no closer.
Kentucky will return to action in the NCAA Tournament. The Cats will find out their opponent on March 15.