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Jordan Jones scored a game-high 13 points.

Sunday January 22, 2012Florida's Furious Late Rally Falls Short at No. 6 Kentucky, 57-52

Lexington, KY

Jordan Jones scored a game-high 13 points.

Florida whittled a 15-point deficit down to two but was unable to complete what would have been a stirring upset against the sixth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats, who captured the 57-52 decision on Sunday in front of a sold-out crowd of 7,888 in Memorial Coliseum, marking the team’s third sell-out of the season.

 

Junior Jennifer George (Orlando, Fla.) posted her Southeastern Conference-leading fifth double-double in seven league games, as well as her 12th this season, contributing 10 points and 11 rebounds with three steals and three blocks for the Gators (13-7, 3-4 SEC), who were led in scoring by senior Jordan Jones (Suwanee, Ga.), who scored a game-high 13 points. Sophomore Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville, Fla.) also scored 10 points for Florida, which has lost its last three games in the series against the Wildcats by a total of nine points.

 

Kentucky is now 18-2 overall and the only SEC team remaining with an undefeated league record. The Wildcats are off to their second-best start in program history, with the 1982-83 squad beginning 19-2.

 

With Florida holding a 21-16 lead with 3:18 remaining in the first half, Kentucky went on a 22-2 run that spanned the final three minutes of the first half and the first six and half minutes of the second and took a 38-23 lead with 13:27 remaining.

 

The Gators answered with the next six points and seemingly traded scores with the Wildcats for the next eight minutes before ripping off an 8-0 run and were within two points with 27 seconds remaining. Kentucky stepped up at the free throw line where it scored its final seven points to fend off Florida’s rally and hopes of an upset.

 

“You have to give Kentucky credit for what they were able to do to us, the lead they were able to create and the intensity they came out of the locker room with in the second half,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “I was really, really proud of our team’s fight and their willingness to gut it out when I think it would have been very easy and understandable by a lot of people’s minds to accept less. We put ourselves to nearly win the ballgame against a very good, very well coached team that’s full of great players.”

 

The Gators collected themselves after the devastating 22-2 Wildcat march and scored six consecutive points and dropped their deficit to single digits after Azania Stewart, Jaterra Bonds and Ndidi Madu each contributed.

 

Florida had a couple of chances to get even but turned the ball over three times and the Wildcats were able to get themselves to the free throw line where they knocked down 3-of-4 and took a 41-29 lead.

 

Jaterra Bonds then banked in a three-pointer and had Florida within nine points, 41-32, with 9:40 remaining.

 

Brittany Shine added two free throws at the 8:02 mark and the Gators clawed to within seven points, 41-34.

 

Kentucky halted its six-minute field goal drought when Brittany Henderson hit one from under the basket, before the Gators committed their 22nd turnover the contest and gave the ball back to the Wildcats. Florida forced a long shot from the Wildcats, who missed, but corralled the offensive board. The Gators then sent Kastine Evans to the free throw line for three attempts, as she made two and gave UK a 45-34 lead with 6:41 remaining.

 

The teams then traded scores for the next minute, with the Gator getting makes from George, Bonds and Jones and helping UF remain within nine points, 49-40, with 5:04 remaining.

 

After the scoring frenzy, neither team scored for the next minute before UK hit one free throw, followed by four straight points from George, who brought the Gators within six points, 50-44, with 2:58 remaining.

 

George, however, then missed the front end of a one-and-one, the third by a Gator in the game.

 

Madu corralled a UK miss on the other end and streaked down the lane for a layup and had Florida within four, 50-46, with 1:49 remaining.

 

On the Wildcats next possession, they missed three wild shots but got the rebound each time, before A’dia Mathies found her way to the free throw line with 1:01 remaining. She missed both, but UK again secured the loose rebound and held the four-point advantage.

 

Another miss from UK and Florida finally had its chance offensively , where Lanita Bartley dribbled the court and scooped in a layup and the Gators were now within tow points, 50-48, with 25.2 seconds on the clock.

 

Florida thought it had a quick steal, but was whistled for a foul and Bria Goss stepped to the line, hit two free throws with 22.8 seconds remaining and gave UK a 52-48 cushion.

 

The Gators then had the ball and Jones’ soft 6-foot floater found the bottom of the next and Florida was within two, 52-50.

 

Florida immediately fouled Snowden, who sank two free throws with 13 ticks on the clock, before Bartley again sank a layup with just over six seconds remaining and again had Florida within two, 54-52.

 

Snowden was again fouled and missed the first attempt from the line and made the second as UK held a 55-52 lead with six seconds to go.

 

Florida threw the ball the to midcourt, but it was tied up and the possession arrow was in favor of the Wildcats, who were able to inbound the ball to Snowden, who made both with 4.5 seconds remaining and ended the game’s scoring.

 

Snowden hit 9-of-12 free throws during the game, including 8-of-10 in the second half and 4-of-6 in the final 3:59 of the game, when the Wildcats converted 6-of-8 to seal the their 16th consecutive home win.

 

Florida actually made three more field goals than Kentucky, with both hitting three treys, but the different was at the free throw line, where the Gators struggled to a 7-of-15 effort, while the Wildcats made 18-of-28.

 

The Gators tied a season-high with 23 turnovers, also committing as many miscues in the first meeting against the Wildcats, as well as at Georgia.

 

UF hit 40.4 percent of its shots for the game, while UK managed just 30 percent, including a 29 percent effort in the second half when they outscored the Gators 36-31, but made 15-of-22 free throws.

 

“I’m very proud of our defensive effort,” Butler said. “They are a very potent offensive team and to hold them in the 50s in a great accomplishment.”

 

Kentucky entered the game averaging 79.7 points, the sixth-most in the country, while its scoring margin of +22.4 ranked eighth in the country.

 

The 57 points are the fewest the Wildcats have scored this season.

 

Kentucky scored the first seven points of the second half after closing the first period on a 5-0 march, as the Wildcats staged a 12-0 run to take a 28-21 lead with 17:59 remaining.

 

The Gators hit 1-of-4 during the opening minutes of the second frame, while the Wildcats came out nailing 4-of-8.

 

Jennifer George stopped the march with a bucket inside, but Kastine Evans, who was scoreless in the first half, followed with five straight points after netting a three-pointer just moments before George’s shot.

 

The Wildcats continued their offensive assault by tacking on another 10-0 run and assumed a 38-23 lead with 13:27 remaining, while the Gator shooting woes continued in the period, as they converted just 1-of-7 during those opening minutes of the second half.

 

Snowden led UK with 11 points, while Evans finished with 10 for the Wildcats, who held the 42-39 rebounding advantage, collecting 22 on the offensive end.

 

The Gators took a 16-9 lead after back-to-back baskets from Jordan Jones, who hit an eight-foot pull-up jumper and then converted a layup at the 8:37mark of the first half.

 

Samarie Walker answered for Kentucky, as she hit a pair shots under the baskets.

 

Jaterra Bonds nailed a three-pointer and put the Gators back up by six points, 19-13, with 5:42 remaining, but the Wildcats went on a 8-2 run to close the half, with Florida’s lone points coming from Azania Stewart’s inside turnaround layin at the 3:18 mark.

 

During that 8-2 UK spurt, Florida was whistled for six personal fouls, four of them resulting in turnovers, while missing the front end of two one-and-ones and off the mark on five field goal attempts.

 

In spite of going cold from the floor and the free throw line, the Gators entered halftime tied at 21.

 

Kentucky began the game scoring the first four points, before Florida responded with a 10-0 march. Jones scored the final five points during the run, after Lanita Bartley added three and Jennifer George hit an inside field goal with a lob pass from Deana Allen.

 

The Gators have a midweek bye and won’t return to the court until next Sunday, January 29, when the team travels to Fayetteville, Ark., to play the Arkansas Razorbacks in Bud Walton Arena, where tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET/2 p.m. CT.

 

 

Scores of other SEC Games Played Sunday:

South Carolina d. VANDERBILT, 65-60 OT

Arkansas d. LSU, 72-52

George d. OLE MISS, 61-47

MISSISSIPPI STATE d. Auburn, 62-57

 

 

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