On Friday, the third time was the charm for Kentucky.
After dropping their first two decisions to the Gators this season, the Wildcats came out victorious, 75-70, to eliminate Florida from the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
“It was just a great SEC ballgame,” coach Amanda Butler said. “Two really good teams. My opinion, best in the country battling the way you would expect them to play this time of year. Unfortunately, just came up a little bit short. Had some critical breakdowns in really timely moments.”
Florida was the better team in the first half.
Kayla Lewis led the team in scoring at halftime with 11 points, as the Gators entered halftime with a seven-point lead, 36-29.
The second half was a different story, as Lewis was held to only seven points in the final 20 minutes.
“Kentucky is a great team,” Lewis said. “They have a lot of people. Not just their post players, but their guards rebound as well. It's everybody's job when you play a team like this to rebound, not just the people inside.”
With 8:35 remaining in the game, the Gators lost their lead and never regained it, despite later tying the game with only 1:29 remaining on the clock.
Florida saw its lead dwindle away thanks to a strong rebounding effort from Kentucky. The Wildcats doubled up the Gators in offensive boards, 18-9.
“The rebounding battle, one of our goals is to neutralize that,” Butler said. “We're trying to always scratch around and make plays off the boards as much as we can. We didn't do a good job with that. In the second half, that was really what was keeping them afloat. I thought we were playing great basketball, but kept giving them second chances. A good team's going to take advantage of that.”
With Florida now eliminated from the SEC Tournament, it now awaits its fate in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
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Kayla Lewis drives toward the net during Florida’s win against Georgia on Jan. 19 in the O’Connell Center.