3:06:29 12-05-2021MerrimackKentuckyWBB

Kentucky Wildcats guard Robyn Benton (1) drives the ball into the paint during the UK vs. Merrimack women’s basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 90-56. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

No. 16 Kentucky (6-1) defeated Merrimack (2-5) 90-56 in Memorial Coliseum to increase their win streak to four games.

Four Wildcats secured double-digit point totals, led by Rhyne Howard who scored 21. Howard’s performance leaped her into fourth all-time in scoring in UK history, passing Makayla Epps and Leslie Nicholls.

“It means I’m working hard,” Howard said after the game. “It’s just great to be able to have fun while I’m doing it and still achieve these goals and accomplish all of these accolades while helping my teammates.”

Jazmine Massengill also cracked double-digits for the first time this season, going off for 13 points in the win. Her previous season high was eight against Presbyterian in the Wildcats’ season opener.

“[My teammates] just told me to shoot the ball,” Massengill said. “Even though I’m a pass-first point guard, they definitely tell me to [shoot.] It’s validating to keep up my assist average while also scoring points. It’s been about being more confident in myself and seeing that I can do more than just pass first.”

Kentucky entered the match off the cusp of their biggest win of the season, defeating West Virginia 83-60 at home. Howard led the Wildcats to victory, accumulating 27 points en route to the win.

Kentucky came out firing early, quickly jumping ahead 19-5 with a 14-0 scoring run that forced a Merrimack timeout.

The first quarter ended with Kentucky out-scoring the Warriors 21-12, with the Cats shooting 50 percent from both the field and beyond the arch.

Kentucky continued to add to their lead early in the second, but a 6-0 scoring run by Merrimack forced Kentucky head coach Kyra Elzy to call a timeout.

“I thought we were playing careless,” Elzy said. “We didn’t take care of the ball and we didn’t have the intensity that I was looking for offensively or defensively. That’s what led to us having nine turnovers [in the first half].”

Despite the issues in the second quarter, Kentucky entered halftime ahead by 15, making  5 of their last 7 attempts in the half.

Howard accumulated 14 points in the first half, while Kentucky continued to make over half its attempts from the field.

The third quarter was once again dominated by the Wildcats, with UK winning 19-12 to take a 22-point lead into the final quarter. 

Dre’una Edwards scored six points in the period, securing her third consecutive double-double.

The final quarter saw the most dominant single-quarter performance of the day by Kentucky, out-scoring the Warriors 25-13. Kentucky only recorded three turnovers in the second half, just a third of what they recorded in the first.

“We did take care of the ball better in the second half,” Elzy said. “We did some good things, it’s just as a coach you always think about the things you go back and learn from and to grow from.”

By the time the final buzzer sounded, Kentucky had tallied 30 assists for the first time since the 2015 season. They maintained their shooting percentage, finishing over 50 percent from the field on 67 attempts.

Kentucky returns to action this Thursday, Dec. 9, in Memorial Coliseum, hosting the DePaul Blue Demons. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. and is set to air on the SEC Network.