#14 Kentucky falls to #1 South Carolina, 67-58

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (UK Athletics) – Rhyne Howard scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, but the 14th-ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team fell to No. 1 South Carolina 67-58 on Sunday afternoon at Memorial Coliseum.

Facing one of the nation’s best defensive teams, Kentucky struggled on offense in Sunday’s contest. The Wildcats made 16 of 54 (29.6 percent) of its shots from the field, including six of 15 (40 percent) from beyond the arc.

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Kentucky (20-6, 9-5 SEC) turned the ball over 12 times and forced 12 turnovers in the game. South Carolina dominated points in the paint, with a 38-14 advantage in that category.

Kentucky scored first when KeKe McKinney nailed a three from the corner just 28 seconds into the game. After South Carolina got a basket from Aliyah Boston, Howard hit a pair of free throws to build the UK lead to 5-2. The Gamecocks would get a baseline jumper from Mikiah Herbert Harrigan to cut the lead to one before the Cats got consecutive baskets from Howard and Jaida Roper to grab a 9-4 advantage.

South Carolina would score the next six points to lead for the first time, 10-9, but Amanda Paschal’s jumper gave UK an 11-10 lead just 23 seconds later. A pair of Howard free throws gave the Cats a 13-10 lead, but a 17-1 South Carolina run, including 15 straight points, gave the Gamecocks a 27-14 lead after one period of play.

The Gamecocks scored first in the second period on a runner by Lele Grissett before Paschal hit a jumper to put an end to the run and make the score 29-16. After South Carolina’s Zia Cooke hit a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 31-16, Kentucky scored nine in a row on a layup by Howard, a three from McKinney and a pair of layups by Ogechi Anyagaligbo, to get within six, 31-25, with 4:47 left in the half.”

After three consecutive South Carolina free throws, Howard hit a left-side three to get the Cats within 34-28 with 2:58 left in the half. But the Gamecocks would close the half on a 6-2 run to take a 40-30 advantage into the break. Howard led all scorers with 12 points in the first half.

South Carolina started the third period on a 5-1 run to lead 45-31. But Kentucky would hang tough, getting back within 10 at 47-37 with 5:05 to play in the quarter. After Herbert Harrigan hit a pair of free throws, Roper was fouled on a three and hit all three charity tosses to get the Cats within nine, 49-40, with 4:37 to play in the third.

Trailing by nine, the Cats had a possession to get even closer, but Howard missed a contested jumper and South Carolina rebounded, then converted on the other end when Cooke hit a driving layup to give the Gamecocks a 51-40 advantage. Those points would be the first of a 9-1 South Carolina run that would give the Gamecocks a 58-41 lead with 1:05 left in the third period. South Carolina would hold a 59-43 advantage heading to the fourth quarter.

Kentucky scored first in the final period when Sabrina Haines hit a three from the top of the key. After South Carolina’s Destanni Henderson hit a runner, McKinney hit another three for the Cats, cutting the deficit to 61-49. From there, the two teams would go cold, with Kentucky missing eight straight shots while South Carolina missed six in a row.

South Carolina’s Harris ended that run with a driving layup that gave the Gamecocks a 63-49 lead with 4:14 to play. Howard would keep the Cats within striking distance, making four straight free throws to make it 63-53 with 2:32 to play.

UK would get within eight, 63-55, on a pair of Nae Nae Cole free throws, but South Carolina had an immediate answer, on a driving layup by Cooke with 1:57 to play, that gave the Gamecocks a 65-55 advantage.

Kentucky returns to action on Thursday, hosting Georgia at Memorial Coliseum. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on SEC Network Plus.

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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.