LEXINGTON, Ky. – Florida coach Amanda Butler knew she wanted to take away Kentucky's best player. She also knew that wouldn't be enough to win on the road in the Southeastern Conference.
Butler was right.
Despite holding Kentucky's leading scorer A'dia Mathies to just two points, the Gators didn't have enough to slow the No. 6 Wildcats in a 57-52 loss.
Mathies' two points were a career low. She was 1 of 7 from the field.
"A'dia's a great player," Butler said. "I told my team during our preparation that she's the best player in the SEC."
The Wildcats and Florida (13-7, 3-4) played to a halftime tie at 21-all with both teams struggling to find consistent offense. Mathies, third in the SEC with 16.1 points per game, didn't take her first shot until nearly 7 minutes had gone by.
"But you can't get too carried away with A'dia Mathies, or Bria Goss will have however many or Samarie Walker or whatever," Butler added. "We just wanted to play tough team defense and be super aggressive on the defensive end and make sure we were dictating — certainly, we were trying to limit her touches as much as we could, but that's difficult to do."
Kentucky (18-2, 7-0) struggled offensively without Mathies' typical steady hand, shooting 30 percent from the field. Mathies scored her only basket 13 seconds into the second half, and it sparked a 17-2 Wildcats run that proved too much for Florida.
Kastine Evans, who was scoreless at halftime, scored eight straight points for Kentucky during the run. Her 3-pointer with 15:20 to play gave the Wildcats their first double-digit lead of the game.
"I just thought that for a couple of minutes, we resembled what our team can look like," Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. "That was the only time that happened today. I think we allowed Florida and their aggressiveness and their physical play and their changing defense, so when we didn't have success early we just had some people decide they weren't going to try to figure it out."
When Florida stopped the Wildcats' run, it didn't make a run of its own. Instead, the Gators chipped away and kept the game close, holding Kentucky to three field goals in the final 10 minutes.
The Gators pulled to 50-48 with 25.2 seconds left on Lanita Bartley's layup, but the Wildcats went 7 of 8 from the free throw line in the last 30 seconds to hold on.
"I was really, really proud of our team's fight and their willingness to gut it out when it would have been easy and understandable by a lot of people's standards to accept less," Butler said. "But we didn't, and we put ourselves in position to win a ball game against a very good, very well-coached team that's full of great players."