Kentucky Women’s Basketball celebrated National Women and Girls in Sports Day on Sunday as they faced off against the Florida Gators in Memorial Coliseum. Even though the Cats had won the previous 3 meetings with Florida, every game right now is more difficult than it should be. That is due to the unfortunate injury (dislocated finger) that Rhyne Howard suffered against Auburn last week which will keep her out of action for “a couple of weeks.” Though the Cats held onto the lead for 3 quarters, the wheels came off of the cart in the 4th and a 3-point lead ended up being an 8-point loss and the Gators stole one, 70-62.
The first quarter went fairly smoothly for Mitchell’s team, which was a bonus as they had been known to get off to sluggish starts in a number of their games this season. Kentucky closed out the opening stanza leading 17-9 thanks in part to reserve guard Chasity Patterson’s 7 points. Florida helped with the cause by committing 10 fouls, which resulted in 7 more points for the Cats from the strike.
The second quarter wasn’t as kind to the Cats in terms of fouls (they were whistled for 8), but the Gators did their part to help UK’s cause by missing 3 of their FTs and shooting an abysmal 14.2% for field goals. Kentucky went to the locker room with a 29-19 advantage and appeared to be primed to win this game running away. And let’s face it, a second win without Howard is pure gravy for the Cats and desperately needed.
This is not the best of times for Howard to be out as the Cats are currently in 4th place in the SEC and fighting for the best seeding possible in both the SEC and NCAA tournaments. Kentucky will travel to Arkansas next Sunday (Hogs currently ranked #25 and 1 game behind the Cats in the SEC) and then will welcome the 2nd place (and ranked #9 in the country) Mississippi State Bulldogs to Memorial on February 16th. The ladies need every win they can get and certainly cannot afford to give away what should be a fairly easy (in comparison) game.
The 3rd quarter, however, was pretty much everything the Cats did not need. Too many fouls, 1-6 shooting from beyond the arc, and Florida suddenly finding their touch from everywhere, shooting a blistering 61.5% (60% from 3-point range). Kentucky limped into the 4th quarter with a once-double-digit lead reduced to a mere 3 points.
As the final quarter began, the Cats looked like they could maintain a handle on the game, but things went off the rails quickly. All of a sudden, UK couldn’t get a stop without fouling a Florida player and they couldn’t make a shot if their lives depended on it. While it’s pretty common for Kentucky to be outrebounded this year (they are quite a small team, after all), it’s not so common to be ice cold from long range and miss 12 free throws as well.
When the dust settled, Blair Green had been held scoreless for the game, and Sabrina Haines only managed 5 points and 4 rebounds in her limited time on the court. Jaida Roper (15 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist) and Chasity Patterson (25 points, 2 rebounds) did what they could, but it fell short.
This was a game that the Cats could, and should have won, but they let it slip away. Hopefully, they can bounce back in their next game. But I have a feeling when seedings are announced, this one is going to haunt the Cats.
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