Taylor Murray scored 19 points, and Amanda Paschal added a career-high 12 as Kentucky won its first SEC game of the season, beating Florida 56-53 on Thursday night at Exactech Arena. The win was head coach Matthew Mitchell’s 250th at Kentucky. Mitchell is the winningest head coach in program history.
Kentucky (9-9, 1-3 SEC) got seven points and five rebounds from Dorie Harrison, and six points and six rebounds from Tatyana Wyatt.
The Wildcats earned their first win in Gainesville in six years, a 59-56 win on January 1, 2012, by connecting on six of 12 shots from behind the arc. Kentucky also got huge contributions from its non-starters, outscoring Florida 23-4 in bench points, as the Wildcats beat the Gators for the fifth time in the last six meetings between the teams.
Kentucky started the contest quickly, jumping out to a 11-2 lead behind seven points from Murray. But Florida would finish the period on an 8-0 run to lead 11-10 after one period.
Florida took its first lead early in the second period on a layup by Haley Lorenzen. The teams would trade one-point leads until Makenzie Cann nailed a three-pointer to give UK an 18-14 advantage. The lead would grow to six, 20-14, on a layup by Dorie Harrison, but, as they did in the first period, Florida had a strong finish, scoring the last four points of the period to make it 20-18 at the half.
In the third period, Florida got hot from behind the arc, hitting five of its first six shots from three-point range to take a 33-26 lead. Kentucky would rally to within two, 36-34, on a jumper by Harrison, but the Gators led 39-36 after three quarters.
The Wildcats regained the lead in the fourth quarter, 42-40, on a layup and free throw by Murray. After Florida tied the game at 42 apiece, Kentucky scored four in a row to lead 46-42. However, the Gators answered by scoring the next four to tie the game again, this time at 46-46.
After Florida had taken a 49-48 lead, Paschal drained a three-pointer from the corner to give Kentucky a 51-49 lead with 2:29 remaining in the game. With 54 seconds remaining, Murray drained a three-point basket as the shot clock expired to extend the advantage to 54-49.
Florida (8-9, 0-4) would score four in a row to get within one, 54-53 with seven seconds left in the game. Maci Morris would hit one of two at the line with six seconds left, giving UK a 55-53 lead. Florida would get a look at a potential game-winning three, but the Gators missed and Paige Poffenberger secured the rebound and the victory with 0.6 seconds left. Poffenberger hit one of two free throws to provide the final margin of victory.
Kentucky returns to action on Monday, as the Wildcats visit Vanderbilt. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on the SEC Network.
‑ GO CATS –
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