Gators Fall to No. 14 Kentucky

Box Score | Highlights | Postgame Press Conference 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The University of Florida women’s basketball team (11-6, 2-2) hung tough but saw the No. 14 Kentucky Wildcats (14-2, 3-1) pull away in the fourth quarter, as it dropped a 65-45 decision to the Wildcats Sunday afternoon at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Scoring in double figures for the 14th time this season and the sixth-straight game, redshirt-junior Kiki Smith paced the Gators with 16 points while sophomore Ariel Johnson posted 10 on 4-of-6 shooting.

Holding their opponent below their scoring average for the 12th time this season, the Gators limited Kentucky to its second-fewest points scored this season and only 31.4 percent shooting on the afternoon.

Florida went toe to toe with nationally-ranked Wildcats for the majority of the game and faced only an eight-point deficit heading into the fourth, but Kentucky pulled away in the fourth, outscoring the Gators 23-11. 

The Gators shot 42 percent (18-of-42) from the floor, though, the Wildcats forced a season-high 25 turnovers and outrebounded Florida, 38-36, for the contest.

Going up against one of the SEC’s best defensive units, Florida was limited to a season low in points.

Battling their fourth AP Top 25 team and their second top 15 team in last four games, the Gators were tasked with defending one of the nation’s best scorers Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard. Howard, who entered the game averaging a league-high 23.9 points per game, scored just four in the first half but finished with 22 for the game. Howard had scored 43 and 37 points, respectively in her previous two matchups.

Kentucky opened the game with five missed shots and started 1-of-8 as Florida led 6-5 at the under five-minute media timeout. The Gators limited Kentucky to just two makes on its first 11 attempts.

Kentucky led 13-12 after the first period as Florida’s defense kept it in the game when its offense was stagnant against the heavy Wildcat pressure. Johnson scored on all three of her attempts and finished with six in the frame including an impressive shot with just seconds remaining in the stanza.

Kristina Moore drained a three-pointer from the corner to put the Gators ahead 18-16 with 5:36 remaining in the second period and Florida led by three with under three minutes remaining. After Florida had gathered the game’s momentum, Kentucky made its run and utilized a 10-2 scoring streak to conclude the half.

Despite being limited to just 26 percent shooting from the floor, Kentucky carried a 28-23 edge into the intermission.

The Gators held Howard to just four points, but Chasity Patterson scored 13 for the Wildcats on five-of-eight shooting in the first. Patterson hit two 3-pointers late in the half that allowed Kentucky to create some separation heading into the break. Smith paced the Gators with seven points, but the Wildcats scored 12 points off Florida’s 11 first half turnovers.

UK opened the second half on a 9-3 run and grew its lead to double-digits at 37-26 with 5:56 remaining in the third. After a Zada Williams’ free throw at the 3:17 mark in the quarter, UF drew within five at 37-32 thanks to a 6-0 scoring spurt. The Gators’ offense stalled for the remainder of the quarter and UK possessed a 42-34 advantage by quarters end.

The fourth quarter belonged to Howard as she poured in 11 in the frame, knocking down five of her six shots, and matching the Gators’ total. The Wildcats scored the first four points of the stanza and used a 12-4 run to seize control. Nina Rickards knocked down a jumper to cut the deficit to 11 at 47-36, but this is as close as the Gators would come in the fourth.

Howard led all scorers with 22 while Patterson added 20 for Kentucky.

The Gators are set to take on their fifth AP Top 25 opponent and second straight, Thursday, Jan. 16 when they host the Tennessee Volunteers.

Thursday, Jan. 16
Florida (11-6, 2-2) vs. No. 23 Tennessee (13-3, 3-1)
Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center | Gainesville, Fla.
SEC Network+

