UK Women's Basketball

Kentucky women’s basketball rallies for runaway win in first road test of the season

On Sunday, the University of Kentucky women’s basketball team faced its first road test of the season. After a slow start, the Wildcats rallied for an ace.

Spurred by a big game from senior guard Amanda Paschal, Kentucky knocked off Middle Tennessee State, 67-52, to improve to 2-0 on the year.

The Wildcats struggled to find their offense early, hitting just two of 12 shots from the field in the first quarter as they fell behind 10-8. UK took its first lead, 14-12, on Paschal’s jumper in the lane early in the second quarter. She knocked down a pair of free throws with less than one second left in the first half to send the Cats to the locker room with a 22-18 lead.

Paschal finished with a team-high 16 points and six rebounds, making five of eight shots from the field — including her only three-point attempt.

Kentucky blew the game open with a 13-0 third-quarter run that included three-pointers by Rhyne Howard and Sabrina Haines. The Cats led by as many as 23 points in the period.

UK was once again able to lean on its defense while searching for its offensive footing. The Wildcats held the Blue Raiders to 38% field-goal shooting, including a 1-for-12 mark from three-point range, and they forced 20 turnovers which they converted into 22 points. UK also won the rebounding battle 42-32.

“Really, really proud of our team for not letting our poor offense affect our defense,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said on the UK Radio Network postgame show. “I just thought (there was) a lot of hustle. Holding them to 18 points in the first half … Just a big-time performance by our team there.”

After Middle Tennessee (1-1) opened the fourth quarter with a 5-0 run that cut the lead to 12, Mitchell called a timeout. The Wildcats responded with a 7-0 run that included another three-pointer from Haines, pushing the advantage to 62-43 with less than six minutes to play.

It was a tough night for Howard, UK’s sophomore star. She finished with nine points and made just two of 10 shots from the field while dealing with foul trouble. But her teammates picked up the scoring slack.

Senior forward Ogechi Anyagaligbo pitched in 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Haines finished with 12 points, knocking down four of six three-pointers. The redshirt senior, playing her first season with the Wildcats after transferring from Arizona State and sitting out last year, said the Cats knew they had to find a new gear after halftime.

“Third quarter coming out of halftime is absolutely huge. The first five minutes sets the tone,” she said. “We really came out strong and we got a bunch of turnovers and made a bunch of shots. We really felt good and we turned it up. Coach really challenged us to turn it up and we did that.”

Next game

Stetson at No. 13 Kentucky

7 p.m. Wednesday (SEC Plus)

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Josh Sullivan has worked at the Herald-Leader for more than 10 years in multiple capacities, including as a news assistant, page designer, copy editor and sports reporter. He is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Lexington native.