Snowden’s shooting,Watkins’ career night lead UK past Gators



UK head coach Matthew Mitchell wanted more offensive production from his shooting guards last week. On Thursday night against Florida, sophomore guard Keyla Snowden answered her coach’s call with a 21-point effort and a perfect 5-for-5 shooting performance from beyond the arc.

“Keyla gave the best effort in practice on the defensive end, and that provided her an opportunity,” Mitchell said.

Snowden more than seized her opportunity for major minutes and paced the No. 16 Cats (22-4, 10-3 Southeastern Conference) past the Florida Gators (13-13, 6-7 SEC) 77-51, as the Cats outscored the Gators 48-18 in the second half, in their penultimate home game of the season.

Snowden, who came into the game with 21 points in her last six games combined, kept her team in the game in the first half with her hot shooting and 11 first-half points.

“When I get in that zone, I just let the (ball) go, and the coaches keep telling me to just catch and shoot when I’m feeling it,” Snowden said. In fact, according to Snowden, most any shot past the halfcourt line is fair game if she has an open look.

UK, sporting pink jerseys for breast cancer awareness, was once up by as many as eight points in the first half, but faltered with their offensive execution in the final minutes of the opening half and faced a 33-29 deficit at the break. The Gators’ four-point advantage camecourtesy of timely shooting from Florida guards, namely senior Steffi Sorensen and sophomore Trumae Lucas, who combined for 20 of the Gators’ first half points.

“I thought we were not prepared for Florida’s intensity…and we did not match that intensity,” said UK head coach Matthew Mitchell on his team’s sluggish first half. “I told them at halftime I was as disappointed in them as I have been all year.”

The “tale of two halves” as Florida’s head coach Amanda Butler called it, said she saw her team lose the intensity the they enjoyed in the first half, in addition to losing their mental focus.

“We seemed to not be aware the (Snowden) was a shooter, which is baffling,” Butler said.

Not to be outdone by Snowden’s hot hand, was senior forward Lydia Watkins, who finished with a career-high 19 points, all of which were scored in the second half. She was one rebound shy of a double-double.

“I thought (Watkins) was giving the kind of effort (in the first half) that would get us beat, those were my words to her…I haven’t said that about her all year” said Mitchell. “So, credit her for bouncing back because she was walking around in the first half somewhere close to a zombie-like state.”

The Florida game wasn’t the first time Watkins exploded for a big second half, as her play down the stretch in games against Cincinnati and Alabama earlier this season was instrumental in leading UK to victories in those games.

After the first half, it looked as though this game was anything but a runaway, like the Gators’ previous two games. But UK concluded the game on a 30-6 run in the final 10 minutes to send the Gators to their third straight blowout loss.

“It’s probably not the easiest thing to do, to change your attitude in the middle of the game,” Mitchell said.

Snowden’s big night made sure her coach wouldn’t go home with a bad attitude.

“It’s so great as coach to see a kid work hard, work through some tough things and be rewarded with a great game,” Mitchell said. “We would not have won tonight without (Snowden).”