The Kentucky women’s basketball squad moved to a 1-0 record today as they defeated Murray State 86-60 to begin their 2020 regular season.
UK was not at full strength this afternoon, as the school announced junior forward Rhyne Howard (first two games) and senior forward Tatyana Wyatt (first three games) would be suspended for violation of team rules just an hour before the game. This was rather big news specifically because of Howard’s importance to the team, as she is the nation’s leading returning scorer with 23.4 points per game last season and earned multiple preseason awards.
Their absences were not as impactful today, however, mostly because of the efficiency in which senior guard Chasity Patterson played with. The Texas transfer poured in 30 points (8/13 from the field and 12/13 from the free throw line), tying the record for most points in a season opener by a UK player and just two away from tying her career high. She also finished with six rebounds, three assists and a career-high seven steals.
“I knew I had to step up in scoring,” Patterson said. “Everybody’s good, I feel like everybody stepped up.”
Kentucky as a whole has built a foundation on defensive pressure through recent seasons, and they once again capitalized on that end today, forcing 32 turnovers and scoring 40 points off those takeaways. Those numbers were nice to interim head coach Kyra Elzy, but she still felt the defense could have been more intense, specifically in the rebounding category which UK lost 48-43.
“Fundamentally we did some things that I’m not happy about…there are some things that we can fix,” she said.
This was the first game as the head coach for Elzy, as she replaced former coach Matthew Mitchell who retired a few weeks ago following brain surgery in the summer. Mitchell had a 303-133 record in 13 seasons at Kentucky, including nine NCAA Tournament appearances and 11 top-four finishes in the SEC standings. Elzy has seemed to captivate her players from moment one since she took over despite the sudden loss of Mitchell, even with suspensions and constant yelling across the floor.
“She was ready…she has always held her own. I really enjoyed her being head coach,” forward Blaire Green said.
Kentucky will look to build onto their momentum from this victory once again without Howard or Wyatt on Sunday as they face Belmont in Memorial Coliseum at 4 p.m. on the SEC Network.