UF roundup: Kentucky eliminates Florida from SEC women's basketball tourney
GREENVILLE, S.C. — Rhyne Howard scored 27 points, seven in the last three minutes when 17th-ranked Kentucky outscored No. 12 seed Florida 14-4 to earn a 73-64 win in the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament on Thursday.
That ended an entertaining duel with Florida's Kiki Smith, who scored a career-high 36 points, the ninth-highest game in tourney history.
The Wildcats (17-7) advance to face fourth-seeded Georgia in the quarterfinals on Friday.
KeKe McKinney added 10 points and eight rebounds for Kentucky, including a key 3-pointer in the closing run. The Wildcats outscored the Gators 27-15 in the fourth quarter when Howard, a junior just named SEC player of the year for the second time, also contributed three of her four assists. She had two of her four steals in the last three minutes.
Smith, who surpassed 1,000 career points in a first-round win over Auburn, also led the Gators (11-13) with nine rebounds. She made 5 of 7 free throws while her teammates were 3 of 9 and was 3 of 6 from 3-point range for a team that finished 4 of 17.
Florida took a 17-15 lead after an entertaining first quarter that saw Smith score 15 points and Howard 10. Smith had 18 and Howard 16 as the Wildcats took a 33-32 lead at the half.
Smith outscored Howard 11-2 in the third quarter and Florida regained the lead 49-46 entering the fourth.
No. 5 Florida (13-0), which defeated New Mexico State 6-2 on Wednesday, faces No. 16 Florida State (10-3) at 3:30 p.m. Friday on the SEC Network at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, then the teams will play Saturday at 6 p.m. in Tallahassee on the ACC Network Extra.
The Gators and the 2021 USA Softball Women’s National Team will compete in an exhibition contest at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium on March 16 at 6 p.m. on SEC Network +.
Just last season, Gator Greats Michelle Moultrie (2009-’12), Kelsey Stewart (2013-’16) and Aubree Munro (2013-’16) were welcomed back to KSP Stadium for the first time since their UF playing careers concluded. Florida took Team USA down to the wire in last year’s exhibition, but eventually fell 5-3 to the world’s No. 1-ranked team.
Eighth-ranked Florida (12-2) returns to Exactech Arena for the first time in just under a month to take on Arkansas (11-5) in a two-match series beginning Friday.
Friday's first serve is slated for 6 p.m. on the SEC Network +. Saturday's match will also begin at 6 p.m. on the SEC Network +.
UF leads the series 44-3 against Arkansas, with all matches coming under the helm of Mary Wise. The Gators are a perfect 20-0 against the Razorbacks in Gainesville.
The nation's top dual meet of the weekend closes regular-season action Friday — No. 1 Florida at No. 6 Alabama, starting at 8:30 p.m. ET on SEC Network Alternate Channel. This is the 59th consecutive meeting between these two league rivals that both bring a top-10 ranking.
Florida (7-0, 6-0 SEC) clinched at least a share of the 2021 SEC title with its win last Friday. A home team win Friday gives the Tide (6-1) a share of its first SEC regular-season title. Entering the final Friday of SEC regular-season action, all other league teams have at least two losses. Florida seeks to become the fourth SEC regular-season champion with an undefeated record (2017, 2018: LSU; 2020: UF).
No. 10 Florida (8-1, 4-0 SEC) is scheduled to host No. 14 Georgia (6-2, 1-2 SEC) and No. 3 Tennessee (14-1, 3-0 SEC) this weekend at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex.
The Gators will play the Bulldogs on Friday at 5 p.m., while the Volunteers will visit Gainesville on Sunday at noon.