Go ahead and fit a 1 p.m. tip-time into your Super Bowl Sunday plans, the No. 13 Kentucky Wildcats (17-3) women’s basketball team will host the Florida Gators (11-10) in Memorial Coliseum ahead of the big game.
It’ll be a special day at Memorial, too. Kentucky is celebrating National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Children can get free admission to the game if they wear a sports jersey while general admission is just $8. According to UK, “All current female student-athletes along with Kentucky women’s basketball alumnae in attendance will be honored during the game.”
It should be another exciting environment to get you ready for a day of drinking and eating.
What is this? ?
IT’S A HEAD BAND!!!
Girls, guess what? Join us for our home game tmr at 1 p.m. and receive a free head band while supplies last!
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) February 1, 2020
The ‘Cats have already played Florida once this season, easily beating them 65-45 down in Gainesville back on Jan. 12. Circumstances will be different this time around, with Rhyne Howard still on the bench due to her fractured pinky. Howard poured in 22 points in that win on 8-14 shooting, but she didn’t do it all by herself. Chasity Patterson popped off for a career-high 20 points of her own while Sabrina Haines added another 12. They’ll need that kind of production again from the role players if they want to avoid an upset loss.
Florida comes into Sunday’s game in bad shape. You can read my preview piece on Florida from the first matchup by clicking here.
Let’s quickly update both team’s overall stats.
Florida has now lost five games in a row – starting with the loss against UK in early January – and boast an overall record of 11-10. Granted, four of those five losses have come against ranked opponents and the only team that wasn’t ranked (LSU) has been playing well over recent weeks. But five losses in a row is bad no matter how you slice it. Coming into the first matchup against the ‘Cats, Florida was actually coming off a two-game win streak. Their season has since been flipped on its head.
A lot of it has to do with youth. Florida is one of the youngest teams in all of Division I. First and second-year players account for 61 percent of the team’s offense and they rank first in the SEC in games played by underclassmen. The Gators won eight games all of last season, so they’re improving, but appear still a year or two away from being an SEC factor.
The player to watch for Florida is Lavender Briggs, who has been on a mission since the ‘Cats held her to a season-low of two points a couple of weeks ago. She’s averaged 14.5 points in the four games since then while shooting over 41 percent from the floor. The freshman leads all first-year SEC players in scoring and has topped double-digits in scoring in 18 out of 20 possible games this season. She is the only Power Five true freshman to rank in the top-10 in scoring in her conference.
The one advantage that Florida (and every team the ‘Cats have and will face this season) will have over Kentucky will be on the glass. The Gators are 10-2 this season when they outrebound their opponents (the ‘Cats actually outrebounded Florida in the first matchup, 38-36) and hold a plus-3.5 rebounding margin on the year. The absence of Howard eliminates roughly six rebounds per game that someone else will have to pick up.
Kentucky put together an impressive win in the first game without their star player in the rotation, but the competition is only going to get better while Howard sits on the bench. The Missouri win was a great tune-up for this game. There are two ranked opponents on the docket just a little over a week away. Another convincing win, especially at home, would do wonders for the team’s confidence, which already appears to be growing every day.
The game will be broadcasted on the SEC Network. Tipoff is at 1 p.m.