LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Rhyne Howard scored 26 points and led a third-quarter surge that sent No. 18 Kentucky over No. 6 Mississippi State 73-62 victory on Sunday.
Howard had 11 points to help the Wildcats (19-5, 8-4 Southeastern Conference) outscore the Bulldogs 22-9 in the third period. Amanda Paschal and Howard hit consecutive 3-pointers as Kentucky closed the quarter on an 8-0 run.
Howard was 10 of 22 from the field and grabbed 10 rebounds in her second outing since missing the previous three games with a left finger injury. Chasity Patterson made 6 off 11 off the bench and Jaida Roper had 14 points as the Wildcats avoided their first losing streak this season.
Kentucky led 61-41 early in the fourth before Rickea Jackson’s 10 straight points helped MSU (22-4, 10-2) get within 10. Roper let the Wildcats maintain a safe cushion with six consecutive points down the stretch.
Jessika Carter had 18 points, Jackson 16 and Andra Espinoza-Hunter 12 off the bench for the Bulldogs, who had won their previous six. MSU had sought its third consecutive win over a ranked school.
Mississippi State: A fast start gave way to missed shots and turnovers that forced the Bulldogs to play from behind for the rest of the game. Carter provided a lift in the second, but MSU was outhustled in the third and didn’t shoot a 3. The Bulldogs entered the game averaging 80 points and outscoring opponents by an average margin of 22 points.
Kentucky: A heavily bandaged left hand didn’t affect Howard as she made big jumpers and grabbed rebounds. The Wildcats endured several cold spells that allowed the Bulldogs to close the gap, but their big lead provided a cushion that Roper maintained with clutch plays in the final minutes.
Mississippi State visits Auburn on Thursday, seeking a season sweep of the Tigers. The Bulldogs won the previous meeting 78-73 on Jan. 30.
Kentucky visits Mississippi on Thursday before hosting No. 1 South Carolina on Sunday.