UK Women's Basketball

Kentucky women’s miscues lead to 85-79 loss at Florida

Makayla Epps drove to the basket during Kentucky’s loss to Florida in Gainesville on Sunday
Makayla Epps drove to the basket during Kentucky’s loss to Florida in Gainesville on Sunday UK Athletics

On Kentucky’s last possession of the game, a Florida player intercepted the inbounds pass and made an easy layup.

That was the 30th turnover of the game for the Cats, who couldn’t hold onto the ball long enough on Sunday to complete their comeback.

Instead, Eleanna Christinaki’s steal and layup with five seconds to play sealed Florida’s upset over No. 12 Kentucky 85-79 at the O’Connell Center.

“It was tremendous,” Florida Coach Amanda Butler said of the win. “On the defensive end being able to turn over a team like Kentucky 30 times, I think is a great demonstration of what we’re capable of.”

It was a great demonstration of just where Kentucky is right now, Coach Matthew Mitchell said.

The Cats were able to come back from 13 points down in the second half and pull within two points twice in the final minute, but couldn’t make the plays to get back ahead.

We just have to get better at taking care of the ball and playing against real aggressive defenses. I know our players will work and get that done.

UK Coach Matthew Mitchell

“I don’t know how you can fault a team for their effort when they’re minus-14 on turnovers and had a chance to win the game there at the end,” said Mitchell, who said he will work harder to help UK’s players make better decisions moving forward.

“We just have to get better at taking care of the ball and playing against real aggressive defenses. I know our players will work and get that done.”

Kentucky, which has lost two in a row and has a game at No. 2 South Carolina next up, allowed a season-high 85 points. That’s 12 more points than the Cats’ gave up at Mississippi and against the Gamecocks in Memorial Coliseum.

But Mitchell remained positive despite the skid.

“I see a lot of improvement for us; we just have to keep working at it and I just feel like we’re getting better,” he said of the Cats, who shot 58 percent from the field and outrebounded Florida 35-24.

“Results haven’t showed the last couple games on the scoreboard, but it’s a tough, tough game to lose, but I’m real proud of our team for fighting and having a chance to win the game.”

Florida (18-4, 6-3 Southeastern Conference) made it tough on Kentucky from the start, jumping out to a nine-point lead in the first quarter. The Cats turned the ball over six times and missed their four shots.

There’s a lot of fight in this team, we just sometimes show it at the wrong time or we flip it on and off and that’s something we’ve got to work on as a team.

Makayla Epps

The only player keeping UK in the game was Janee Thompson, who scored Kentucky’s first nine points and finished with 16. Her three keyed a mini six-point run for UK that cut the lead to three 15-12.

Florida responded with a 9-2 run that put them up by 10 points early in the second quarter.

Then Maci Morris, who had gone 1-for-12 from the field and 0-for-6 from long range in her last two games, found her shot.

The freshman scored 10 points in less than three minutes, including a three-pointer from the wing to even it up 30-30. She ended the game with that total after battling foul trouble.

It was a big step forward for the Kentucky offense, which missed seven of its first 10 shots but managed to make 11 of its next 15 shots after that and grab a 37-32 advantage.

But Florida wasn’t done yet. The Gators went on a massive 15-2 that overlapped the second and third quarters to go up 47-39, fueled in part by UK turnovers.

“I don’t know that it was necessarily any weakness in them as much as it was our players making plays and trying to do things the way we do things,” Butler said when asked about the season-high 30 miscues for Kentucky.

Back-to-back buckets from Carla Batchelor gave the Gators their biggest advantage 60-47 with 3:36 to go in the third quarter.

Batchelor was one of four Gators in double figures with 12 points. Simone Westbrook’s 20 points paced Florida. Haley Lorenzen added 18 points. Christinaki, who got the key steal at the end, had 12 points and 11 assists.

“We played some of our best ball today,” said Lorenzen, a 6-foot-3 sophomore. “It all started with our defense and our energy on the court. When you’re playing with flow, energy and great defense, it leads to easy offense.”

For the game, Florida shot 53.8 percent from the field, ending UK’s streak of holding 33 straight SEC opponents to less than 50 percent shooting.

The Gators’ big lead seemed to egg on Kentucky’s Makayla Epps, who made big play after big play in the second half and finished with a season-high 27 points to go with seven rebounds.

Epps was frustrated, but like her coach, chose to be optimistic instead. They could point to UK shooting 58 percent of its shots or making 76.9 percent in the fourth quarter like the Gators.

“There’s a lot of fight in this team, we just sometimes show it at the wrong time or we flip it on and off and that’s something we’ve got to work on as a team,” Epps said.

Janee Thompson added 16 points, but turned the ball over nine times, which Mitchell said was more a function of the team struggling with ball security than his senior’s errors.

Evelyn Akhator added 14 points and 10 rebounds for Kentucky, which fell to 15-5 and 4-5 in league play.

Jennifer Smith: 859-231-3241, @jenheraldleader

FLORIDA 85,

No. 12 KENTUCKY 79

KENTUCKY

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

F

PT

Akhator

31

4-8

6-8

10

0

2

14

Jennings

30

1-4

2-2

11

1

2

4

Thompson

34

6-11

2-2

3

2

5

16

Morris

21

4-7

0-0

0

0

5

10

Epps

36

10-14

5-8

7

2

1

27

Camara

3

1-1

0-0

0

0

1

2

Murray

29

1-3

0-0

0

4

3

2

Rice

16

2-2

0-0

1

0

2

4

Totals

200

29-50

15-20

35

9

21

79

Percentages: FG .580, FT .750.

Three-point goals: 6-13, .462 (Epps 2-2, Morris 2-4, Thompson 2-6, Murray 0-1).

Team rebounds: 3.

Blocked shots: 1 (Rice).

Turnovers: 30 (Thompson 9, Epps 5, Jennings 5, Rice 3, Akhator 3, Murray 2, Camara, Morris).

Steals: 6 (Epps 3, Rice, Murray, Jennings).

Technical fouls: None.

FLORIDA

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

F

PT

Williams

21

4-8

0-0

2

3

4

8

Lorenzen

29

9-14

0-1

3

0

2

18

Needles

28

1-5

0-0

1

1

3

3

Westbrook

29

7-10

3-5

2

1

3

20

Christinaki

33

5-12

2-3

1

11

1

12

Miller

17

2-5

4-4

4

5

3

8

Anderson

5

0-0

0-0

1

0

0

0

Peoples

8

0-1

0-0

1

1

0

0

Copeland

2

0-1

0-0

0

0

1

0

Fleming

10

2-3

0-0

4

0

3

4

Batchelor

18

5-6

0-0

3

0

2

12

Totals

200

35-65

9-13

24

22

22

85

Percentages: FG .538, FT .692.

Three-point goals: 6-17, .353 (Westbrook 3-4, Batchelor 2-3, Needles 1-4, Copeland 0-1, Peoples 0-1, Christinaki 0-4).

Team rebounds: 2.

Blocked shots: None.

Turnovers: 16 (Christinaki 5, Westbrook 4, Needles 2, Miller 2, Williams, Peoples, Lorenzen).

Steals: 15 (Miller 4, Westbrook 3, Williams 3, Christinaki 2, Fleming, Anderson, Needles).

Technical Fouls: None.

Kentucky

14

25

15

25

79

Florida

22

21

20

22

85

A—3,231. Officials—Mark Kentz, Denise Brooks, Eric Koch.

Next game

Kentucky at South Carolina

7 p.m. Thursday (SEC Network)

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