When you’ve lost eight consecutive games, you’ll take any win you can get.
Whether the Kentucky women’s basketball team’s 56-53 victory at Florida on Thursday night was aesthetically pleasing did not concern UK Coach Matthew Mitchell as much as the final score.
“It was not a thing of beauty. No Picasso tonight,” he said after the Wildcats ended their longest losing streak in 16 years. “I’m just so proud of this team for persevering. This has been a really difficult stretch.”
Kentucky (9-9, 1-3 Southeastern Conference) had not won since a 100-62 victory over Evansville on Dec. 5.
Taylor Murray shook out of a shooting slump Thursday night by scoring 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting. Murray was coming off a scoreless game against Georgia and had not scored in double figures since Dec. 8.
Amanda Paschal came off the bench to add a season-high 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting.
Murray and Paschal combined for all but two of the Cats’ 20 points in the fourth quarter.
“It feels good,” Paschal said during an interview with WLAP-AM in Lexington. “Hopefully, we can keep it going, keep working hard.”
The eight-game slide was the longest since a 13-game losing streak during the 2001-02 season.
Kentucky opened the game on an 11-2 run, but Florida pulled to within 20-18 at the half.
The Gators led by as many as seven points in the second half thanks to seven three-pointers in the third quarter. Kentucky tightened its defense in the fourth quarter and came up with some key rebounds that had eluded the team in recent weeks.
“We got some timely rebounds and some timely stops,” said Mitchell, who singled out Dorie Harrison’s work on the boards. “They battled and fought.”
Paulina Hersler led Florida (8-9, 0-4) with 19 points, including three three-pointers. Dyandria Anderson added 10 points, including two threes.
Maci Morris, slowed by a bone bruise in her left knee, had five points in 20 minutes for the Cats, who can start a winning streak on Monday at struggling Vanderbilt (4-14, 0-4). The Commodores have lost four in a row, all to SEC opponents.
The victory was Mitchell’s 250th at Kentucky.
“I am so grateful to have been a part of this program, to have been at Kentucky this long,” he said. “But tonight is about these players. They needed to find a way to make practice show up in the game and have success. ... Through all the difficulties in the game, they were able to do that.”
Kentucky at Vanderbilt
7 p.m. Monday (SEC Network)