Kentucky basketball: Short-handed Lady Cats rally together to top Vandy

Vanderbilt Commodores
Kentucky Wildcats

Short-handed Kentucky women’s basketball gets back to their winning ways.

The Kentucky Women’s basketball team finally got back on track Sunday at home against Vanderbilt beating the Commodore’s 80-73 despite playing very short-handed including All-American Rhyne Howard.

The No. 12 ranked Lady Cats (10-3, 3-2 SEC) had found themselves in uncharted territory losing two in a row, first at No. 4 Texas A&M then at home to No. 8 South Carolina.

In a game that was all but even through three quarters, the Kentucky women were able to pull away from Vandy in the fourth quarter for an 80-73 win sparked by junior Blair Green who led Kentucky with 22 points in a career-high 39 minutes on the court.

What Kentucky didn’t know was it would be the final game for Vanderbilt (4-4, 0-3) has called the season quits due to countless injuries, and Covid-19 causing players to opt-out of the year.

The Lady Cats were without three players Robyn Benton, Jazmine Massengill, and Kameron Roach for COVID protocol.

Of course, Kentucky is still without star guard Howard. The junior is still day to day recovering from a left ankle injury. Kentucky was kept afloat by a balanced scoring attack with five Wildcats in double figures. Howard has been an integral part of the team’s success averaging over 20 points per game, and as such is a difficult piece of the machine to replace.

Senior guard Chasity Patterson spoke on what it means not to have Howard.

“Definitely was big for us. We knew we had to have other people step up in this game because we were down almost half of the team. So, coming into this game, we had to step up and the bench players had to come in and they did a great job. Credit to Treasure (Hunt), Emma (King) and all those who came up and stepped up today.”

Other people stepping up is exactly what the doctor ordered, with Green setting a new career-high in points, surpassing her old mark of 13 points.

Green, a native of Harlan County was lights out from the field hitting seven of 10 shots, including 4 of 5 from behind the arc, and 4-6 at the foul line. She added five rebounds, two steals, and an assist in the game. She drained a key three down the stretch that helped seal the win.

She spoke afterward about the confidence she has in herself.

“I was feeling pretty hot on my shot. My teammates kept giving it to me. They believe in me and I was confident so it was a good night.”

Green wasn’t the only player who had a big night, Dre’Una Edwards, Patterson, Treasure Hunt, and KeKe McKinney were the other fantastic four to reach double figures for the Cats.  Patterson, a senior guard, netted 16 points while grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out seven assists.

First-year head coach Kyra Elzy has to be excited about the production she has gotten thus far top to bottom with her team, and how they’ve been able to overcome adversity in the young season.

Elzy spoke after the game about her team’s strength.

“You know, our message was consistent all game. You know, we have to dig in. It’s going to take everybody. We cannot panic. We had to get some stops on the defensive end, one shot and out, push the ball in transition. But, the biggest message, do not panic. We have been here before, we are battle tested, we have enough players on the floor that can make plays, and that showed tonight.

The Lady Cats will find themselves back in action Thursday, and once again looking to take advantage of a far inferior opponent in Auburn (5-7, 0-4) who remains winless in SEC play, Tip-off is set for 8:30 pm and can be seen on the SEC Network.

It will be the 51st all-time meeting between Kentucky and Auburn, with the Lady Cats behind in the series, 24-26. The Tigers lead the series in games played in Auburn, 11-10, but UK has won 15 of the last 18 meetings in the series, with all three of Kentucky’s losses in that stretch taking place in Auburn.

In Lexington last year Howard fractured her finger and was out the following three games. Let’s hope no more injuries occur tonight. It’s unclear which players will be back in the lineup.

The SEC also announced Kentucky’s game with No. 25 Tennessee has been rescheduled for Sunday with a 2 pm tip on ESPN2.