LEXINGTON, Ky. – Rhyne Howard scored 16 points and Taylor Murray added 13 as the 19th-ranked Kentucky women's basketball team topped Florida 62-51 on Sunday at Rupp Arena.
Kentucky (18-5, 5-4 SEC) also got 10 points and a career-high seven assists from leading scorer Maci Morris. It was the 19th time this season, and the 85th time in her career, that Morris has reached double figures in scoring. The senior from Bell County moved into eighth place on UK's career scoring list in the game. Morris now has 1,572 points during her storied career in Lexington.
The Wildcats won despite shooting just 31.7 percent (20-63) from the floor in the game, including just five of 20 (25 percent) from behind the arc. Kentucky forced 24 Florida turnovers in the game, turning those into 31 points. The Cats also had a big advantage in second-chance points, outscoring the Gators 16-8.
With its inside players in foul trouble, Kentucky got huge contributions from Blair Green and Amanda Paschal on Sunday. Green scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds, while Paschal had six points and a career-high and team-leading nine rebounds.
Florida got out of the gates early, hitting three of its first four shots, including its first two shots from behind the arc. Kentucky, on the other hand, missed its first seven shots and, predictably, fell behind 9-0. Kentucky got its first basket of the game on a Jaida Roper jumper, and free throw at 6:42 of the first period. The Cats would cut the lead in half on a three from Blair Green, making it 9-6. Florida answered by scoring the next four points to lead 13-6 with 3:23 left in the first quarter.
Kentucky got another basket from Green to cut deficit to 13-8. After the Gators scored to make it 15-8, the Cats scored the last seven points of the period, including the last four by Howard, to tie the score at 15 apiece after one quarter. Green led UK with five points in the first quarter.
The teams traded three-pointers near the beginning of the second quarter, with Florida's Ariel Johnson hitting from deep before Paschal answered. Kentucky took its first lead of the game when Howard converted a layup on a pass from Morris, making it 20-18 Cats. UK would extend the lead to 23-18 when Paschal hit her second three of the quarter.
Florida would get back within two, 25-23, on a Danielle Rainey jumper with 4:20 left in the half. But Kentucky scored the last five points of the half to lead 30-23 at the break. Howard led UK with 12 points in the first half. The Cats forced 16 Florida turnovers in the first half and UK scored 21 points off those Florida Miscues. The Gators hit seven of their 13 field goals in the first half, but were hampered by the 16 turnovers. Kentucky made 12 of 39 (30.8 percent) from the floor in the first half, but had only three turnovers.
Kentucky extended its lead early in the third period as Morris scored her first points, nailing a three-pointer from the top of the key to give the Cats a 33-23 lead. But Florida scored the next six points, on back-to-back three-pointers, to cut the deficit to 33-29. Murray would score UK's next four points, on four free throws, as the Cats extended the lead to 37-30 with 5:29 left in the third.
Florida would continue to chip away at the lead, eventually getting within two, 42-40 with 51 seconds left in the period. The Cats scored the last three points of the frame to lead 45-40 with 10 minutes left to play.
In the fourth quarter, Kentucky gradually built its lead, using an 8-0 run to take its biggest lead of the game, 56-43, with 3:46 remaining. Florida would get back within nine, 58-49, but the Gators would get no closer.
Kentucky returns to action on Thursday, visiting the Plains to take on Auburn. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on SEC Network Plus.