Howard, Patterson lead No. 18 Kentucky women in NCAA opener

Rhyne Howard and Chasity Patterson scored 14 points apiece and No. 18 Kentucky grinded out a 71-63 win over Idaho State on Sunday in the opening round of the women’s NCAA Tournament.

The game wasn’t offensively pleasing until a wide-open fourth quarter. The Wildcats, the fourth seed in the River Walk Region, took an opening punch from the 13th-seeded Bengals and then battled back.

The Bengals had 31 points through three quarters and 32 points in the fourth, outscoring Kentucky by eight.

Blair Green added 10 points for the Wildcats (18-8), who face fifth-seeded Iowa in the second round on Tuesday in a matchup of Howard and the Hawkeyes’ Caitlin Clark, the nation’s leading scorer at 26.7 points per game.

Though Howard, one of the four finalists for the Naismith Trophy, was held well below her 22.3 scoring average, she had nine rebounds, five assists, four steals and a block.

Diaba Konate led the Big Sky Conference champion Bengals (22-4) with 16 points before fouling out in the middle of the fourth. Dora Goles added 14 points, 11 in the fourth quarter, and Callie Bourne had 10 with 10 rebounds. Idaho State, in its fourth appearance and first since 2012, was looking for the conference’s first NCAA win since Montana in 1995.

The Bengals had the Wildcats on their heels in the first period with Konate leading the defense on Howard, limiting her to two points and three turnovers, as well as the offense with 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Kentucky trailed by as many as 10 and 18-12 at the end of the quarter with more turnovers (seven) than field goals (four).

The Wildcats ramped up the defense in the second quarter, holding the Bengals to 2-of-13 shooting with six turnovers to lead 30-24 at the half. It was more of the same in the third with Idaho State going just 3 of 12 with six turnovers, falling behind 47-31.

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More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/Womenscollegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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