GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A'dia Mathies and Kentucky turned up the defense to secure a sorely needed victory.
Mathies scored 14 points, Bria Goss added 11 and No. 6 Kentucky beat cold-shooting Florida 59-56 on Sunday in the Southeastern Conference opener for both schools.
The Wildcats (12-2, 1-0) were coming off a rough stretch, losing two of their last three games, including a setback at unranked Middle Tennessee State. The Wildcats' other loss was against third-ranked Notre Dame.
"I couldn't be prouder of our players bouncing back for what has been a tough week for us," Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "I think our players might've been doubting themselves."
Deana Allen had 14 points and Ndidi Madu finished with 11 for Florida (10-4, 0-1), which shot 32.8 percent and committed 23 turnovers. Jennifer George added 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Jaterra Bonds also scored 10.
"We didn't play well and you have to give Kentucky a lot of credit for that," Florida Coach Amanda Butler said. "They're definitely the best defensive team we've played all year."
Azania Stewart made a free throw with 8:19 left to help Florida close to 42-41, but the Wildcats responded with a 13-6 surge. Amber Smith capped the run with a three-pointer that just beat the shot clock and made it 55-47.
George's jumper gave Florida a 29-27 lead late in the first half, but Mathies made two three-pointers in a 15-second span to send Kentucky into the break with a 33-29 lead.
"Those were huge, huge buckets at the end of the half," Mitchell said.
Butler was disappointed that Mathies was free enough to shoot the threes.
"It seemed like when we go to zone, she suddenly becomes the best shooter in the gym," Butler said. "We gave up a three to the player we were really trying to key on. The way we finished out the first half is going to be hard to watch. "
The Wildcats also recorded a narrow victory in Gainesville last season when Victoria Dunlap made two free throws with 10 seconds to send Kentucky to a 59-58 win.
Kentucky opens the home portion of its SEC schedule Thursday against Arkansas while Florida, which had won its three previous games, visits Mississippi on Thursday.