2:41:24UKvsGeorgiaSECWBB

Kentucky Wildcats guard Rhyne Howard (10) falls after putting up a shot during the UK vs. Georgia women’s SEC Tournament basketball game on Friday, March 5, 2021, at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina. UK lost 78-66. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Kentucky’s tip for its matchup with Iowa was 3:30 p.m. E.T. Unfortunately, the Cats didn’t get the memo, not really showing up before garbage time during the Hawkeyes 86-74 beatdown of them on Tuesday afternoon.

Just as it did versus Idaho State on Sunday, UK opened the game with a whimper. The Wildcats did not snag a single one of the game’s first five rebounds and missed their first eight shots before Blair Green connected on a contested right elbow jumper. By that point, Iowa was up 11-0.

The offense picked up in the middle of the period, but the well quickly ran dry. Kentucky failed to hit on any of its final six attempts of the opening frame, and ended the quarter on a 3:15 scoreless drought. Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes put up a 21 spot on the back of standout freshman guard Caitlin Clark’s 11 points, nine of which came from three treys on her first three three-point attempts. Clark’s scoring output matched UK in the first quarter, and had the Cats in a ten-point hole through the first ten minutes.

The tune continued when the clock reset for the second quarter. When Clark wasn’t knocking down three’s – a rare sight – the Hawkeyes were feeding 6-foot-3 center Monika Czinano on the low block. Kentucky maintained its ineptitude on both ends, leading to an embarrassing 49-22 halftime score. Clark had an astounding 24 points – more than the Cats had total – five rebounds and four assists at the break, and appeared well on her way to exceeding her 26.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game.

Unlike the first round, their whimper didn’t morph into a roar. Instead, it persisted. The Cats had zero energy, and looked disinterested. Iowa answered every Kentucky basket in the first 2:30 of quarter three. The Wildcats finally showed some bite behind its bark after that, going on an 11-0 run to trim the margin to 16 from the 7:16 mark to 4:48. But a blown wide-open layup from Dre’una Edwards led directly to an and-one opportunity for Clark, sparking a 13-5 stretch to push the deficit back to 24 and sapping any remaining hope of a comeback.

The Cats primary defensive weakness, interior scoring, again proved to be a cause for their downfall. Kentucky hemorrhaged buckets at the rim, allowing 44 points in the paint. The Hawkeyes finished 35-for-60 from the floor (58%), including 10-of-18 (56%) on three-pointers.

Rhyne Howard paced the Wildcats with 28 points – 14 in the fourth quarter – eight assists and six steals; Edwards notched 16 points and five rebounds. Clark recorded 35 points, seven rebounds and six assists in 37 minutes of action. Czinano ended her day with 14 points and eight boards. Jazmine Massengill and McKenna Warnock each scored 10 points to be the third leading scorer for their respective squads.

The Cats shot just 35% from the field, buoyed by a 10-for-19 showing in the final period. Through three quarters, they stood at only 29% (16-of-55).

Kentucky ends its season with a record of 18-8, flaming out in its second contest just like it did in the SEC Tournament. Rhyne Howard and company head back to Lexington looking forward to a full offseason where they can further integrate some of their newer pieces from this season – such as Treasure Hunt, Jazmine Massengill and Robyn Benton – into next year’s attack and build chemistry for a deep run in 2021-22.