Last night, UK’s women’s basketball team faced off in a rematch against rival Tennessee. After a disappointing loss in Knoxville a few weeks ago, the Cats dominated the No. 17 Lady Vols 71-56. Kentucky’s victory was powered by strong showings in the second and fourth period, a stifling defensive performance and a big night from a new starting backcourt mate alongside Chasity Patterson.
Both teams came out slow offensively, with neither team shooting over 50% in the first quarter. The Cats came out fighting in the second though, with Patterson knocking down shot after shot UK a comfortable 37-26 lead at halftime.
In the third, the Wildcats went cold again, allowing Tennessee to come from 15 down and go up by one. Rae Burrell scored 15 of her 22 points in the third quarter to carry the Lady Vols to their 47-46 margin after three, outscoring Kentucky (nine points) in the frame by herself.
But the Cats dominated the fourth period, reversing their quarter three fortune in large part to phenomenal shooting from Patterson and Jazmine Massengill. The Cats went 5-5 from three in the fourth, totaling 25 points to just nine for Tennessee to get the win.
Massengill and Patterson’s performance last night may be a sign of good things to come for the Cats backcourt. With head coach Kyra Elzy elevated Massengill to starting point guard and moving Patterson to shooting guard, the Cats offense exploded. The two combined for 32 points and six made three-pointers, allowing Patterson to take less of a facilitating load and look for more opportunities to attack.
“A big key to [starting Massengill was] trying to get Chasity to play more free,” Coach Elzy said during the postgame press conference. “One thing that she can undeniably do is put the ball in the basket. But when the ball is in her hands for 40 minutes and she has to think, it slows her scoring. When Jazmine is in the game it frees [Chasity] up.”
Defensively, the Cats gave the Lady Vols a performance that was 40 minutes of hell for them UK forced turnover after turnover to drive Tennessee’s offense into a rut, ultimately finishing with 11 steals and five blocks on the night. Rhyne Howard, who only went 4-of-13 from the field, affected the game in other areas with seven of those steals, six assists and seven rebounds, again proving her overall value to the team.
All of these factors led to a big night as Kentucky looks to close out its last five games on a good note. If the Cats can keep their rhythm and step up their paint defense, they’ll have a good chance at an impressive SEC and NCAA tournament run.