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Friday, May 17, 2024
Florida guard Nina Rickards drives toward the basket in the Gators' loss to the Louisiana State Tigers Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023.
Florida guard Nina Rickards drives toward the basket in the Gators' loss to the Louisiana State Tigers Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023.

Florida sophomore forward Tatyana Wyche furiously chased after Kentucky’s Ajae Petty. Players flew off the bench on both sides, and an altercation broke out between the teams. The incident resulted in nine total ejections.

Both teams were left with seven available players after the 22-minute stoppage of play. The shorthanded Gators battled in the second half but eventually ran out of gas and saw their Southeastern Conference dreams end early.

The Florida Gators (16-14, 5-12 SEC) fell to the Kentucky Wildcats (11-18, 3-14 SEC) 68-54 in the opening round of the SEC tournament. The Gators shot just 30% from the field in the game.

Senior guard Nina Rickards — who started on the bench — led UF with 19 points. Sophomore guard Alberte Rimdal played a key role with 15 points on an efficient 5-8 clip. 

Rimdal banked in a finger-roll layup for the first points of the game. Kentucky graduate student guard Robyn Benton drilled a mid-range jump shot on the following possession.

Senior Gators guard Leilani Correa finished a contested layup. Kentucky graduate guard Blair Green nailed a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer in response.

Sophomore Wildcats guard Jada Walker got open on a fast-break and finished a layup through a foul. Florida senior forward Faith Dut drained an open floater. 

Correa caught a quick pass from junior Gators center Ra Shaya Kyle and banked in the open layup. Kentucky freshman guard Amiya Jenkins hit a layup through a foul and converted the 3-point play to put the Wildcats up 12-10 early.

Florida sophomore forward Tatyana Wyche hit a layup to put an end to a 9-0 Kentucky run. The Gators ended the first quarter down 18-12

Perimeter shooting plagued both teams early as the teams combined for one triple in 13 attempts.

Petty posted up her defender and finished a contested layup through a foul. Kentucky had missed its last seven shots prior to the basket.

Senior Gators guard Nina Rickards sank a mid-range jump shot for Florida’s first basket of the second quarter after more than three minutes of action. Walker drove strong to the basket and hit a layup over her defender.

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An altercation broke out between the two teams after Walker’s basket. This incident resulted in the ejections of Taliyah and Tatyana Wyche, Kyle, Dut and Zippy Broughton. Cassidy Rowe, Eniya Russel, Saniah Tyler and Zennia Thomas were ejected for Kentucky.

The altercation broke out when junior Wildcats forward Ajae Petty appeared to intentionally shove the basketball into Wyche’s face after a Kentucky basket. Wyche retaliated by hurling the ball at Petty, causing both teams to enter a frenzy.

Rickards cut to the basket and finished a layup off an assist from Florida junior forward Jordyn Merritt — the first basket out of the delay. Correa drilled a triple on the following possession to bring the Gators within three.

Senior Gators guard KK Deans drove strong to the basket and finished the layup for her first points of the game. The Gators entered halftime down 22-21.

Florida struggled mightily on offense and shot less than 30% from the field, but the Gators kept themselves in the game due to its defensive effort.

Walker drilled a mid-range jump shot for the first points of the second half. Benton hit an open fast-break layup to follow.

Deans drove to the paint again, finished the layup and drew a foul. The senior cashed in from the charity stripe to cut Florida’s deficit to three. After a Kentucky and-one opportunity, Rickards answered with a triple.

Rimdal hit another 3-pointer to bring the Gators within two. The Danish guard took a rebound and went coast-to-coast for a layup and drew a foul. She converted the three-point play to make it a one-point game.

Deans stole the ball and pushed in transition. She spun past a defender and dished the ball to freshman Myka Perry. The freshman couldn’t make her layup, but Rickards was there for the rebound and made the putback through a foul. After the senior hit her free throw, Florida led by two.

Benton retook control of the game for the Wildcats. She hit a contested jumper and assisted Maddie Scherr, who gave Kentucky a two-point lead into the fourth quarter.

The Gators attacked in transition, and Rimdal made a layup through the foul. She hit her free throw to give UF a one-point lead. 

Benton hit a pair of free throws to wrench the lead back and then pushed the Wildcats’ advantage to four when she drilled a triple. Rickards made a little floater with the shot clock about to expire, but Benton drew another foul and hit both free throws.

Florida sophomore guard Jeriah Warren turned the ball over, and Kentucky capitalized with a layup on the fast break to take a six-point lead into the under-five media timeout.

Deans bodied her defender and floated in a layup to cut the deficit to four. The Wildcats found forward Adebola Adeyeye wide open in the paint on an inbound play for another layup. Walker drove to the paint and finished to give Kentucky a 10-point advantage.

Rimdal ended the 12-2 UK run with a long jumper, but the Gators couldn’t close the gap and dropped out of the SEC tournament.

Florida will now wait to see if it’ll clinch a spot in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. 

Contact Austin Stirling at Follow him on Twitter @austinstirlingg.

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Austin Stirling

Austin Stirling is a third-year journalism major and sports reporter for The Alligator. He previously covered Gators women's basketball and is primarily covering soccer during the fall 2023 semester. He is a huge New York sports fan and is hoping the Jets can be a respectable football team for once in his life this season.

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