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This week in the SEC: Kentucky Wildcat Rhyne Howard is all hiss and no meow

The freshman guard helped the Wildcats to a conference-best 12-1 record to earn her fourth Freshman of the Week award in a seven-week-old season. Plus, Tennessee and Mississippi State were handed their first losses and Auburn is emerging as a quiet conference contender.

Freshman Rhyne Howard has come up big for Kentucky this season.
Courtesy of Kentucky Wildcats Women’s Basketball

Freshman guard Rhyne Howard has earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors for the fourth time in this season, and the season is only seven weeks deep.

Against Murray State on Friday, Dec. 21, Howard scored a game-high 25 points in 24 minutes in No. 18 Kentucky Wildcats88-49 demolition of Murray State. But that was not the first time that Howard has come up clutch to carry Kentucky to the win column. Here’s a roundup of Howard’s accomplishments in this young season — by the numbers:

  • 1 three-pointer made in every game this season
  • 4 — games scoring 25 points or more
  • 5 — games scoring 20 points or more
  • 6.8 — average rebounds per game (team-high)
  • 7 — times team-high scorer
  • 13 — blocks this season (ranked second on the team)
  • 18.5 — average points per game (team-high)
  • 30 — steals this season (ranked second on the team)
  • 34 — three-pointers made this season (shared team-high)
  • 12 — games scoring in double figures (out of 13 played)

The Wildcats sit atop the SEC with a 12-1 record. Their one loss of the season came against then-No. 5 Louisville. But Kentucky has defeated a ranked team this season (then-No. 17 South Florida at the Paradise Jam on Thanksgiving Day) and eked out wins in close games against feisty competitors. Also, at the Paradise Jam, the Wildcats got a one-point win over UCLA and a 10-point win over North Carolina.

Kentucky’s matchups into the New Year should be easy cruising. But on Jan. 6, the Wildcats get another tough test against a top-10 team during conference play: the No. 4 Mississippi State Bulldogs (SEC Network).

SEC games of the week

A week before conference play begins, there are no hotly-contested matchups for teams in this conference — just contests against sub-par teams unlikely to pull any upsets. But here’s the week’s schedule, and stay tuned for a preview of the conference season!

Elsewhere in the SEC:

  • The Player of the Week award for Week 7 goes to Auburn senior Janiah McCay, who averaged 18 points for the week and helped the Tigers to three wins in five days. Auburn has quietly compiled an 11-1 record to take the No. 2 spot at the top of the SEC standings.
  • The No. 4 Mississippi State Bulldogs were handed their first loss of the season courtesy of Sabrina (Ionescu) & the Dream Killers (more commonly known as the No. 7 Oregon Ducks). Anriel Howard had another big performance, scoring a game- and career-high 30 points in the 82-74 defeat. The Bulldogs do not play again until Dec. 30, and they do not face a challenge until conference play begins Jan. 3 against Arkansas (7 p.m. ET / SEC Network).
  • No. 9 Tennessee Lady Volunteers were handed their first loss of the season, at home, to No. 8 Stanford on Tuesday, Dec. 18. The Lady Vols never recovered after falling behind by 10 points at the half, resulting in the 95-85 defeat, a drop to fourth in the SEC standings on a 9-1 record and a probable slide down the AP rankings as well. The Lady Vols’ next challenge is against unranked Auburn in conference play (Jan. 3 at 7 p.m. ET / SEC Network Plus).
  • The No. 25 South Carolina Gamecocks are now tenth in the SEC. They commanded an 88-60 victory over Temple on Friday, Dec. 21. Although the win is a likely confidence booster, it means little coming against the Owls, who have a 3-7 record for the season and remain last in the American Athletic conference. But the Gamecocks get another genuine test very soon during conference play — first up, the No. 23 Texas A&M Aggies, on the road (Jan. 3 at 9 p.m. ET / SEC Network).

Click here for more on SEC women’s basketball.