When Florida lost 65-45 to No. 14 Kentucky on Sunday at the O’Connell Center, that was all UF guard Lavender Briggs scored. Through 33 minutes of action, Florida’s leading scorer had her lowest total of the season, and so did the Gators. UF kept it close in the first half, even having a lead with just over a minute to play in the first twenty minutes. However, the second half was all Wildcats, and the Gators dropped their second conference game to UK (14-2, 3-1 SEC) to fall to 11-6 on the year and 2-2 in the conference.
“That’s a tough, tough SEC basketball team,” coach Cam Newbauer said. “I think they’re better than a top-14 team.”
Outside of Briggs struggling to score, Wildcat offensive rebounds and Gator turnovers were UF’s two biggest killers. Florida shot 42.9 percent from the floor while Kentucky was at 31.4, but UK’s 19 offensive rebounds and 13 second-chance points easily made up for that.
Also, not only did the Gators turn it over 25 times to Kentucky’s six, but the Wildcats scored 31 points off of those turnovers.
As the game wore on, Florida simply got worn down. The stronger, more physical team won despite shooting at a less efficient clip. UF was already the undersized team, and it also made more mistakes and shot only 2 of 10 from beyond the arc to make matters worse.
The two bright spots for Florida offensively were guards Kiara Smith and Ariel Johnson, who scored 16 and 10, respectively. They were the only double-digit UF scorers and both did it at an efficient rate, with Smith at 58.3 percent from the floor and Johnson at 66.7 percent.
However, that duo was no match for Kentucky’s combination of guards Rhyne Howard and Chasity Patterson who had 22 and 20 points. Their 42 combined points was just three shy of Florida’s total.
“Rhyne Howard, best scorer, maybe the best player in the conference right now,” Newbauer said.
For Howard, this game was a tale of two halves. UF limited her to just four points in the first 20 minutes before she exploded for 18 in the latter 20. A key reason for her success was the charity stripe, she went to the line six times and sunk all of them.
That second-half efficiency complimented Patterson’s 13-point first half. It seemed that at all times, somebody wearing blue and white was unguardable.
Another main ingredient for the result was bench points. The Wildcats bench outscored the Gators bench 27-12. And 10 of Florida’s 12 bench points came from Johnson, as the last two came via forward Faith Dut at the very end when the game was already well in hand.
“We took it on the chin today,” Newbauer said. “I’m really disappointed because I think we’re tougher than this.”
Follow Graham on Twitter @GrahamMarshUF and contact him at [email protected].