Cats comeback falls just short against the Cards, 80-75

Rhyne Howard scored 25 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out a career-high six assists, but the 19th-ranked Kentucky women's basketball team lost for the first time this season, falling to No. 5 Louisville 80-75 on Sunday at the KFC Yum! Center.

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (UK Athletics) – Rhyne Howard scored 25 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out a career-high six assists, but the 19th-ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team lost for the first time this season, falling to No. 5 Louisville 80-75 on Sunday at the KFC Yum! Center.

Kentucky (9-1) trailed by as many as 18 points in the game before a late rally came up just short against the highly-ranked Cardinals.

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For Howard, it was the 10th straight double-figure scoring effort to start her UK career and her third double-double of the season. Senior Taylor Murray had 18 points for the Cats, while fellow senior Maci Morris added 11.

The Cats held a 32-28 advantage on the boards, and Kentucky scored 20 second-chance points, compared to just six for Louisville. But the Cards protected the ball, which was the difference in the game. Kentucky was forcing 26.9 turnovers per game, third-best in the nation, entering Sunday’s contest. But the Cards only had seven turnovers in the game, and were able to hit 56.4 percent (31-55) of their shots.

Kentucky got on the board almost immediately, with Howard hitting a layup just six seconds into the game. The game would be tied at 2-2, 4-4 and 7-7 before Louisville scored five straight to lead 12-7. But Kentucky answered, with Howard scoring the next six points to give UK a 13-12 lead with 6:17 left in the first quarter.

The game was tied twice more in the period, at 14-14 and 16-16. With U of L leading 18-16, the Cats got a three-pointer from Tatyana Wyatt to lead 19-18 with 2:53 left in the first. But the Cards would score the last six points of the period to lead 24-19 after 10 minutes.

In the second period, Kentucky was able to cut into the Louisville lead, eventually getting within two points at 26-24. The Cards extended the lead to 30-24 before Murray nailed a three-pointer to cut the lead in half, 30-27, with 4:50 left in the half. But, as they did in the first period, Louisville closed the period well, outscoring the Cats 6-2 the rest of the half to lead 36-29 at the break. Howard led Kentucky with 12 points in the first half.

Louisville (10-0) extended its lead in the third quarter, using a 13-6 run to lead 47-33. U of L would take its biggest lead, 18 points, on two occasions in the third quarter. Kentucky would get within 13 points twice, but the Cards held a 67-52 lead after three periods.

In the fourth quarter, the Cardinals extended the lead to 17 points, 71-54, before the Cats made a furious run. Kentucky scored seven in a row to cut the lead to 71-61 on a layup by KeKe McKinney with 5:45 to play. The Cats would get even closer when Murray drilled a three-pointer from the left corner to make it 73-66 with 3:43 to play.

Kentucky kept chipping away, cutting the advantage to four points on a pair of Howard free throws with 27 seconds left in the game, and again on a runner by Morris with seven seconds left. But the comeback ran out of time before the Cats could catch U of L.

Louisville All-American guard Asia Durr led all scorers with 32 points.

Kentucky returns to action on Saturday, hosting Middle Tennessee at Memorial Coliseum. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on SEC Network+.

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Austin Miller joins ABC 36 Sports Team as a Sports Reporter and Weekend Anchor. Austin is from the Louisville area and graduated from St. Xavier High School in 2008. Austin graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a second concentration in German. While at IU, Austin was a blogger at Kentsterling.com and co-host, producer and engineer for WIUX, the school’s student radio station. Before coming to ABC 36, Austin was a news videographer at WLFI in West Lafayette from 2012-2015. While working with WLFI, Austin had the chance to cover the Purdue Boilermakers. He then accepted a Sports/New Reporter position at Local 4 KSNB-TV in Hastings Nebraska and was eventually promoted to sports full-time as the Weekend Sports Anchor/Reporter. While at KSNB-TV, Austin covered the University of Nebraska, the University of Nebraska-Kearney and Hastings College. After spending nearly six years away from home, Austin is excited to return to the Bluegrass State to cover the teams he grew up watching. In his spare time, Austin enjoys playing basketball, working out and cooking. If you have any story ideas or would like to say “Hello,” you can reach Austin by email at amiller@wtvq.com or direct message him on Twitter @AustinMillerTV.