LEXINGTON, Ky. – The 19th-ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team used a big second half to beat USC-Upstate 67-44 on Sunday afternoon at Memorial Coliseum.
All-American Rhyne Howard scored 17 of her 22 points in the second half, leading the Cats to a win in their final non-conference game of the regular season. Howard added four assists, three rebounds and six steals in the game.
Kentucky (7-3) got 13 points from freshman Jada Walker, and 11 points each from Jazmine Massengill and Dre’una Edwards, who also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
The Cats outscored the Spartans 41-21 in the second half. For the game, UK forced USC-U into 27 turnovers and the Cats turned those miscues into 38 points. Kentucky also held advantages in rebounds (39-30), points in the paint (38-26) and fast-break points (12-0).
USC-Upstate (8-3) took the early lead while Kentucky struggled out of the gate. The Spartans made three of their first seven shots, while the Cats had two missed shots and three turnovers on their first five possessions. It all added up to a 7-0 USC-Upstate lead inside the first three minutes of the game.
Kentucky got on the board when Walker hit a jumper from the left side, cutting the deficit to 7-2 with 6:44 left in the first period. The Cats would cut it to three on a basket by Edwards but USC-Upstate would score the next five points to extend the lead to 12-4 with 3:35 left in the first.
Both teams went cold after that, and the period would end with the Spartans leading 14-5. Kentucky made just two of 15 (13.3 percent) of its shots in the first quarter.
The Spartans started the second period by extending the lead to 16-5 on a Hannah Roberts basket in the lane. But the Cats responded with a run. Howard converted a layup on a pass from Edwards, Jazmine Massengill scored at the bucket, Edwards make a jumper and Howard drilled a right-wing three as the Cats scored nine in a row to cut the deficit to 16-14 with 7:05 remaining in the half.
Kentucky would tie the game at 16 apiece on a Walker layup but USC-U quickly took the lead back on a Jada Logan baseline jumper. The Spartans would extend the lead to 20-16 on Denijsha Wilson layup.
USC-Upstate would lead 21-18 before the Cats rallied to take the lead for the first time. Walker made a layup, followed by an Edwards jumper, giving UK a 22-21 advantage. Edwards would put back her own miss to give the Cats a 24-21 lead. The Cats would lead 26-23 at the half.
In the third quarter, Kentucky was able to extend its lead early on two free throws by Walker and another by Massengill, giving UK a 29-23 advantage. The Spartans would cut it to 29-26 on a three from Roberts, then the teams would exchange baskets, making it 31-28 UK with 5:48 left in the third.
That’s when the Cats made the biggest run of the game. Kentucky went on a 18-0 run, keyed by 13 points from Howard, to lead 45-28 with 2:02 to play in the third. UK would outscore USC-Upstate 5-2 over the remainder of the period, closing out an impressive 23-2 run, to lead 54-30 after three quarters.
Kentucky would extend the lead to as many as 30 in the fourth quarter before settling for a 23-point victory.
Kentucky will return to action on Dec. 30, opening SEC play on the road at Auburn. The Cats and Tigers will tip at 8 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on SEC Network Plus.