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Kentucky women’s basketball survives Florida 81-77, snaps six-game losing streak

Kentucky+guards+Amiya+Jenkins+and+Brooklynn+Miles+celebrate+during+the+Kentucky+vs+Florida+women%E2%80%99s+basketball+game+on+Sunday%2C+Feb.+18%2C+2024%2C+at+Rupp+Arena+in+Lexington%2C+Kentucky.+Kentucky+won+81-77.+Photo+by+Sydney+Yonker+%7C+Staff
Sydney Yonker
Kentucky guards Amiya Jenkins and Brooklynn Miles celebrate during the Kentucky vs Florida women’s basketball game on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 81-77. Photo by Sydney Yonker | Staff

Kentucky women’s basketball (10-16, 3-9) snapped its six-game losing streak Sunday, taking down the Florida Gators 81-77 inside Rupp Arena, and earning its first victory since January 21.

The win came on “Alumni Day,” which saw Kentucky celebrate players and coaches from the past whilst celebrating 50 years of women’s basketball being a varsity sport at the University of Kentucky.

“It’s very special knowing that they’re still around and showing us love,” Senior Eniya Russell said regarding Alumni Day. “Them being in the crowd and adding more people to the stands really helped us a lot.”

After experimenting with a plethora of different lineups over the past few games, head coach Kyra Elzy would opt for a starting group featuring seniors Ajae Petty, Maddie Scherr and Emma King, along with sophomores Cassidy Rowe and Amiya Jenkins.

Kentucky guard Eniya Russell goes up with the ball during the Kentucky vs Florida women’s basketball game on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 81-77. Photo by Sydney Yonker | Staff (Sydney Yonker)

Both teams would exchange buckets out of the gate, with a 3-pointer from King giving the Wildcats a one-point lead after a Petty bucket was followed by a pair of Gator layups.

A four-minute scoring drought would ensue, with the dry streak being broken by a layup from Russell, with both Russell and junior Brooklynn Miles combining for seven of Kentucky’s 17 first-quarter points as the score stood tied heading into the second.

Gator junior Alberte Rimdal would kick off the scoring in the second quarter with the Gators only 3-pointer of the half, with Russell scoring the next four points for the Cats to keep Kentucky within one.

The Wildcats would keep pace with the Gators as the quarter wound down, with Russell sinking a shot from deep to give the Cats a three-point lead, with a Gator three shortening that advantage to two heading into the break.

Florida would net the first seven points out of the break to command a five-point lead, with the Gator run being broken by a retaliatory 9-0 run from the Wildcats as they took a four-point lead of their own.

A quarter of runs would continue as the Gators responded with a subsequent 10-0 run to take their biggest lead of the game, an advantage that Florida would take into the fourth quarter.

“We talked about remaining composed,” Elzy said regarding the Cats’ third-quarter struggles. “We weren’t going to get it back all at one time, so we needed to stay strong defensively.”

Scherr’s second 3-pointer of the game would bring Kentucky within three but would be followed by the second triple of the game from Rimdal to stretch Florida’s lead back out to seven. 

Kentucky forward Ajae Petty goes up with the ball during the Kentucky vs Florida women’s basketball game on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 81-77. Photo by Sydney Yonker | Staff (Sydney Yonker)

Both teams would proceed to exchange buckets, with four straight points from Russell bringing the Wildcats within two, eclipsing another 20-point performance for the Baltimore native.

The Wildcats would tie the score shortly after following a Scherr jumper, with a layup from Florida senior Aliyah Matharu promptly retaking the lead for the Gators.

A pair of made free throws from Jenkins would tie the score, with a coast-to-coast drive from sophomore Saniah Tyler giving the Cats their first lead since early in the third quarter.

Kentucky would fight to maintain its lead as the game entered its final minutes, with a trip to the charity stripe for Russell resulting in two misses, but Petty grabbed the miss to record her 14th double-double of the season.

“You know, they were really physical with her,” Elzy said regarding Petty’s performance. “I thought she remained composed and got boards when we needed.”

The Gators would bring the game within one possession, but consistency from the free-throw line would see the Wildcats survive to snap their six-game losing streak with an 81-77 victory over Florida.

The Wildcats will look to build on their first victory since January when they head down to Starkville, Mississippi, for their second matchup with the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Thursday, February 22, with the tip set for 7:30 p.m. ET.

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