LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Kentucky women’s basketball senior guard Taylor Murray (pictured) has been named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week while freshman guard Rhyne Howard has been tabbed the SEC Freshman of the Week, completing a UK sweep of the league office’s weekly honors for the first time since 2011.
Murray, who was tabbed College Sports Madness’ National and SEC Player of the Week on Monday, has earned the honor from the league office for the first time in her career. Murray is the first UK player to earn player of the week honors since Evelyn Akhator in 2017. This is Howard’s second time to win the freshman of the week honor in just three weeks. Howard is the fifth player in program history to earn multiple freshman of the week honors from the league office, joining Carly Ormerod, Victoria Dunlap, A’dia Mathies and Bria Goss.
Tuesday’s honors mark just the second time in program history that UK has swept the weekly honors from the league office. The only previous time it was accomplished was on Dec. 6, 2011 when Mathies was named player of the week and Goss was tabbed freshman of the week.
The honors come after Kentucky has started its season 7-0 for the first time since 2015-16, including a 3-0 run through the Island Division of the 2018 Paradise Jam. At the event, UK posted wins over No. 17 South Florida, rv/rv UCLA and North Carolina, who was receiving votes to start the year. Howard was named the MVP of the event after leading UK in scoring all three days and averaging 21.0 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game. Murray was tabbed to the Island Division All-Tournament Team averaging 18.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.3 steals per game during the event.
Murray had an incredible stat line against North Carolina with a season-best 23 points, 10 assists, seven steals and six rebounds. The performance against North Carolina was her first double-double of the season and the sixth of her career, while the 20-point game was the seventh of her career. Murray started the week with 17 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals against South Florida before 16 points, three rebounds, three assists and a steal against UCLA.
Murray’s performance last week moved her up to 29th all-time in scoring at UK with 1,070 career points while her 10 assists against UNC moved her into the top 10 all-time at UK in career assists with 358. For the season, Murray ranks second in scoring at 15.6 points while pacing the squad in assists and steals.
Howard was just as impressive at the event, starting the week by scoring 18 points with three rebounds and two 3s against highly ranked South Florida. She was the star for Kentucky against UCLA, scoring 20 points with seven rebounds, including game-tying layup off an offensive rebound at the end of regulation to send the game to overtime. The native of Cleveland, Tenn., also hit the game-winning free-throw in overtime. Howard’s best game came in UK’s 13-point second-half comeback against North Carolina, scoring 25 points with a season-best 12 rebounds adding three steals. The double-double was the first of her career while it was her third 20-point scoring effort of the season. She went 4-for-6 from long range against UNC and hit eight 3s overall on the week. Howard leads Kentucky early on in scoring, rebounding and 3-point shooting averaging 18.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.0 3-pointers per game.
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught