Florida-Kentucky fight aftermath: One suspension would carry over if Gators make NIT

Kevin Brockway
The Gainesville Sun

A day after a melee in which four Florida women's basketball players and four Kentucky players were ejected during an SEC Tournament game, the Gators will now turn their focus to whether their season will extend deeper into March.

At 16-14, Florida could still qualify for the NIT Tournament, whose bracket will be revealed on March 13. Florida will take a few days off and then resume practicing next week in hopes of hearing its name called. The Gators were knocked out of the SEC Tournament with a 72-57 loss to Kentucky on Wednesday.

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If Florida makes the WNIT, it will have to play the first game without sophomore forward Tatyana Wyche, who was one of the four players ejected on Wednesday. While running back on defense, Kentucky's Ajae Petty rolled the ball up the face of Wyche, who responded by hurling the ball in Petty's direction. After walking upcourt staring her down, Wyche ran after Petty and appeared ready to throw a punch before being taken into the Kentucky bench by a mass of players and coaches.The game was suspended for 20 minutes and eight players were ejected, four from each team. The bulk of the ejections was for players leaving the bench area during the fracas. Also, Wyche and Petty were each assigned technical fouls.

An official gets between Florida's Tatyana Wyche (2), at far right, and Kentucky's Jada Walker (11) aduring a scuffle in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game during the Southeastern Conference women's tournament in Greenville, S.C., Wednesday, March 1, 2023. Several players from both teams were ejected from the game. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

The one-game suspension for Wyche was levied by the SEC. It will be up to Florida to consider any additional punishment on the three other players who were ejected for leaving the bench — forward Faith Dut, center Ra Shaya Kyle and forward Taliyah Wyche, Tatyana's sister. Cassidy Rowe, Saniah Tyler, Eniya Russell and Zennia Thomas were ejected for Kentucky."Obviously that's not how we want to represent ourselves, as Florida women's basketball and in the competitive spirit," Florida coach Kelly Rae Finley said after the game. "So, first and foremost, I apologize for that because that is not representative of the SEC, University of Florida or how we compete."

Tatyana Wyche suspension could carry over to 2023-24 season

If Florida doesn't make the WNIT, Wyche's suspension will be carried over to the start of next season.

Florida had high expectations for year two under Finley after finishing 21-11 in 2021-22 and reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016. But last October, the Gators lost point guard Zippy Broughton for the season due to injury. Then, starting forward Jordyn Merritt left the team for an extended period in December and January for personal reasons.

"We returned two players that had played significant minutes in this conference this year so we had a lot oflearning and growth to do," Finley said. "That's what we will continue to build on."