No. 15 Kentucky returns to winning column against Alabama in Rupp Arena


Kentucky Wildcats forward Tatyana Wyatt (14) shoots from under the basket during the University of Kentucky vs. Alabama women’s basketball game on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 81-68. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Eric Decker

It wasn’t Memorial Coliseum, but the Cats did feel good to be back at home after the debacle down in Knoxville last Sunday.

The No. 15 Wildcats (12-4, 5-3 SEC) were able to get back to winning ways in Lexington Thursday night, defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 81-68 in Rupp Arena behind strong contributions from a litany of different players.    

“Absolutely, I’d love to have that every game” Kyra Elzy said postgame when asked about her team’s all-around performance. “[We had] four players in double figures… shoot 52% from the field, 55% from the three. Yeah, we’ll take that.”

In what may not be much of a shock considering how the men’s team has performed offensively, Rhyne Howard seemed to fill the net in Rupp better than any other Wildcat. The All-American hit her first three shots of the night – two of those from three-point territory – to tally eight points in the first quarter. The junior ended with 16 points on 60% shooting while grabbing eight rebounds and serving a career-high-tying seven assists, not needing anything other than more pregame practice to get acclimated to.  

“It’s always big to play in [Rupp Arena]. I feel like it brings more energy,” Howard said after the game. “We can get more fans in there. It’s just great overall. We get extra shots up because we need to get adjusted because, like I said, we don’t play in there all the time.”          

First year transfers have played such a vital role so far this season in keeping Kentucky amongst the elite in the SEC. Amongst the chatter Dre’una Edwards, Robyn Benton and Jazmine Massengill have garnered, a familiar face – for those who have watched this team closely the past few seasons – had been lost. Until tonight.          

A mainstay in the Wildcat starting five for Matthew Mitchell last season, Tatyana Wyatt appeared to lose her role. After missing the first three contests of 2020 due to a violation of team rules, she has only seen ten minutes per game under Elzy, averaging just one point and one rebound per appearance.

But without indication, Coach Elzy decided to insert the senior into the opening lineup for the first time this evening, citing a want for Wyatt to rise to the occasion. Recording nine points and a block in 16 minutes of action, it’s clear she got the message.          

“I wanted a lineup change [and] Tatyana brings us the experience,” Elzy said. “She has a high basketball IQ. When she is feeling her best, she makes our offense more dynamic. I challenged her to step up today and I think she answered the call.”           

Massengill provided an integral spark off the bench for the Cats, setting or matching her season bests with seven points (year-high), seven assists (year-high matching) and six boards (year-high). She also notched a rejection of her own.

Kentucky finishes up its brief homestand this weekend, as Missouri comes to the bluegrass to face the Cats at Memorial Coliseum for their only matchup of the season. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. E.T. on Sunday. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network.