Howard, Edwards lead No. 16 Kentucky past West Virginia

The two UK stars combined for 46 points and 17 rebounds in 83-60 victory

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ/UK ATHLETICS) – All-American Rhyne Howard had 27 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals as the 16th-ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team topped No. 23 West Virginia 83-60 on Wednesday night at Memorial Coliseum.

Dre’una Edwards also had a big game for the Cats. The Compton, California, native had 19 points, 10 rebounds and a career high six blocked shots for Kentucky. That marked the most blocked shots by a UK player since Alexis Jennings blocked six against Oklahoma in the NCAA Tournament on March 21, 2016.

Kentucky (5-1) also got 13 points and four rebounds from freshman Jada Walker.

The Cats hit 29 of 57 (50.9 percent) from the floor in the game, including 11 of 19 (57.9 percent) from behind the arc. West Virginia connected on 23 of 62 (37.1 percent) of its shots, including four of 11 (36.4 percent) from three-point range.

Kentucky had a 21-5 edge in second-chance points, a 20-14 advantage in bench points and UK had 17 points off WVU turnovers.

The Cats, and specifically Howard, scored the first five points of the game. West Virginia would score the next five, before Edwards gave UK a 7-5 lead on a jumper in the lane with 6:45 left in the period.

After Edwards put UK ahead 9-7, WVU took its first lead on a Kirsten Deans three with 5:01 left in the first. But Kentucky got a basket from Olivia Owens and a three from Howard to lead 14-10 with 3:47 remaining in the first.

But the Mountaineers closed the first period on a 7-2 run and led 17-16 after 10 minutes of play.

Early in the second quarter, WVU took a 19-16 lead on a pair of Esmery Martinez free throws. But the lead lasted just 27 seconds as Treasure Hunt tied it at 19 apiece with a right corner three-pointer.

West Virginia would grab a 23-21 lead before Jada Walker had a spectacular 10 seconds. First, she a hit a wide open three from the right side to give UK a 24-23 lead. Then, just seconds later, Walker stole the inbounds pass, laid it in and was fouled. She missed the free throw but Walker’s five points in 10 seconds gave UK a 26-23 lead with 5:42 left in the half.

Walker’s play seemed to inspire the Cats. Including her five points, the Cats went on an 11-2 run that gave Kentucky a 32-25 lead with 3:19 to play in the half.

After WVU got a basket from Martinez, Howard hit a three to extend the UK advantage to 35-27. WVU would get two free throws before Jazmine Massengill hit a three to give UK its biggest lead, 38-29, with 2:38 left in the half. The Cats would lead 40-31 at the break.

With the first possession of the second half, UK went to Howard and she delivered with a basket in the paint to extend the lead to 42-31. UK would hold a 46-36 lead before WVU got five in a row from Deans to cut the lead to 46-41 with 6:43 left in the third.

Kentucky would respond by making four of six free throws, the last three by Howard, to lead 50-41 with 5:10 left in the third. Then, Howard nailed a three from the top of the key to give the Cats a 53-41 advantage. Edwards would score in the lane on UK’s next possession, the final points of a 9-0 run that gave the Cats a 55-41 lead.

The Cats would finish the period on a 7-2 run and took a 62-45 advantage into the final stanza.

Kentucky opened the fourth quarter by extending the lead even more. UK got two layups from Walker a a jumper from Robyn Benton to lead 68-45 with 8:34 to play. Then, Edwards nailed a three from the right side to make it 71-45, completing a 9-0 run to begin the period. West Virginia would get within 21 but could get no closer.

Deans led WVU with 20 points, while Martinez had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Kentucky returns to action on Sunday, hosting Merrimack at Memorial Coliseum. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on SEC Network Plus.

To view the UK-West Virginia box score, click here.

Here are postgame comments courtesy of UK Athletics:

Kentucky Head Coach Kyra Elzy
On her team’s performance …
“I thought this was a great team win. I thought our team came out energized, I thought they were focused. We played well together. They followed the game play. Great job by coach Niya Butts who had the scout. And they followed it to a ‘T’ and we had a lot of success because of it tonight.”

On multiple players who can shoot three-point shots …
“Well, it’s really hard to guard. We’re very versatile and it’s dangerous when your five (center) on the court can step out and hit threes and Dre was three for four tonight. We got some threes in transition but also off dribble penetration and kick. So, that is an equalizer. For us to be able to knock those down, it’s a great night for the Cats.”

On half-court defense …
“We really focused this week on our half-court defensive execution, helping outside the paint, getting the rotation, finishing our defense with a box out. Our ball screen defense, West Virginia runs a lot of ball screens, so staying in the right coverage, which was a step forward for us, then our half-court execution. Those are both things we worked on so I am proud of our progress.”

On half-court execution …
“I don’t know if it clicked. It clicked tonight, so we’re going to take it. Let’s hope it continues to click. Every day, you learn and you go back to the practice floor, it’s an opportunity to get better. We’ll learn from this game as well. One thing I did think, we slowed down. We couldn’t find a good balance, we were either too fast or too slow but I thought we hit a good medium speed today.”

On rebounding …
“Forty-three to 28, I’m super proud. That’s one of the things that we talked about – committing to finding a body and boxing out. I thought our players did that. And 13 offensive rebounds for us.

But before we go any further – things that don’t show up on the stat sheet – our post group did a phenomenal job tonight. I thought Olivia Owens came in, set some monster screens and rolled hard to the basket, which opened up some outside shots. Welcome back Nyah Leveretter. I thought she gave us some energy defensively, offensive rebounding. And Treasure Hunt, I thought she took a step forward defensively and going to get offensive rebounds. Super proud of our post group.”

On having more healthy bodies …
“It’s great to have everybody back. We want everybody healthy, so let’s hope we can stay here. It’s good to have everybody back. It gives us a good rotation, it allows us to have breathers and it lets us play harder without resting.”

On Jazmine Massengill …
“She’s a veteran point guard. She understands the pace, she understands the offense, what we’re looking for. She is the coach on the floor. She has a calming presence about herself. She’s one of our leaders, they follow her. Has a great basketball IQ. Has a good pace about herself. Proud of her.

Assist to turnover ratio is something very important to her. I was teasing her before the game. She said ‘coach, I’m doing good on my assists.’ I said ‘you’re doing great but I want more. I want you to get to 10 points. I’m going to keep pushing until we get that.’ But, her playing aggressive offensively in transition makes us different.”

On freshman Jada Walker …
“Jada is a special freshman. She is a competitor. She brings that fire and energy that we need and she can score. She plays downhill and she only knows one speed and that is fast and hard. So, we ran (isolations) to her and I was like ‘Jada, if you don’t have it, you can kick it out and we’ll run a four-out’ and she said ‘I can get there, coach.’ And she finished. So when her number is called, she’s going to finish and that’s special, to have a freshman to be able to do that.”

On Jada Walker’s competitive spirit …
“I think the energy she brings is contagious. She’s not going to back down. They look to her for the energy. When she comes in the game, she helps us step up defensively because of the energy she brings. She brings heat to that ball and that’s what we need from her. I think her energy is contagious.”

Kentucky Student-Athletes
#3, Jazmine Massengill, Senior, Guard
On whether she considers herself a pass-first player this season…
“My teammates and my coaches get on me constantly about being more aggressive and shooting the ball more. That’s something I’m constantly working on and constantly being told, it’s not ideal for me to just shoot three. They definitely want me putting up a lot more shots than that. I am a pass-first point guard, but I’m working on being more aggressive for the rest of the season.”

On being a team leader on the court…
“It is definitely important for me. My coaches and my teammates hold me to a really high standard. So, I’m just doing my job and doing it to the best of my ability.”

On being trusted to have full control of the offense…
“I’m glad Coach Elzy has a lot of faith in me. My teammates have a lot of faith in me. I pride myself on not turning the ball over and putting my teammates in positions to score. So, her [Coach Elzy] saying I was the starting point guard in June, just gave me a lot of confidence.”

#10, Rhyne Howard, Senior, Guard
On playing with energy…
“Yeah. When we get hype, our fans are coming right behind us getting hype, so the whole gym is just hype, going against the other team. So, it’s just more for us to carry on and more for us to push.”

