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Saturday, February 24, 2024

The UF women's basketball team will remember Thursday night's game for a while.

The Gators had two chances to win in the last minute but could not convert and were left heartbroken after a 60-58 loss in their Southeastern Conference opener at Kentucky.

UF forced a shot-clock violation with 14.5 seconds left, trailing by one, getting the ball and a chance to extend its seven-game win streak.

No one doubted the ball would go to junior forward Marshae Dotson, who was in the middle of tying her career high with 26 points while grabbing 12 rebounds.

The Gators got the ball down low to Dotson, who appeared to be in good post position with her back to the basket before abruptly falling over a Kentucky player who had landed at her feet and she lost control of the ball.

The Wildcats gained possession and called timeout, but the Gators were still not out of it.

Sophomore point guard Lonnika Thompson stole the ensuing inbounds pass with four seconds to play and dished it to Dotson on the left block.

Dotson turned to lay the ball off the glass and ran right into Kentucky's Chelsea Chowning, who fell to take a charge.

Chowning made 1 of 2 free throws, and UF was unable to get a desperation shot off in the closing seconds.

It was a tough welcome back for UF coach Amanda Butler in her first game with the team since her grandmother's passing Saturday night.

"It was disappointing certainly," she said. "But at the same time, it's a road game, you can't expect for the ball to bounce your way. You don't expect for decisions to be made in your favor, especially in the heat of the moment. We just have to control the things we can control."

Dotson didn't have much to say about the close calls near the end of the game.

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"It happened so fast," Dotson said. "Honestly, I don't remember the play."

The Gators went back to their old ways, committing 24 turnovers to only seven assists. Kentucky scored 32 points off those turnovers.

Senior guard and leading scorer Depree Bowden came in averaging 14.8 points per game, but had just 3 points on 1-of-6 shooting in 32 minutes of play.

The game was close the entire way with neither team leading by more than 8.

"Ultimately, they, I guess, were two points better than us," Butler said. "It's tough to take, but I guess that's the case tonight."

The game might also leave more of a negative mark on this team than simply in the loss column.

Junior Sha Brooks (13 points) fell to the floor in the last two minutes clutching her right knee. She had to be helped off the floor and did not re-enter the game, although Butler said it's too early to tell what damage, if any, had occurred.

Radio and Internet broadcasts contributed to this report.

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