It wasn't a scenic, joyful jaunt in the park.
It was a bruising, jarring journey back into the Southeastern Conference for sixth-ranked Kentucky.
But the Cats liked the view at the end, when the Memorial Coliseum scoreboard showed a 76-69 victory over Florida.
"It was not always pretty, but it was just us hanging in there and grinding out the victory," Coach Matthew Mitchell said of the Cats' 12th straight win, setting a program record. It also was their 30th straight victory at home, tying a record.
Every run Kentucky made, Florida answered, until the waning minutes when the Cats were able to get the slightest separation on a three-pointer by star senior A'dia Mathies and a quick-hitting layup by DeNesha Stallworth.
Mathies admitted it wasn't the prettiest of games, but she was OK with that.
"All I care about at the end of the day is just getting the victory, whether it was by 27 points or one point, we got the win at the end," Mathies said.
That was in large part due to Mathies in the first half.
The reigning SEC Player of the Year looked every bit the part, nearly matching her season average for points in the first 20 minutes.
Mathies had 13 points, four rebounds, four assists and four drawn charges. The senior star finished the evening with a season-best 20 points, six rebounds and four assists.
"She played like the best player in the conference tonight," Mitchell said. "She really came out tonight wanting to set the tone for SEC play. She was outstanding."
The Cats clung to a 39-35 halftime lead after leading by as many as 11 points.
It was a typical Kentucky-Florida game of late. UK won its three matchups with the Gators last season by a combined 12 points.
This one held true to form with the Cats never getting comfortable despite several double-digit leads against the Gators' defense.
"If a few things had gone differently, maybe we'd be having a little bit different press conference," Florida Coach Amanda Butler said.
But Jennifer O'Neill made sure things didn't go the way the Gators (11-4, 0-1 SEC) wanted in the second half.
The sophomore guard tried to match Mathies in the big-play department, scoring 13 of her 18 points in the second half, including eight straight to give UK some breathing room when the Gators went on one of their many mini runs.
"It's what we needed," Mathies said of O'Neill's big shots, which included back-to-back three-pointers. "It was much needed, to give us a little spark, a little run. Even though they pretty much answered every run with one of their own. We really needed that one."
Florida's zone kept Kentucky off balance almost all night and helped shut down UK's inside players, although forward DeNesha Stallworth managed 17 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots in the win, the Cats' seventh straight over the Gators, who had their own six-game win streak snapped.
O'Neill was the answer in the second half, Mitchell said.
"When we were really stagnant and struggling to score and Florida was playing such great defense, she just made some plays for us that really lifted our team," he said. "We were getting close to the point of discouragement because of Florida's good play."
Bria Goss had 10 points to round out the double-figure scorers for Kentucky (13-1, 1-0).
Florida was paced by guard Jaterrra Bonds' 21 points. January Miller had 17 points and forward Jennifer George added 14 points and 11 rebounds for Florida, which outrebounded the Cats 40-36.
"We won the rebounding battle and that was something that was real important to us," said Butler, whose bench also outscored Kentucky's 26-6. "I thought we played with a lot of toughness and heart."
Kentucky Miss Basketball Sydney Moss, a Gators reserve from Boone County, didn't score in the loss and missed all 10 of her shot attempts, but Butler said it was an off night for Florida's budding star.
"She had a tough night tonight," Butler said. "I know she was really fired up and wanted to do well and she was probably pushing a little too hard. ... She's got an incredible future ahead of her and I'm just real happy she's a Gator."
Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241 Twitter: @jenheraldleader Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com