NASHVILLE – All-American Rhyne Howard scored 32 points as the seventh-seeded Kentucky women’s basketball team topped second-seeded LSU 78-63 on Friday night in the quarterfinals of the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena. The win was Kentucky’s eighth in a row.
With the win, Kentucky advances to the SEC Tournament semifinals where they will meet the winner of Friday’s last quarterfinal between Tennessee and Alabama.
Howard hit 11 of 18 from the floor, including six of eight from behind the arc, and made all four of her free throws on her way to 32 points. It was the 10th time in her career that Howard has scored at least 30 points. In addition, she had three rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
Dre’una Edwards had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Treasure Hunt had 13 points for the Cats.
Long-range shooting was one of the big keys to Friday’s win for Kentucky. The Cats hit nine of 19 (47.4 percent) from behind the arc, while LSU made just three of 10 (30.0 percent) of its long-range shots.
Kentucky (17-11) got off to a very quick start, with jumpers by Jazmine Massengill, Walker and Howard, taking a 6-0 lead early on. LSU would answer with a 6-2 run to cut the UK lead to 8-6 before Walker scored again, this time on a layup, to make it 10-6 Cats with 4:48 left in the first.
After LSU cut the lead to two, Kentucky went on a three-point barrage, hitting four in a row, part of a 14-2 run that gave the Cats a 24-10 lead. Howard hit the first three three-pointers, followed by a three from Robyn Benton, as the Cats ended the first quarter in style, leading 25-13. Howard had 13 points in the period for Kentucky.
Hunt got things started for Kentucky in the second period. First, she drove to the basket and missed but she got her own rebound and put it back in. Then, on UK’s next possession, Hunt hit a right-wing three, giving the Cats a 30-13 advantage.
LSU would get a basket to cut it to 30-15 but the Cats got another three from Hunt, beginning a 9-2 run that gave Kentucky a 39-17 advantage with 5:37 left in the first half. LSU would score four straight but UK got a Benton basket to extend the lead back to 41-21 with 4:03 left in the half.
Kentucky would maintain that margin, leading 45-25 at the half. Howard had 19 points in the first 20 minutes and Hunt had 11. UK hit eight of 13 (61.5 percent) from behind the arc in the first half.
In the third period, LSU began chipping away at the Kentucky lead. The Tigers opened the half on a 6-2 run to make it 47-31. Kentucky would stretch the lead back to 20 points, 53-33, on a layup by Edwards and another by Hunt. But LSU mounted it’s biggest rally of the game, outscoring UK 13-2 over the course of about four minutes, to get within nine, 55-46, with 1:27 left in the third. The Cats would lead 57-46 with 10 minutes to play.
Early in the fourth quarter, Kentucky was about to rebuild the lead. Kentucky went on a 9-2 run to take the lead back to 18 points, 66-48. Howard had five points in the run, including her sixth three-pointer of the game.
LSU would answer with a run of its own. The Tigers scored eight of the next 10 points to get back within 12 points, 68-56, with 4:20 remaining, but they would not get any closer.
Saturday’s semifinal between Kentucky and either Tennessee or Alabama will tip off at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU.