Florida's Jordyn Merritt, center, tries to get a shot off against the Kentucky defense 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. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

Florida Loses to Kentucky in the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament

The Kentucky Wildcats women’s basketball team defeated the Florida Gators 72-57 in the first round of the 2023 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament. Holding a 50-48 lead with 5:39 to go, the Wildcats outscored Florida 22-9 to conclude the game.

Florida’s Nina Rickards led the Gators with 19 points, while Alberte Rimdal added 15 points going 5-8 from the floor. Kentucky’s Adebola Adeyeye posted a double-double with 11 points and 17 rebounds. Additionally, Robyn Benton scored a game-high 20 points.

Kentucky advances to the second round, where they’ll face No. 6 seed Alabama on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Gators will sit and wait for a potential postseason bid to the Women’s NIT.

Kentucky Takes an Early Lead; Ejections in the Second

After Florida took a 4-2 lead to start the game, the Wildcats shot out of a cannon with a 16-6 run in the first quarter. Kentucky led 18-12 at the end of the first quarter behind four points each from Benton, Jada Walker and Amiya Jennings. Florida turned the ball over five times in the first ten minutes of play. Walker added three assists in the quarter.

After a layup by Walker gave the Wildcats a 22-14 lead with 5:26 left in the half, chaos ensued after Florida’s Tatyana Wyche threw the ball at Kentucky’s Ajae Petty, who had pushed the ball into Wyche’s face after the bucket.

Wyche charged Petty, and a shoving match took place near the Kentucky bench. Players and coaches from both teams left their benches to stop the melee, and the officials went to the table to review the incident.

After a delay that lasted over 20 minutes, eight total active players and one injured player were ejected from the game, and four players were assessed technical fouls. For Florida, Wyche, her sister Taliyah Wyche, center Ra Shaya Kyle and forward Faith Dut were ejected. Wyche and Myka Perry were assessed technical fouls.

Florida’s Zippy Broughton, who was out with a season-ending injury, was also ejected from the game.

Kentucky’s Saniah Tyler, Eniya Russell, Cassidy Rowe and Zenniah Thomas were ejected, while Perry and Benton picked up techs.

Following the ejections, Florida cut the lead to one going into the half with a Leilani Correa three-pointer and a KK Deans layup. Florida outscored Kentucky 9-4 in the second quarter.

Late Run by the ‘Cats End a Back-and-Forth Second Half

The scoring picked back up in the third quarter with the Wildcats outscoring Florida 21-20.

Rimdal and Rickards combined to score 12 of the Gators’ 20 points in the quarter. The duo hit back-to-back 3-pointers that helped cut the deficit to two points with 3:48 left. A Rickards and-1 gave Florida a 41-39 lead with 2:15 to go in the quarter. It was their first lead since they held a 4-2 lead to start the game.

However, Benton and Maddie Scherr assisted each other on buckets to give the Wildcats a 43-41 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Rimdal scored while being fouled, and her free throw gave Florida a 44-43 lead early in the fourth quarter. However, Benton continued to have the hot hand in the fourth quarter by scoring Kentucky’s first seven points in the period.

Two buckets by Rickards would keep Florida within distance, but an Adeyeye layup to make it 52-48 was the start of a 22-9 run to put the Gators on ice. Blair Green scored six points over the game’s final five minutes. Walker added five points of her own during the run.

Meanwhile, Florida missed eight shots and turned it over three times as the game quickly slipped from its grasp. Benton hit a three-pointer with two seconds left to officially end the game.

Tournament roundtable

Kentucky’s win on Wednesday set the field for the second round, which begins on Thursday. To start, No. 9 Missouri takes on No. 8 Arkansas beginning at noon. At 2 p.m., No. 5 Mississippi State faces No. 13 Texas A&M, who defeated No. 12 Vanderbilt 77-70 on Wednesday. At 6 p.m., No. 7 Georgia plays No. 10 Auburn. To conclude the night, No. 6 Alabama hosts Texas A&M at 8 p.m.

About Cam Parker

Cam is a fourth-year broadcast journalism sports and media major at the University of Florida. In addition to writing and recording radio trendings for WRUF, Cam covers North Florida HS football for The Prep Zone and Mainstreet Daily News and UF football and basketball for Inside the Gators.

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