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Howard, No. 17 Kentucky women defeat Florida, 85-73

Special to Gatorsports.com
Florida sophomore Lavender Briggs, the Gators' leading scorer, will miss the remainder of the season with a foot injury.

The Florida women's basketball team received some bad news before the game Monday and things didn't get much better during it at the O'Connell Center.

The Gators announced before the game against Kentucky that sophomore star and leading scorer Lavender Briggs would miss the remainder of the season with a foot injury. The 6-foot-1 guard, who was coming off a 21-point, 10-rebound game against LSU on Thursday, was averaging 19.4 points a game and 6.5 rebounds. Her 41-point game earlier this year ranks fourth for the Gators.

The news helped lead to Rhyne Howard scoring 31 points and grabbing nine rebounds and No. 17 Kentucky turning back Florida 85-73.

 "It's your first game without her so you're trying to figure out who's going to fill that void, take those shots because she does so much for us," UF coach  Cam Newbauer said. "Just knowing that we can compete in this league. We don't have Lav, but we have enough. And we are enough. And we can compete. And we can fight. And we can stay connected and become who we are, without Lav.

"Change is inevitable. You lose a player, you have to change. Progress is a choice. And our players chose today, that we're going to progress without her and we're not going to hang our head and be down. We're going to compete. And that's what they did. I think we will keep competing and keep fighting, best we can."

With the Gators challenging on the strength of their 3-point shooting, Howard scored five points with an assist and a steal as the Wildcats stretched a three-point lead with 5:49 to play to 87-73.

Florida, which went 10 of 18 from 3-point range, had four misses and four turnovers in going more than five minutes with just one free throw.

Chasity Patterson and KeKe McKinney both had 13 points for Kentucky (15-5, 8-4 Southeastern Conference), which shot 54% (36 of 67). Jazmine Massengill added nine points, seven rebounds and 10 assists.

Kiara Smith had 23 points with 10 rebounds and Danielle Rainey scored 20 points on 6-of-11 3-point shooting for Florida (10-9, 3-8), which trailed by 16 late in the third quarter. Nina Rickards had a career-high 19 points with 10 boards and six assists.

Howard was coming off a poor shooting eight-point game in a win over Tennessee. But she was 12 of 20 from the field, including 4 of 7 behind the arc, against Florida.

Kentucky is scheduled to play LSU at home on Thursday while Alabama visits Florida.