UK Women's Basketball

UK women hold off Florida rally, stay unbeaten in SEC

Kentucky's A'dia Mathies, left, dived to get the ball from Florida's Deana Allen in the second half. Mathies, who scored 34 points in her previous game in Memorial Coliseum, was held to two points Sunday in Kentucky's 57-52 victory. Notes, Page C3
Kentucky's A'dia Mathies, left, dived to get the ball from Florida's Deana Allen in the second half. Mathies, who scored 34 points in her previous game in Memorial Coliseum, was held to two points Sunday in Kentucky's 57-52 victory. Notes, Page C3

Despite a far from perfect performance, Kentucky remained perfect in the Southeastern Conference.

The sixth-ranked Cats needed a huge run and some serious intestinal fortitude late to hold off Florida 57-52 in front of a sellout crowd on Sunday afternoon.

Matthew Mitchell spent much of his post-game news conference discussing how the Gators had outplayed, outhustled and nearly outlasted his Kentucky team.

When the coach was asked what positives he takes from the victory, UK's seventh in a row and its 16th straight at Memorial Coliseum, he didn't even hesitate.

"It sounds obvious, but the positive is we got the win," Mitchell said. "There are many days that we would have lost a game like that."

The Cats trailed by as many as seven points late in the first half and then needed to hit some key free throws in the waning seconds to pull out the win.

Keyla Snowden made five of UK's final six free throws to seal the victory. The senior guard led a balanced attack with 11 points.

Kastine Evans added 10 points, including her own 8-0 run early in the second half that allowed Kentucky to pull ahead of Florida after a 21-21 tie at halftime. The Cats' 21 points were their fewest in a half this season.

Evans' run was part of a 17-2 rally that gave UK enough cushion to win it.

"We just kept pushing, kept going," said Evans, who added seven rebounds. "Shots weren't falling for us, but ... having that aggressive mentality helped us out."

For the first few minutes of the second half, it looked like UK was going to run away with the win, not have to find a way to grind one out like it did in Gainesville on Jan. 1.

"For a couple of minutes, we resembled what our team can look like offensively, and that was the only time today that happened," Mitchell said of the Cats, who hit 30 percent from the field and 18.8 percent from three-point range.

The coach credited the ever-changing Florida defense for that.

"I'm proud of that defensive effort," Florida Coach Amanda Butler said. "They're very offensively potent, and to be able to hold them in the 50s is a great accomplishment."

Butler said Kentucky's fire gave it the 15-point lead with 13:30 to play, but the Gators' moxie helped them use a 12-3 run that would eventually trim the lead to two points with seven seconds to play.

"It would have been easy and understandable by many people's standards to accept less," Butler said. "But we wouldn't. We put ourselves in a position to nearly win the ball game."

The Gators (13-7, 3-4) were led by Jordan Jones' 13 points. Jaterra Bonds added 10 points, and Jennifer George had 10 points, 11 rebounds and three steals.

Samarie Walker had nine points, seven rebounds, three blocks and three steals for Kentucky, which is 18-2 for only the second time in school history. The Cats sit atop the conference at 7-0.

"We're definitely fortunate to win the game," Walker said. "We're happy with the win. It was tough and ugly, but we came out with the win."

Brittany Henderson added eight points, and Bria Goss had six points and a career-high nine rebounds.

Mitchell was pleased to get the win and to get many of those teaching moments that coaches are so fond of acquiring.

He hopes his players walk away understanding one thing: "We aren't just going to win these games 'cause we walk out on the court."

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