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Friday, April 12, 2024

Gators women’s basketball comes up short against Kentucky

Florida fell to 4-8 in conference play on the season following the loss.

Laila Reynolds dribbles the ball up the court in the Gators women’s basketball game against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Thursday, February 8. Photo by Ryan Friedenberg
Laila Reynolds dribbles the ball up the court in the Gators women’s basketball game against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Thursday, February 8. Photo by Ryan Friedenberg

The Florida Gators women’s basketball team was in prime position to finish off the Kentucky Wildcats on Sunday afternoon. Entering the final quarter of play with a six-point lead, the Gators only needed to keep the opposing Wildcats at bay for 10 more minutes.

But after standout senior guard Aliyah Matharu fouled out with less than five minutes remaining in the game, the Gators swiftly unraveled. By the time the final buzzer rang, Florida (13-11, 4-8 SEC) had fallen 81-77 to Kentucky (10-16, 2-10 SEC). 

Matharu and senior guard Zippy Broughton did everything in their power to keep their squad in the fight. Broughton led the team with 18 points and four assists, while Matharu chipped in with 16 points, four assists and three steals. 

Matharu eventually fouled out with less than four minutes remaining in the game, setting the stage for a Kentucky takeover. Broughton ended up fouling out as well with seven seconds remaining in the contest.

Meanwhile, senior guard Leilani Correa could not get anything to fall throughout the contest. She finished the game with eight points on 1-for-11 shooting. This marked her first game where she failed to crack double-digits in scoring since Florida’s Nov. 29 matchup with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

Kentucky senior guard Eniya Mitchell led all scorers on the day with 24 points. She also racked up five offensive rebounds and two steals in an all-around strong effort to all but sink the Gators.

In the first half, neither squad could pull ahead. Kentucky only led by as many as four points in the half, while Florida only led by as many as three. 

Matharu and Rimdal combined for 18 points in the first two quarters, while Mitchell chipped in with 11 points of her own for Kentucky. By the end of the half, the Wildcats had managed to squeak ahead to a 36-34 lead.

Florida appeared poised to take over in the third quarter. After some initial scoring exchanges in the first four minutes of the quarter, the Gators took off on a 10-0 run to jump out to a six-point lead. The Wildcats quickly halted Florida’s momentum, but not before the Gators had taken a 60-54 lead into the final quarter of play. 

Despite their strong start to the second half, things quickly fell apart for the Gators. The Wildcats clawed their way back into the game, eventually tying the score up at 69-69 with less than five minutes to go. Matharu broke the tie with a quick layup on the other end, but she picked up her fifth and final foul of the game on the subsequent possession.

With their floor general benched for the rest of the afternoon, the Gators could not hang on to their shrinking lead. Kentucky swiftly strung together an 8-2 run after Matharu’s exit, leaving Florida down by four points with less than a minute of play remaining. 

Left with no other options, the Gators scored a quick basket on a layup from Broughton and immediately fouled the Wildcats. Russell proceeded to knock down both free throws. Again, Broughton got another quick shot off. Once more, the Wildcats drilled two more free throws, this time to seal the win for good.  

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Florida will be back in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Thursday for its next matchup against the Missouri Tigers. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on SEC Network.

Contact Jack Meyer at jmeyer@alligator.org. Follow him on X @jackmeyerUF.

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Jack Meyer

Jack Meyer is a third-year journalism major and a sports reporter for The Alligator. In his free time, he enjoys running, spending time with friends, playing video games, and watching the Miami Heat and Miami Dolphins.


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