Kentucky womens basketball defeats Vanderbilt 69-65; secures third-straight victory


Kentucky forward Dre’una Edwards (44) watches the ball during a free throw during the UK vs. Vanderbilt womens basketball game on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 69-65. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Cole Parke

Kentucky womens basketball (12-11) defeated Vanderbilt (12-15) 69-65 inside Memorial Coliseum on Thursday, securing the third consecutive victory for the Wildcats.

The win marks the first time Kentucky has won three consecutive games since beating Merrimack on Dec. 5, and marks the first time the Wildcats have had a three-game win streak entirely in SEC play since Jan. 2020.

Junior forward Dre’una Edwards led the Cats in scoring for the second game in a row, finishing with 20 points and seven rebounds, her third-straight 20-plus point performance.

“Dre is so versatile,” Kentucky head coach Kyra Elzy said. “Inserting her does make us a different team. I like her on the floor at any time, whether she starts or comes off the bench, she’s going to play. We need her energy: she has that fire and passion, and we need that on both ends of the floor.”

Senior point guard Jazmine Massengill finished with 10 points and nine assists, just one away from her first double-double of the season.

“[Elzy] has been hard on me, and she told me that I had more in me,” Massengill said. “That made me want to dig a little deeper and rise to the challenge. Her being hard on me has definitely made me grow.”

Senior guard Rhyne Howard also shined in the win, finishing with 17 points, shooting 6-11 from the field. Howard also drained three deep balls, adding to Kentucky’s total of eight made 3-pointers in the winning effort.

While the final stretch saw Kentucky control the game and finish on top, that was not the story of the game’s entirety, with the Cats trailing for nearly 20 minutes after going down early.

After Howard drained a shot from beyond the arch on Kentucky’s first possession, UK recorded six straight turnovers to allow a 10-0 Commodore run.

While the Cats were able to break up the run, they continued to struggle holding onto the ball, recording eight turnovers in 14 possessions.

“I thought we were casual with the basketball,” Elzy said. “We talked about it in shoot-around, we had to make hard flashes to the middle and meet the pass. I think we were taking it up the sideline and that’s an easy place to get trapped.”

Kentucky was able to clean up its act going forward, totaling just 10 turnovers in the other three quarters of play.

With the win over the Commodores, Kentucky split the series with Vanderbilt, losing in Nashville on Jan. 27, part of its 1-8 skid from early January until the Feb. 13 win over Alabama.

The change in result is in large part thanks to the Cats boasting a full roster, having nine players take the court on Thursday in Lexington, as opposed to just six players dressed in Nashville.

“We had our full roster available instead of just six people,” Elzy said. “[In the last game] this was a team that was struggling and they made us pay for it. We went to the film, made some adjustments that we needed to make, and it paid off for us.”

Kentucky checks in above .500 in the overall record for the first time since its prior loss to Vanderbilt that saw them fall to 9-8.

While beating the Commodores in Lexington doesn’t bolster Kentucky’s resume in any significant way, the Cats are still NCAA Tournament hopefuls, now one game closer to winning out and still needing a strong SEC Tournament showing to make a case.

Kentucky returns to action this Sunday, Feb. 20, on the road against Arkansas, with the game scheduled to tip-off at 2 p.m. EST.