Head Coach Cam Newbauer
Opening Statement…
“That’s a tough SEC basketball team. I think they’re better than a top-14 team. They made some adjustments at halftime and did a great job coming out. They had some players step up. Chasity Patterson ended up with 20 and hit those big threes at the end of the half to create some separation. Rhyne Howard is the best scorer, maybe best player, in the conference right now. We limited her to four in the first half, but in the second half we got away from our defensive game plan and she goes for 18 in the second half. In any game that you have 25 turnovers and give up 19 offensive rebounds, you’re just not playing that tough. We just didn’t have toughness today. We stressed before the game that toughness was something we would have to have on offense and defense. 25 turnovers and 19 offensive rebounds is not toughness. We took it on the chin today. Really disappointed because I think we’re tougher than this. I thought we were tougher than this. We’re just not there yet and got sped up too much by their defensive pressure. We were frustrated and got very anxious and it led to not very good offensive basketball on our end. 65 points isn’t a ton of points, but you’re not going to win many with 45. First half was one game, the second half was a whole other game. Hats off to Kentucky, that’s a really good basketball team.”
On the learning curve for underclassmen …
“We had 11 turnovers from freshmen and five from sophomores. That’s the defense. They’re good. Everyone wants to talk about Rhyne Howard and how much she’s scoring, but you have to be able to score against them. That’s a sign of a really tough team. Offensively, when they’re not playing well in that first half, they still guard you and limit us to 23 points and a very low shooting percentage. We didn’t have the opportunity to shoot threes; we only got 10 looks. It’s a learning experience. It’s okay to be disappointed in these games as long as it’s disappointment to want to get better. That’s a really good team. Mississippi State is really good, but I don’t think we’ve seen a team that has an offensive scorer that you have to devote so much time and energy. We did the first half, but not the second half. If you’re not getting stops, how do continue to be tough offensively and continue to be patient when they’re speeding you up? That’s what they do. Coach Mitchell has been there 13 years. That’s the program they’ve got going. It’s a program you want to emulate. That’s a great program.”
On fixing the offensive rebounding…
“We have to get tougher. Some of the box outs that work in nonconference aren’t the same that work in conference because they’re longer and stronger players. There were some times today when people wanted an over-the-back foul, but we weren’t pushing them back so it’s not over-the-back. They’re just longer and bigger. You really have to be intentional about how physical you are, and you have to be intentional about finding them first and then being physical. The other thing was 50/50 balls. Some of those were 50/50 rebounds coming long off the rim and we just didn’t chase them down. We didn’t have the toughness today that I thought we would show up with.”
On UK’s momentum going into halftime…
“It was huge because what we were doing defensively was gone so we felt good about where we were and then all of a sudden, we had some miscues on Patterson and she hits those two threes and gets confidence for the second half. They get confident and feel good which creates energy for their team. You can’t let up. Your defensive game plan has changed in that moment, but you can’t let up. It’s still the top-14 team in the country. They have players that can make plays and just bit us a little bit. Frustrated with that, but that’s just part of the game. You still have two more quarters to come back and play. We didn’t come out the way we needed to, in the fourth quarter especially. We just took it on the chin.”
On positives to take away from this…
“They only shot 31 percent for the game and 25 percent from three. Defensively, you got the stops, but then when you add 19 offensive rebounds and 25 turnovers, that’s 44 extra possessions. Now you’re getting worn down defensively. Going into the fourth quarter, that’s when you need some of that energy. Rhyne had 26 points the other day in the last 15 minutes of a game, so you have to stay the course. We didn’t have it in the fourth quarter. It didn’t feel like a 20-point game but became a 20-point game. We did some things well defensively on the first shot, but the second opportunities really hurt us. That and the turnovers, which is the mental focus. It’s the mental toughness you have to have to preserve through a mistake and get the next stop. We didn’t quite have that today.”
No. 1 Kiki Smith, Guard
On Kentucky’s defense making it tough to score…
“It was mostly us dribbling the ball on the sideline. I feel like it would have been a different game if the ball was in the middle, mainly me. I know I had too many turnovers and I just can’t do that. It was just about me not making adjustments.”

On her mentality when Lav (Briggs) isn’t scoring…
“My mentality is to always be aggressive and to always take what the defense gives me. I’m not really worried about who’s scoring. That’s not going to change my game or what the team goal is.”


  • The Gators have held 12 of their opponents below their scoring average.
  • Ariel Johnson scored 10 points or more for the 10th game this season and fourth-straight contest.
  • Four Gators had five or more rebounds in the game.
  • Kentucky’s 65 points were its second-fewest in a game this season.
  • Freshman guard Lavender Briggs saw her streak of 14-straight games with double-figure points come to a close. It was the program’s longest streak since 2001. 
  • Kentucky’s head coach Matthew Mitchell spent three seasons as an assistant with Florida from 2000-03. 
  • Kiki Smith scored 10 or more points for the 14th time this season and added 15 or more for the ninth time and fourth-straight game.
  • Kentucky attempted 70 field goals while Florida notched just 42.
  • Through 17 games last season Florida’s record stood at 5-12, the Gators sit at 11-6 in 2019-20.

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