Kentucky faces Florida in quarterfinal matchup

JACKSONVILLE – After defeating LSU in the second round Thursday, the No. 13 University of Kentucky women’s basketball team continues play in the 2016 Southeastern Conference Tournament when it faces No. 25/24 and fourth-seeded Florida at approx. 2:30 p.m. ET in the quarterfinals today at Veterans Memorial Arena in downtown Jacksonville, Fla.

All quarterfinal games will be televised live on the SEC Network, while Saturday’s semifinals will be televised on ESPNU and Sunday’s championship game on ESPN. All games can also be seen through WatchESPN on computers, smartphones or tablets. Kentucky’s quarterfinal matchup Friday will be called by Cara Capuano, Gail Goestkors and Steffi Sorensen.

Neil Price will have the call on the UK Sports Radio Network, available on 630AM WLAP in Lexington. Live stats and live audio will be available online at UKathletics.com.

Kentucky (22-6) started its run in the SEC Tournament with a 79-71 victory over LSU in the second round Thursday. The Wildcats were paced by the 11th double-double of the season by junior post Evelyn Akhator, who had 15 points and 13 rebounds. Senior guard Janee Thompson and junior guard Makayla Epps each had 17 points, with Thompson adding six assists. The senior guard has recorded six or more assists in 13 games this season, a new record for a single season in the Matthew Mitchell era.

Florida enters the SEC Tournament as the No. 4 overall seed after finishing the year with a 10-6 league record, tying Kentucky in the SEC standings. The Gators earned the tiebreaker after a victory over the Wildcats earlier this season in Gainesville. The Gators are 22-7 overall, including 13-2 at home, 7-5 away and 2-0 in neutral-site games. Florida has won two straight games, including three of its last four.

Florida is averaging 78.3 points per game this season and shooting .436 from the field, including .311 from 3. The Gators are 14th nationally in scoring offense, 42nd nationally in field-goal percentage defense and 74th nationally in turnover margin.

The Gators are led in scoring by Ronni Williams, who is averaging 11.2 points per game with 7.9 rebounds per game, while Eleanna Christinaki is averaging 10.3 points per game with a team-best 105 assists. Haley Lorenzen and Cassie Peoples are each averaging over nine points per game, while Simone Westbrook has a team-best 67 steals. The Gators have 10 players averaging over 10 minutes per game with all 10 of those players starting at least once this season.

Friday’s game between Kentucky and Florida will mark the 53rd all-time meeting between the two programs, with Kentucky holding the slim advantage in the all-time series, 27-25. Kentucky has won eight of the last 11 meetings in the series, including two of the last three.

Earlier this season, Florida defeated Kentucky in Gainesville, 85-79, forcing the Wildcats into 30 turnovers and scoring 24 points off those Kentucky miscues. Westbrook led the way with 20 points, while Lorenzen had 18 points and Christinaki and Batchelor each had 12 points.

Four Wildcats scored in double figures, including a season-best 27 points by Makayla Epps, followed by 16 points from Janee Thompson. The Wildcats won the rebounding battle, but UF had 50 points in the paint compared to only 28 for UK. UF had 22 assists in the game, including 11 from Christinaki.

Kentucky is 5-2 all-time in the SEC Tournament against Florida, including 2-0 under Mitchell. Mitchell, an assistant coach at Florida back in the early 2000s, is 9-5 all-time against the Gators, including 9-4 during his time at Kentucky.

 

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