COLUMBIA, S.C. – Rhyne Howard scored 28 points, but the 13th-ranked Kentucky women's basketball team fell to No. 4 South Carolina 99-72 on Thursday night at Colonial Life Arena.
Howard's 28 points are the most she has ever scored in a Southeastern Conference game. Thursday was also the third straight game in which the sophomore from Cleveland, Tennessee has scored at least 25 points.
Kentucky (11-2, 0-1 SEC) got a career high 15 points from Chasity Patterson and 13 points from Amanda Paschal. But the Cats faced a significant disadvantage in height, and the Gamecocks took advantage, outscoring UK 60-24 in the paint and winning the rebounding battle 40-20.
South Carolina grabbed an early 3-0 lead, while Kentucky was missing its first six shots. The Cats got on the board on a floater by Howard that cut the deficit to 3-2, but South Carolina scored the next six points to grab a 9-2 advantage and forcing a Kentucky timeout. The Gamecocks eventually led 11-2 before Howard drilled a three to make it 11-5.
After South Carolina made it 13-5, Howard made another three to cut the lead to 13-8. The Gamecocks would stretch the lead to as many as 12, including at the quarter break, which found South Carolina leading 24-12. The Gamecocks scored 18 of their 24 points in the paint in the first quarter.
Howard scored the first points of the second period, but the Gamecocks would continue to extend their lead. South Carolina used a 7-2 run to lead 31-16 with 7:13 to play in the half. After another Howard three, South Carolina scored four straight to lead 35-19. The Gamecocks would lead by 24 before KeKe McKinney hit a three with eight seconds left in the half to make the score 49-28 at the break. Howard led all scorers with 13 points in the game's first 20 minutes.
In the third period, USC would take its biggest lead, 53-28, but Kentucky would not go away. With the Gamecocks leading 61-37, the Cats would score five consecutive points to cut the deficit to 61-42. Kentucky would get within 18 when Paschal hit a pair of free throws with 2:43 left in the period to make it 66-48. But South Carolina would close the stanza on a 13-4 run to lead 79-52 after three quarters.
South Carolina scored the first six points of the final period to take its biggest lead, 85-52, with 8:12 to play. UK would continue to fight and would be able to cut into the lead before falling to the Gamecocks.
Kentucky returns to action on Sunday, hosting Tennessee at Memorial Coliseum. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. and the game can be seen on ESPN2.