On Sunday afternoon in the O’Connell Center, Florida (17-7, 7-4 Southeastern Conference) defeated No. 15 Kentucky (17-6 5-5 SEC) for the second time in as many games this season, 86-80.
“Really proud of the way that we played,” coach Amanda Butler said.
“The intangibles were things that separated us today. We maintained a steady level of confidence that the next thing that happened was going to be good and we were going to make our plays, whatever that meant for each individual.”
Big second-half performances from Kayla Lewis, January Miller and Lily Svete were integral in the Gators’ victory, as they scored a combined 40 of Florida’s 46 second-half points.
Miller led the team with 20 points.
Her consecutive three-point plays early in the second half fueled Florida to a 14-point lead with 16:13 remaining in the game.
“Jan had big, big minutes, hit big shots,” Butler said. “She was someone we could really rely on today offensively.”
Miller has a penchant for drawing fouls, thanks to her aggressive drives to the basket coupled with the occasional shot from beyond the arc.
“Growing up, I was used to drawing a lot of fouls,” she said. “I’m used to finishing on the play. The three-pointers help to mix it up because they don’t know what you’re going to do.”
Something Kentucky knew Florida would do on Sunday was feed Svete three-point shots.
The Gators did that successfully — Svete scored a career-high 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
“You want to think that when you’re at home, you’re really going to light it up if you get good looks,” Butler said. “Lily took advantage of that.”
Svete tied a career-high with five three-pointers made. Her most crucial shot came with 3:34 left in the game when she drained her final three to put Florida ahead 76-72.
“My job on the team is to get myself open and get ready for shots,” Svete said.
“When my team passes it to me, I’m expected to shoot it. I didn’t let my confidence get down when I missed my first couple.”
Added Butler: “Everybody wants Lily to shoot when she’s open. I loved the resilient attitude that she had.”
However, the biggest play of the game came when the Gators were on defense.
With 1:10 remaining in the game and Florida only up by three, senior Jaterra Bonds took a charge from Kentucky guard Bria Goss that gave the Gators the basketball. Lewis then made a layup with 46 seconds remaining to put Florida up by five.
“Huge,” Butler said of Bonds’ charge. “Without having a chance to look at the film yet, I would have to say it was the play of the game.”
The Gators redeemed themselves on Sunday after a poor showing against Arkansas on Thursday.
Compared to their 37.5 percent shooting effort against the Razorbacks, the Gators shot an impressive 48.4 percent from the field as well as going 9 for 20 from three-point range against the Wildcats.
“Maybe we were impacted at Arkansas by not hitting a few (shots) early,” Butler said.
“Today, we came out of the gate and made a couple of offensive plays early that made us confident about the next thing.”
Florida enters a mid-week bye with a victory over a ranked opponent in Kentucky. Now, it has ample time to prepare for Sunday’s matchup against Georgia, which beat UF 68-62 in the O’Connell Center three weeks ago.
“We definitely want to get Georgia back,” Svete said.
“They came in here and beat us at our place, so we want some revenge.”
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January Miller drives toward the net during Florida’s 87-69 win against Auburn on Jan. 26 in the O’Connell Center. Miller led Florida with 20 points against Kentucky in an 86-80 win on Sunday.