Kentucky Wildcats' Rhyne Howard suspended 2 games for 'not upholding standards'

Rhyne Howard did not play in the Kentucky women's basketball team's season-opening 86-60 win against Murray State on Wednesday after interim coach Kyra Elzy suspended the All-American junior guard for two games.

The school announced the suspension shortly before the home game and said in a statement that the action was the result of Howard "not upholding the standards of the program." Kentucky did not specify the nature of the conduct that led to the suspension.

Elzy also suspended senior forward Tatyana Wyatt for three games for a violation of team rules. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that the suspensions were unrelated.

After Wednesday's game, Elzy didn't specify the exact cause of the suspensions but said neither was COVID-19-related.

"It's a very difficult decision. I mean, we have not played basketball since March. You want everybody to take the floor," Elzy said. "We have been dealing with such adversity. You definitely don't want that to happen, but at the end of the day my job as the leader of this program, and our staff, is to make sure that our players are held accountable and they are responsible and they are ready for the real world and they are held accountable for every decision that is not the right one. So we love them enough, I love them enough, not to turn my head when mistakes are made, and we have to make those types of decisions."

ESPN's preseason player of the year and an Associated Press first-team All-American, Howard appeared in and started 59 of Kentucky's 63 games the past two seasons. She is the nation's leading returning scorer after averaging 23.4 points per game last season.

Elzy replaced Matthew Mitchell after the former Kentucky coach retired on Nov. 12 following offseason brain surgery. Elzy served as Kentucky's associate head coach the past four seasons, her second stint with the school, and was instrumental in recruiting Howard.

If there are no schedule disruptions, Howard will also miss Sunday's game against Belmont will be eligible to return for Kentucky's game at Kansas State on Dec. 3.