NASHVILLE — Honesty.
It's one of the three tenets of Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell's program philosophy.
He drills it into the UK players from the moment they arrive on campus: honesty, hard work, discipline.
He was brutally honest after No. 10 Kentucky's 71-67 victory over Florida in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference women's basketball tournament Friday.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
"I'm not sure exactly how we won the game," he said.
The odds certainly weren't in the Cats' favor. They trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half and by 13 points in the second half.
They had an eight-minute stretch in the second half without a basket.
"It did not look good there for a large portion of the game," Mitchell continued with his string of honesty.
They shot 29.7 percent, their lowest in a victory since 2008.
Somehow, some way, they managed to win.
SEC Player of the Year A'dia Mathies was one of the biggest ways.
The junior scored 21 of her game-high 24 points in the second half, including 14 of her team's final 26 points.
"We got beat by a great player," Florida's Jordan Jones said of Mathies, who also had seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.
And Mathies helped spark Kentucky's entire team to make the plays to win, UF Coach Amanda Butler said.
"A'dia's performance was outstanding," Butler said. "They really collectively in the second half all chipped in and did what they had to do."
The 14-point deficit was the largest Kentucky (25-5) has overcome this season, which gives the Cats some confidence as they move into the SEC semifinals to face Louisiana State.
"We just know if there's any other times we get down that much, we can always come back and win," Mathies said. "We have to stay focused, keep defensive focus. Even if we go up or down, we're still able to win."
Winning didn't look likely, almost from the opening tip. UK collected the SEC regular-season championship trophy in a pre-game ceremony and promptly fell apart.
Florida scored 16 consecutive points and grabbed a 20-6 advantage.
"It looked like it might get 36-6," Mitchell said. "It didn't look like it was going real good for us."
The Cats had layups fall out of the basket and jumpers ping off of every part of the rim. They shot a miserable 22.2 percent from the field in the first half.
UK's starters were a combined 5-for-26.
"The main thing I was telling everybody is to try to settle down," senior guard Keyla Snowden said. "Everybody had first-game jitters. We played extremely hard. I think our defense helped us get through that slump in the beginning."
Snowden was the key to get UK through. She scored nine of her 17 points in the first half, and she helped the UK bench outscore the Gators' reserves 22-7 for the game.
Kentucky regrouped slightly and trailed by seven at the break before Florida (19-12) extended its lead to 13 points again early in the second half.
The Gators, who were led by Jennifer George's 18 points and Azania Stewart's 15 points and 12 boards, surged.
Then something kicked in for the Cats.
"There's a fight in this team," said Kastine Evans, who had nine points. "Even when we get down, our will to win is strong."
Senior point guard Amber Smith, who helped spur the second-half comeback with her energy and defense, agreed.
"We just have a will to win," Smith said. "We don't want this to be the end. That's what triggered it in our heads, what pushed us forward."
Freshman Bria Goss was a good illustration of that fight. The guard missed her first eight shots, but she hit a driving layup on an inbounds pass from Smith to put UK up for good 66-65 with 1:20 to play. It was her only basket of the game.
It also was UK's first basket in almost eight minutes. Mathies followed with a rebound and two key foul shots with 30 seconds to go to help seal the win, UK's fourth straight.
"In the end, down the stretch, we were able to make enough of those plays," Mitchell said. "It says they're a tough group of kids to come back from that terrible start."