Jaida Roper has career night in Cats’ win over Winthrop


Kentucky senior guard Jaida Roper guards the inbounds pass during the exhibition game against Southern Indiana on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 80-44. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Eric Decker

Sometimes a sixth woman coming off the bench can catch opponents off guard. 

Senior guard Jaida Roper lived up to that title and dropped a career-high 30 points as the Cats cruised past the Winthrop Eagles (1-5) with a 91-36 victory in a change of venue at Rupp Arena on Wednesday night.

The 91 points are the most Kentucky has scored in a game this season.

Roper tied her career high of 15 points before the first quarter even finished shooting a perfect 6-6 from the field. She ultimately doubled that by the end of the game recording 30 points on 12-13 shooting. That 92 percent shooting percentage was tied for the third best shooting percentage for a single game in Kentucky history (min. 10 shots).

The undefeated No. 14 Wildcats (10-0) started off exceptionally shooting 8-11 from three-point range in the first quarter. Even with a 32-12 lead there was a slight cause for concern.

Star sophomore Rhyne Howard seemed to step on somebody’s shoe and tweak her ankle early into the game. The SEC Player of the Week recipient from the past week returned quickly and ended up playing through it for the rest of the first half, recording 12 points with a perfect 4-4 mark from deep.

UK coach Matthew Mitchell made the decision to sit her for the second half with Kentucky holding a comfortable lead and an important matchup against the No. 7 ranked Louisville Cardinals coming up on Sunday.

“She stepped on somebody’s shoe there early in the game, so you saw she played well in the first half, just an abundance of caution. Didn’t want to try to aggravate it, she could’ve gone and would’ve gone, just trying to be really cautious there.” Mitchell said. 

It was a historic night for the Cats as well when they hit 11 3-pointers in the first half. This tied them for the most in team history for a first half, matching the total made by Kentucky in 1993 when they did it against Detroit.

The Cats offense cooled off in the 3rd quarter when they only scored two points in the first four minutes of the half. This drought included Roper’s only miss of the night.

Kentucky’s offense returned to form in the fourth, shooting 62% for the quarter. The fourth included another scare when guard Sabrina Haines seemed to hurt her knee while pressing a Winthrop ball handler. She was able to walk off the court on her own.

Roper capped off her night in the final seconds by converting a 3-point play to reach the 30-point mark.

“I was just real focused; I came here earlier and got some shots up. I was just feeling good,” Roper said.

The Cats will prepare for the Battle of the Bluegrass when they face Louisville back at Rupp Arena this Sunday at 1 p.m.