Kentucky snagged a nice road win at Kansas State last night, defeating the Wildcats 60-49 behind a dominant fourth quarter in which they outscored their opponent 17-8.
National Player of Year candidate Rhyne Howard made her debut after sitting out the first two outings due to a suspension, but the preseason SEC Player of Year struggled to find a rhythm offensively, finishing with eight points on 3/14 shooting from the floor including 0/7 from three.
Due to her offensive struggles, Kentucky had to rely once again on role players to step up and lead them to victory. Sophomore forward Dre’una Edwards finished with her second straight double-double, scoring a team-high 16 points and adding 12 rebounds (7 offensive). She is the first UK player with at least 16 points and 12 boards in consecutive games since Evelyn Akator back in the 2016-17 season. She also led the team for the second time this season with four steals.
“Dre is extremely talented. She’s still learning, playing a little too fast offensively at times, but I like her aggressiveness. She’s started to slow down and she finished in the second half. She has power, she can pick-and-pop, so her versatility does help. But defensively I thought she did a great job with their bigs and obviously helped us on the offensive boards,” UK Head Coach Kyra Elzy said.
Speaking of boards, Kentucky out-rebounded Kansas State 40-32, including 16-8 on the offensive glass. Edwards and junior foward Keke McKinney combined for 11 offensive boards, showing a physical presence that the Cats have lacked a little bit in recent seasons.
“We really challenged the team to be relentless on the offensive boards, send four (players) to the boards. Dre (Edwards) and Keke (McKinney) really led the charge. Any time you can get second chance opportunities, those are big, especially the ones that you capitalize on,” Kyra Elzy said.
UK has also gotten plenty of effort from Auburn transfer Robyn Benton, who has shown to be a leader on the team both offensively and defensively. Against Kansas State, Benton totaled 11 points on 4/10 shooting (2/6 from three) along with snagging five boards and three steals.
“She can just make plays, and what I love about her is she is willing to make plays on both sides of the floor. She made some key defensive stops, she’ll get on the floor, but offensively she had a big three tonight when we were down and out and had nothing going,” Kyra Elzy said.
The Cats next go up against No. 13 ranked Indiana on Sunday, December 6 in Memorial Coliseum. The game will be televised on ESPNU.