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RECAP: UK Hoops Collapses Down the Stretch Without Howard

(UK Athletics)

(UK Athletics)

The first 20 minutes of No. 13 Kentucky’s matchup against Florida looked a lot like the Wildcats’ most recent win over Missouri earlier this week. Even without star guard Rhyne Howard, Kentucky earned a big road win over the Tigers on Thursday thanks to a combined team effort for all 40 minutes. That all-out effort was missing on Sunday as Kentucky fell to the Florida Gators, 70-62.

Chasity Patterson popped off for a new career-high of 25 points on 9-19 shooting. She recorded her previous career-high of 20 points in the most recent matchup against Florida. On Sunday, she was easily Kentucky’s best player on both ends of the floor. Three of her four steals came off ripping an opposing ball handler right at halfcourt then waltzing in for an easy layup.

Jaida Roper finsihed with 15 points of her own on 5-13 shooting to go along with five rebounds. However, she missed four of her eight attempts from the charity stripe.

As a team, Kentucky shot a season-low from beyond the arc, hitting just 15 percent of their looks from deep (3-20). Florida didn’t have all that much of a size advantage but utilized some Kentucky foul trouble to outrebound the ‘Cats 45-27. On top of that, UK shot 15-27 from the free-throw line – one of its five-lowest marks this season.

Both Sabrina Haines and Tatyana Wyatt fouled out of the game while KeKe McKinney and Patterson both finsihed with four fouls. As a team, the ‘Cats were called for a season-high of 27 fouls.

The first-half against Florida felt like a repeat of the same story when they beat Mizzou down in Columbia. Despite the Gators jumping out to a quick 6-2 lead, the ‘Cats responded. Roper had all six of the ‘Cats first points – four of them coming off and-1 shots, although she missed both free throws – and Kentucky was attacking the offensive glass unlike they have all season.

Even though Kentucky came out cold shooting the ball, their defense picked up where it left off on Thursday.

Florida was forced into six first-quarter turnovers and just a 4-11 shooting clip. Kentucky was actually outrebounding them on the offensive end (5-4, three courtesy of Haines) and only turned the ball over twice, but shot just 5-15 from the floor. All 17 of the ‘Cats points in the first 10 minutes came from one of McKinney, Patterson, and Roper.

As the second period got rolling, the foul trouble slowly presented itself as an issue for UK. Haines picked up her second not even 70 seconds into the quarter and was immediately forced to the bench. Wyatt and McKinney would both pick up their second fouls halfway through the quarter.

Before we could even hit the 5-minute mark of the second quarter, Florida was already shooting free throws out of the bonus.

But Kentucky did an excellent job of keeping the Gators leading scorer, Lavender Briggs, at bay. The impressive freshman was held to zero points at halftime on 0-7 shooting. Briggs was held to a season-low of just two points when she faced Kentucky back in January.

The Gators were able to trim the lead down to as few as five points (24-19) after Brylee Bartram hit the first triple of the afternoon for Florida with roughly two minutes left before the half. But a quick 5-0 run in the final two minutes gave Kentucky a comfortable 29-19 lead at the intermission.

A lot of Florida’s looks in the first-half were open, they just couldn’t get them to fall. Shooting a terrible 6-25 from the field through 20 minutes, it felt like the Gators couldn’t shoot any worse than they were. It didn’t take them long to prove that to be true.

Wyatt immediately picked up her third foul to open the half which was followed by Haines picking up her third and fourth of the game with still seven minutes left in the third quarter. To make matters worse, Briggs started to get going.

She hit her first shot of the game just two minutes into the third quarter that cut the Kentucky lead to seven. Patterson hit back-to-back buckets for UK that pushed the lead back to a nine-point advantage, but the Gators always had a response. Briggs was up to seven points before the first TV timeout and she didn’t slow down from there.

Both teams were going back-and-forth through the final few minutes of the third quarter, trading big shot after big shot. A huge three from Roper was quickly countered by an even bigger Gator three the next trip down. Another bucket from Briggs cut the lead down to just a 41-39 Kentucky edge. Heading into the fourth and final quarter, Kentucky held a slight 46-43 lead despite being outscored 24-17 in the frame.

The last eight minutes were total domination by the Gators, as they bulldozed Kentucky 27-16 in the fourth period.

Missed free throws severely sliced Kentucky’s chances and allowed the Gators to stay close in the game. While the ‘Cats spurted out to a 51-43 lead with 7:31 left in the game, they would get outscored 27-11 down the stretch. Briggs finsihed the day with 18 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists as Florida took control of the lead with five minutes left and cruised to a major upset win.

After shooting just 1-9 from beyond the arc in the first half, Florida made seven out of its next 11 shots from deep. They attempted 20 free throws in the second half, converting on 12 of them in that span.

Both teams made 22 field goals, but Florida finished with 17 dimes compared to just eight for the ‘Cats.

McKinney finsihed with eight points and five rebounds while Amanda Paschal followed up her career-high performance against Mizzou with four points, eight rebounds, and three steals. Blair Green shot 0-6 from the floor while Haines added five points on a 2-5 clip.

As a team, Kentucky was just 22-58 shooting the ball and turned it over 14 times.

Kentucky’s next game will be on the road when they head down to Tuscaloosa this Thursday to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide at 7 p.m. on the SEC Network+.

Article written by Zack Geoghegan

Covering all things NBA and UK Hoops. Follow me on Twitter: @ZGeogheganKSR