Gators' solid play produces upset over Kentucky

Published: Sunday, February 9, 2014 at 6:02 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 9, 2014 at 6:02 p.m.

There were a lot of positives on the stat sheet following Florida's 86-80 SEC win over No. 15 Kentucky Sunday before an O'Connell Center crowd of 2,759, but coach Amanda Butler was quick to credit the things that don't show up in the score book as the ultimate difference.

“Really, the intangibles were the things that separated us today,” she said.

Perhaps the perfect example came when senior standout and former P. K. Yonge star Jaterra Bonds drew a crucial charging foul on Kentucky's Bria Goss with UF nursing an 81-78 lead and only 1:10 remaining in the game after the Wildcats had roared back from a 14-point, second-half deficit.

“It was huge,” Butler said.”Without having the chance to look at the film yet, I would have to say it was the play of the game.”

Redshirt junior Kayla Lewis followed with a layup after a perfect pass from sophomore January Miller to put UF (17-7, 7-4) up by five with 46 seconds left, and the Wildcats (17-6, 5-5) would not score again until Jennifer O'Neill's meaningless last-second basket.

“We were trying real, real hard at the end, but we just couldn't get it done,” Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. “You have to credit Florida. They played a really good game today.”

Four Gators scored in double figures, led by Miller's 20-point effort that tied UK's O'Neill for game-high honors. Lewis was right behind with 18 points and a career-high tying 17 rebounds for her seventh double-double of the season while adding a career-high six assists, and senior forward Lily Svete poured in a career-high 17 points.

Redshirt sophomore point guard Cassie Peoples added 14 points while Bonds finished with eight points and five assists.

Florida led by as many 10 points in the first half, 33-23, with 5:15 left, but a couple of late turnovers allowed the Wildcats to score the last five points to trim a 40-31 UF lead to 40-36.

Kentucky added a quick four points after intermission to make it nine unanswered and tie the score at 40-all, but that's when UF amped up the defense.

After forcing only five UK turnovers in the first half, Florida forced six in the first four minutes of the second half to key a critical 14-0 run that led to a 54-40 lead with 16:13 remaining.

The Gators would need every point as the Wildcats twice cut the lead to one, the last time at 73-72 with 3:57 left to play. But that's when Svete, who was 5 of 9 from beyond the arc, swished her career-high tying fifth trey of the game to put UF up by four, and Florida was able to hold on for the big win.

Next up, the Gators travel to Georgia for a rematch Sunday with the team that handed them their only SEC home loss this season, a 68-62 decision on Jan. 19.

“It's a huge win, especially because we have a bye week (no midweek game),” Svete said. “It's always good to go into a bye week with a win, and we definitely want to get Georgia back. They came in here and beat us in our place.”

Sunday's victory, coupled with UF's 83-73 road win earlier this season, gave the Gators a sweep over a Kentucky program that has either finished first or second in the SEC each of the last four years.

“I think it's just a demonstration that can't be argued about just how good this team is,” Butler said

“Like I've said anytime we've had one of these great wins, it really was a team effort.”

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