LEX18 — She's done it again. University of Kentucky junior guard Rhyne Howard has been named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year for the second straight season by league coaches after putting together yet another record-breaking season for the top-20 ranked Wildcats.
Howard, who was also named to the All-SEC First Team, was joined on the list of league honors by senior guard Chasity Patterson, who was tabbed to the SEC All-Defensive Team. This is the second conference honor for Patterson, who was named the SEC’s 6th Woman of the Year last season.
Howard continues to etch her name all over the SEC honor sheet, earning multiple conference honors for the third straight season. In 2020, the native of Cleveland, Tennessee, was tabbed the SEC Player of the Year, All-SEC First Team and SEC All-Defensive Team. As a freshman in 2019, Howard was the SEC Freshman of the Year and All-SEC First Team.
Howard is the third player in program history to earn All-SEC First-Team honors from league coaches three times, joining Makayla Epps and Leslie Nichols. The guard becomes just the third player in SEC history to earn two player of the year honors prior to their senior seasons, joining South Carolina’s Tiffany Mitchell (2014 and 2015) and A’ja Wilson (2016, 2017 and 2018). Howard and former UK All-American A’dia Mathies are now the only players in Kentucky women’s basketball history to earn multiple player of the year honors from league coaches.
Howard’s honor gives Kentucky five SEC Player of the Year honors since 2010, tied for the most in the league during that stretch with South Carolina. UK and USC have claimed 10 of the last 12 player of the year honors with Tennessee and Mississippi State each claiming one during that time span. UK’s honors have been claimed by three different players in Victoria Dunlap, Mathies and Howard.
Howard, who is the only power five conference player in the nation averaging over 19 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game with at least 40 steals and 70 assists, is having another banner season for the Wildcats. The only player in the SEC currently leading her team in scoring, rebounding and assists, Howard is averaging 19.8 points per game with 7.5 rebounds per game. She is leading Kentucky with 73 assists and ranks second on the team with 44 steals and third with 16 blocks. In league action, Howard averaged 21.6 points per game with 7.9 rebounds per game with 54 assists and 31 steals.
Her best performances this season have come against the best teams in the nation. In 10 games against ranked opponents, Howard is averaging 21.2 points per game, hitting 46 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3 with 6.9 rebounds per game and 3.2 assists per game. Howard scored 33 points at No. 12 Mississippi State, hitting four 3s with 10 rebounds and six assists. She scored 25 points in the fourth quarter and overtime against the Bulldogs, scoring 25 of UK’s last 31 points, including 10 of 14 in overtime.
Other impressive performances on the biggest stage include 32 points with seven rebounds, three assists and two steals against No. 5 South Carolina and 24 points with four 3s, 10 rebounds and four assists against No. 10 Arkansas. She also posted 22 points against No. 13 Indiana and at No. 8 Texas A&M. Most recently, Howard took over for Kentucky at No. 17 Georgia with 27 points, four rebounds, four steals, two assists and went 4-of-4 from 3.
Howard’s career is already one of the best in program history with still games remaining this year and her senior season in 2021-22. In 79 career games, Howard has hit at least one 3 in 69 games, including 16 games this season. She has posted 10 or more points in 70 career games, 15+ in 56 games, 20+ in 41 games, 25+ in 23 games and 30+ in six games – including three times this season. The guard has led UK in scoring in 50 career games, in rebounding in 43 career games, in assists and steals in 26 career games and blocks in 29 career games. She has 17 career double-doubles, including six this season.
For her career, Howard has scored 1,553 career points sitting 10th in UK history in points scored. She needs 10 more to tie Sara Potts for ninth. Howard is the second player in school history to reach 1,500 career points prior to their senior season with the other being All-American and UK all-time leading scorer Valerie Still.
Patterson, who is a semifinalist for the Naismith Women’s Defensive Player of the Year award, has had an impressive senior season for UK, ranking top-five nationally with 70 steals and top-15 nationally with 3.0 steals per game. Her impressive steal total this season has moved her up to seventh in program history in steals per game with over 2.26. The Houston native has started all 23 contests, averaging 13.2 points per game on 48.5% shooting from the field. She is hitting 37.5 percent from 3 and has dished out 62 assists this season.
The guard has recorded seven or more steals four times this season, including four or more steals in three Southeastern Conference games. Patterson is the only player in the SEC this season to record eight or more steals in a game, doing it an impressive three times. On the year, Patterson has led UK in scoring five times, assists seven times and steals 13 times.
The speedy guard has put her name all over the UK record book this season becoming the third player in school history to score at least 30 points in a season opener. She is also the third player in program history to record 10 or more steals in a game while her and Nichols are the only players to record eight or more steals in three or more games in a season.
Recently, Patterson had one of her best games of the season against top-20 ranked Tennessee, scoring 21 points with five rebounds. She went 5-of-8 from the field and 3-of-4 from long range in the game with a steal.
Howard, Patterson and No. 17 Kentucky will return to action Thursday in the second round of the SEC Tournament. The Wildcats received the fifth seed in the event and will play the winner of 13 seeded Auburn and 12th seeded Florida on Thursday at approx. 1 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on SEC Network. The tournament is taking place this weekend in a limited capacity Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina.
The LEX18 team will continue to cover this story and the Kentucky women's basketball team's post-season run weeknights at 7:30 on BBN Tonight, as well as on all of your favorite social media platforms: