NASHVILLE, Tn. — The Kentucky Wildcats are heading to the SEC Tournament Championship game. The Cats upset the tournament's No. 3 seed, Tennessee 83-74 Saturday night to advance out of the semifinals. Rhyne Howard led the way for UK, and the Cats never trailed.
UK will play No. 1 South Carolina Sunday at 2 p.m. ET for the conference title. It's the first time since 2014 the Cats have advanced to the final game, and Kentucky is now riding a nine-game win streak.
Howard finished the night with 24 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and one block in 37 minutes of play. Robyn Benton and Jada Walker each added 16 points, and Treasure Hunt was the fourth Wildcat in double-figure scoring with 11. Jazmine Massengil and Dre'Una Edwards had eight points apiece.
The Cats couldn't have asked for a better start to the game, which included four consecutive three pointers and a collectively-strong defensive effort. Four Wildcats had connected from behind-the-arc after the first ten minutes of play, including one by Howard at the buzzer.
The Vols responded in the second quarter, outscoring the Wildcats 24-22. Still, the Cats maintained their lead heading into the break with a 44-37 advantage.
In the third, Tennessee's height became a noticeable issue for the Wildcats - the Lady Vols had five total blocks by the end of the period. In the later part of the quarter, Kentucky's offense had found its groove again, and although the Vols got as close as one point, the Cats never surrendered the lead. Howard briefly went to the bench after hitting the ground hard late in the quarter, but she returned to the court at the start of the fourth.
By the final quarter, both offenses were clicking. Kentucky and Tennessee were trading buckets; at one point, 33 of Kentucky's 66 points had come off of three-point shots. Benton connected on her fourth triple of the game, and Massengill recorded an athletic block. Walker also came up big with two successful free throws made in crunch time.
She's also tough as nails. Just got decked, hit the ground hard, and nailed BOTH of her free throws to put the Cats up 81-71 with 1:35 to play— BBN Tonight (@BBNTonight) March 6, 2022
Friendly reminder - she's a FRESHMAN. https://t.co/9UFJFygSin
Howard drained a three pointer with just under one minute to play in the game to push Kentucky's lead to 83-71. It was all Cats from there.
Kentucky finished the game shooting 43 percent from the floor, 50 percent from deep (12-24) and 58 percent (11-19) from the charity stripe.