On the West Virginia coach expecting Rhyne to make shots, but not the rest of the team…
“I don’t know why he thought that. That’s why they lost. If you come out focusing on one person when the other four can do stuff, it’s never going to go your way.  I have a lot of confidence in my teammates and everybody, and I’m going to give them the ball and they’re going to shoot it.”

You scored a season-high 27 points tonight. How validating is it to score that much against a Power Five team like West Virginia?
“I mean it’s validating, but like not to be cocky, I can do that day in and day out, honestly. That’s honestly like a normal night for me, I would say. But as far as hitting shots, I was open, my teammates found me. They had the confidence in me, they were feeding me. I didn’t want to let them down. I don’t want them to be like, ‘dang, she not finishing? I don’t want to pass it to her anymore,’ because they count on me to score. They’re counting on me to lead them.

#44, Dre’una Edwards, Redshirt Junior, Forward
On having Jazmine Massengill run the offense….
“We want Jazz to shoot more. Like she said, we tell her that all the time, but I love that she is a pass first point guard. I just know I’m not going to get any dumb plays from her. You know, like some stuff that we could get mad at. Like we know at the end of the day, she’s not going to shoot any dumb shots and she’s going to do what she has to do. She is going to get us the ball when we need the ball. So, I like it.”

On drastically out-rebounding every team they play instead of just tonight…
“We can, we just have to start somewhere, you know. But like she said, we honed in on rebounding a lot today and I just knew that was something I wanted to focus on personally. Regardless of if I got the rebound or not, just making sure that they didn’t get the board, they didn’t get any offensive boards. That’s what I was honing in on myself for.”

On playing defense mostly in the half court tonight and if they may have unlocked something as a team..
“Yeah, personally, I think we did. Not just this game, but in practice we’ve been working on it a lot, and just a lot of constant communication with each other and the coaches. They’re telling us this is something that we got to focus on. Kentucky is built on defense, so we got to go after it and get after it, and I think we focus on that a lot in practice. So, that’s been helping us.”

West Virginia Head Coach Mike Carey
Opening remarks…
“We did not play how I wanted us to. They hit a lot more threes then I thought they were going to hit. They pounded us on the boards, and they were more physical. I’m very disappointed in our team, we just weren’t physical with them. We didn’t put a body on them, or keep them off the board. We gave them too many chances.”

On what surprised him the most about how Kentucky played…
“Howard is a great player. We knew she was coming in. We just didn’t expect the rest of them to hit all of those threes. That kind of surprised us. We did stop the penetration and then when they put it up on the rim, they rebounded it. We had plenty of second chances. We didn’t do a good job one and out.”

On not matching Kentucky’s intensity in the second quarter…
“The one stretch where we didn’t get the ball and bounced, we fouled them, they got a three-point play and scored like 5-7 straight points. That really turned it a little bit.”

On the continuation of losing intensity…
“I’ve never not seen our team play aggressive like that. We were not aggressive, we were not physical and that is something that we’re known for.”

On there being something in particular that caused them to play the way they did…
“No, if I knew the answer. I don’t have the answer, I don’t know. We’re playing a lot of girls; nobody should be that tired. We just didn’t execute on both ends. I’ll give them credit, they did.”

On the possibility of fatigue being why WVU didn’t play so well…
“It might have looked like it. How many times did they get the rebound over our back? It wasn’t a foul, we didn’t step back. We just weren’t physical. We just let them rebound right over our backs or take it into the post and get it blocked. Instead of going into their chest and drawing a foul or getting a referee to make a call. Or, here’s an idea, maybe ball fake once in a while. I mean that’s an idea but we didn’t do any of that

On what he thinks of Rhyne Howard
“She’s a great player. She’s a 6-1/6-2 guard that can shoot the three and take you off the dribble. I said coming here that she’s probably one of the top five players in the country. She’s a great player.”

On KK Deans injury struggle during the game and his knowledge of it…
“I don’t know. It wasn’t bad. She was well enough saying that she wanted to go in, so it must’ve not been that bad.”

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