The SEC women’s basketball tournament kicks off Wednesday in Greeneville, South Carolina, with the bottom four seeds set to take the hardwood. Texas A&M (7-19, 2-14 SEC) will face Vanderbilt (2-18, 3-13 SEC) in the early matchup, and Florida (16-13, 5-11) takes on Kentucky (10-18, 2-14) immediately after.
The Gators closed out regular season play with back-to-back wins against Alabama and Missouri, while also putting together a strong performance in their loss to No. 4 LSU heading into the tournament.
Florida vs. Kentucky
Florida lost their lone-matchup with the Wildcats earlier this season, 81-75, and were plagued by turnovers throughout. Florida turned the ball over 24 times, with 17 being Kentucky steals.
The Gators also shot under 54% from the charity stripe and had a difficult time making up ground as a result.
Both teams found themselves in foul trouble throughout, as Kentucky committed 24 fouls to Florida’s 25.
Senior Gators guard KK Deans led the scoring effort for the Orange & Blue with 21 points to go along with eight rebounds and five assists. Deans hit five threes, four of which came in the second quarter.
Florida senior guard Nina Rickards was also a heavy contributor on the offensive end with 18 points and four rebounds.
For Kentucky, senior guard Robyn Benton dropped a season high 29 points with five rebounds and two assists. Sophomore Wildcats guard Jada Walker poured in 19 points to help elevate Kentucky over Florida, marking the team’s first SEC victory of the season.
Kentucky women’s basketball erases a 16-point first half deficit to defeat Florida 81-75. The Wildcats first SEC win.
Robyn Benton leads the way with 29 points.
— Lee K. Howard (@HowardWKYT) January 15, 2023
Florida will need a strong performance on the defensive end in order to escape round one. The Gators forced 17.2 turnovers per game this season, while holding opponents to just 40.2% from the floor and 31.6% from deep.
The Gators have shot similarly themselves, averaging just 39.6% from the field and 31.9% from three.
Florida has played particularly well in low-scoring games this season, so they’ll look to control the pace accordingly.
They’ll likely bank on heavy contributions from their vets, with Deans lead the team in scoring and three-point percentage this season.
The performances of seniors Faith Dut and Rickards will also be pivotal to the Gators’ success. Rickards ranked second on the team in scoring this season, and Dut’s provided an important presence in the paint.
The winner of this matchup will move on to play Alabama Thursday in the second round of the tournament, while the losing team’s season will come to an end.
Florida has a tough path ahead in order to come out on top of the SEC, needing to win five games in five consecutive days to prevail. Wednesday marks step one.