Freshman Rhyne Howard made a basket to force overtime then clinched the victory with a free throw as the University of Kentucky women’s basketball team defeated UCLA 75-74 on Friday at the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
With the victory, Kentucky improved to 6-0 on the season, winning for the second day in a row at the Paradise Jam. On Thanksgiving Day, Kentucky knocked off 17th-ranked South Florida.
Howard finished with a team-high 20 points, and also contributed seven rebounds and six steals for Kentucky. Maci Morris added 17 points, and Taylor Murray had 16. Kentucky outscored UCLA 9-8 in the overtime, with Howard’s free throw with 3.1 seconds remaining securing the win.
The Wildcats got the job done Friday despite being shorthanded. Ogechi Anyagaligbo sat out the game with an injury, and starter Tatyana Wyatt played only one minute before leaving with an injury.
“Really proud of those two kids for trying, but we didn’t have them and we had some combinations that quite frankly, we hadn’t worked a whole lot on, but gutted it out to find a way to win,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said in a news release.
UCLA took the lead 66-64 in the nip-and-tuck contest on a put-back by Michaela Onyenwere with 21 seconds left in regulation. Howard forced overtime when she rebounded her own miss with two seconds left and scored the tying bucket.
In overtime, Kentucky twice built its lead to four points before the Bruins closed the gap. Howard broke the final tie by sinking one of two free throw attempts with 3.1 seconds remaining. UCLA had one last chance, but Japreece Dean’s jumper fell short.
“Huge shots. Just really, really proud, and hey, how about the last shot in regulation. Rhyne (Howard) was able to get that back in the goal, and just huge,” Mitchell said. “So, shot-after-shot that we made was not a work of art today or a masterpiece by any means, but it’ll look really good on our record.”
One-time UK signee Lindsey Corsaro had seven points and nine rebounds for UCLA (3-3), which was led by 28 points from Onyenwere.
Kentucky will wrap up play in St. Thomas on Saturday when the Wildcats take in North Carolina at 1 p.m. EST. Like Kentucky, North Carolina (5-1) is also 2-0 in the Paradise Jam, having defeated UCLA 83-49 on Thursday and South Florida 71-69 on Friday.
“We showed up today and found a way to win and that’s exactly what we need to do tomorrow,” Mitchell said.
Kentucky vs. North Carolina
What: Paradise Jam
Where: St Thomas, Virgin Islands
When: 1 p.m.
Live stream: FloHoops.com (subscription required)
Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.5