No. 14 Kentucky struggle without stars; fall 94-85 to DePaul in Rupp Arena


Kentucky Wildcats guard Rhyne Howard (10) guards an inbounds pass during the UK vs. Merrimack women’s basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 90-56. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Cole Parke

No. 14 Kentucky (6-2) fell short on Thursday night in Rupp Arena, losing to DePaul (8-2) 94-85. The Cats were without their two leading scorers for a majority of the contest. 

Just over an hour before tip-off, Kentucky announced that leading rebounder and second leading scorer Dre’una Edwards would not play against the Blue Demons due to a one-game suspension for “failing to uphold the academic standards of the team.”

Edwards averaged close to 20 points per game (18.9) and recorded a double-double in three separate games this season. The redshirt-junior forward had started every game of the season prior to Thursday.

In Edwards’ absence, freshman Jada Walker was awarded her first start of her collegiate career. Though she finished with 18 points, her career high as a Wildcat, she went 7-18 from the field and 0-2 from beyond the arch.

Walker wasn’t the only Wildcat to struggle from deep, however, as UK shot 0-14 on 3-point attempts. It was the first time the Wildcats had played a game without a single made 3-pointer since March 8, 2019, against Missouri.

“Our shot just wasn’t falling,” Kentucky guard Robyn Benton said. “There’s really no better way to put it. [Playing in Rupp Arena] is no excuse. At the end of the day a basketball goal is a basketball goal.”

Benton led all scorers with 22 points, just one point short of her career high. The guard shot 11-15 from the field, the best percentage of any Wildcat on five or more attempts. All four of her misses came from beyond the arch.

Leading the Cats in scoring was unfamiliar territory for Benton this season prior to tonight, with either Edwards or star senior guard Rhyne Howard leading the charge in every other game.

Howard was absent for much of the game tonight due to foul trouble. Howard scored a total of 12 points, with six of them coming from the free-throw line. While being a 38-percent 3-point shooter, Howard also went 0-2 from deep against DePaul. Howard finished the game with four fouls, one away from fouling out.

“She had some tough breaks tonight, but that’s part of the game,” UK head coach Kyra Elzy said about Howard’s performance. “We have to be able to adjust. She’s smart enough to know what she needs to do in that situation and you’ve just gotta go back to her and trust [that she can do it.]”

The loss was the second of the season for Kentucky and its first against unranked competition. 

Kentucky will once again be faced with quick turnarounds, as they will play three games in a week beginning this Sunday. 

The Wildcats will travel just up the road into a hostile environment to battle the Louisville Cardinals on Sunday, Dec. 12, in the KFC Yum! Center. The game is set to tip-off at 1 p.m. E.T and will go live on ESPN as a part of the Jimmy V Classic.

“We just gotta get our minds right,” Benton said. “We know this is a rivalry game. We know we’re going into a hostile environment. We’re looking to bounce back.”