As part of its weekly superlatives, espnW has named University of Kentucky women’s basketball head coach Kyra Elzy its national coach of the week and junior guard Rhyne Howard its national player of the week. espnW writer Mechelle Voepel selected the honors and the full article can be found here.
It was an impressive week overall for Kentucky (9-1, 2-0 Southeastern Conference), who began its first week of league action under Elzy with back-to-back wins over top-15 ranked opponents. After starting with a 75-64 win over No. 10 Arkansas, the Wildcats claimed an overtime thriller Sunday at No. 12 Mississippi State, 92-86. It was the first time since December 2013 that UK has defeated consecutive top-15 ranked opponents and the first time ever that UK has accomplished the feat against SEC opponents.
The Wildcats won both games in different ways, defeating Arkansas with its best defensive performance of the year, while it claimed the win against Mississippi State with an impressive offensive performance. Against Arkansas, UK held the Razorbacks to a season-low tying five 3s and a season-low in points. Arkansas was limited to less than 20 points in every quarter for the second time on the year.
Against Mississippi State, UK scored 92 points, going over 90 for the second time this season. The Wildcats recorded 15+ assists for the fourth straight game and won the rebounding margin for the sixth straight game. UK hit 10 3s against Arkansas and followed with a season-best 14 against Mississippi State – the first time this season it has hit 10 or more 3s in consecutive games. The Wildcats had a season-high eight blocks against Arkansas. In all, five different UK players scored in double figures during the week.
Howard continued to show why she is the best player in women’s college basketball, leading Kentucky in scoring in both games. In the league opener vs. Arkansas, Howard scored 24 points with 10 rebounds, adding four 3s made and four assists. The 24 points was a season high before she paced Kentucky at No. 12 Mississippi State with 33 points, adding 10 rebounds, six assists, a block and a steal. Against State, Howard put the team on her back late in the game scoring 25 of her 33 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. In fact, Howard scored 25 of Kentucky’s final 31 points in the game, including 10 of the team’s 14 overtime points.
Howard is the first player in school history to score at least 33 points with 10 rebounds and six assists against an SEC opponent and the second player to accomplish the feat against any opponent, joining Belitta Croley. The native of Cleveland, Tennessee, had two double-doubles on the week, which were her second and third double-doubles of the season. Howard also led UK in assists in both games, while her eight 3s made during the week moved her up to fourth all-time in program history in 3s made in a career.
The preseason favorite for national player of the year, Howard has lived up to the hype so far in 2020-21, leading Kentucky with 18.8 points per game and adding 7.3 rebounds per game. The guard leads Kentucky with 23 3-pointers made and is second on the team with 29 assists and 14 steals. In two league games, Howard is averaging 28.5 points per game with 10.0 rebounds per game and is 8-for-13 from 3 with 10 assists.
Howard continues her move up the career record book at UK, ranking fourth all-time in career 3-pointers made with 181, while her 1,308 career points scored ranks 21st all-time. With 10 more points, Howard will move into the top 20 all-time, passing Bria Goss.
This is the second espnW National Player of the Week honor for Howard, who also earned the honor in January 2020 following an impressive week of action. Howard was also named the CollegeSportsMadness National Player of the Week on Monday.
‑ GO CATS –
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