NASHVILLE - All-American Rhyne Howard scored 24 points, grabbed nine rebounds and dished out seven assists as the Kentucky women's basketball team won its ninth straight game, beating Tennessee 83-74 in the semifinals of the 2022 SEC Women's Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena.
With the win, Kentucky advances to the championship game for the first time since 2014. The Cats will face top-seeded South Carolina for the title on Sunday.
Howard had plenty of help in Saturday's win. Robyn Benton scored 16 points, hitting four three-pointers, while freshman Jada Walker scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds for UK. Treasure Hunt scored 11 for the Cats as well.
Kentucky (18-11) continued to shoot the ball well from long range. The Cats hit 12 of 24 (50 percent) from behind the arc on Saturday, while Tennessee hit just three of eight (37.5 percent).
The Cats started off very quickly in the game, making its first four shots from behind the arc. The Cats got threes from Howard, Walker, Walker again and Hunt to grab a 12-3 advantage early. Then, Jazmine Massengill hit a basket to give the Cats a 14-3 lead and force a Tennessee timeout.
Tennessee would work themselves back into the game with an 8-3 run, making it 17-11. But Howard would score five points late in the period and the Cats would lead 22-13 after 10 minutes of play.
In the second period, Tennessee continued its attempt to chip into the UK lead. The Lady Vols opened the period on a 9-4 run to get with four, 26-22.
The Lady Vols would eventually get within two, 36-34, but the Cats finished the half on an 8-3 run to lead 44-37 at the break. Howard had 11 points at the break and Walker had 10.
Early in the third period, Tennessee appeared poised to take the lead. The Lady Vols went on an 8-2 run to get within one, 46-45, with 6:46 left in the period. But Kentucky would not surrender the advantage. The Cats got a basket and free throw from Howard, a jumper from Massengill, a layup from Dre'una Edwards and a three from Benton, mounting a 10-2 run that gave UK a 56-47 lead.
Tennessee would only be able to get back within seven for the rest of the period and the Cats would lead 61-53 with 10 minutes left to play.
Kentucky scored the first two points of the fourth period on two Howard free throws. But the Lady Vols scored the next eight points, cutting the UK lead to 63-61 with 8:34 to play. UK would end the run on a Hunt three, extending the lead to 66-61.
After UT cut the lead to three, Kentucky scored on a three by Benton, a Massengill layup and a Howard layup, extending the lead to 73-63 with 4:37 remaining.
Tennessee would not go away quietly. The Lady Vols scored the next six points to get within four, 73-69, with 3:56 to play. But Kentucky, as they did the entire game, had the answer. The Cats went on a 10-2 run to go up by 12 with under a minute left.