LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Florida was getting sick of close losses to Kentucky. So the Gators finally found a way to knock off the sixth-ranked team in the country.
Jaterra Bonds scored 23 points and the Gators ended a six-game losing streak to the Wildcats with an 83-73 victory on Sunday. Florida had lost its last five games to Kentucky by seven points or loss.
The Gators (12-3, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) have won eight straight overall, playing their first road game since Dec. 4.
"Kentucky is a great team and it's a fantastic win, not only to play and beat them, but beat them here," Florida coach Amanda Butler said. "It was very significant. It's a great opportunity for our team that we took advantage of. This is a team that works very hard every day and got what they deserved and took advantage of the chance they had this evening."
Florida trailed 70-69 with four minutes but outscored the Wildcats 14-3 the remainder of the game for the final margin. The Gators made 12 of 16 free throws in the last four minutes and Kentucky failed to muster a field goal in the last eight minutes.
"This team just has an extra measure of chemistry and extra (incentive) and do things for each other," Butler said. "They knew there's no way we're going to get a win at Kentucky, they're too good of a ball club on their home floor, we had to be mentally ready and resilient. I'm really, proud of the way we didn't hang our heads."
She also hopes her team's performance is "an indicator of things to come" after watching her team outrebounds the Wildcats 42-40.
"We showed a lot of toughness and a lot of guts and it shows that the team (was) willing to do whatever they had to do to win. It wasn't as much about scoring points tonight as much as it was getting in those spots and getting those rebounds."
Bonds led four players in double figures and scored eight of Florida's first 13 points as the Gators raced out to a 21-10 lead. Bonds scored 14 points in the opening half.
"It felt good to beat them on their home court, they're one of the best (teams) in the country, pressuring you 94 feet," Bonds said. "I knew it was going to be a challenge the whole game. Every huddle, I was just telling my teammates to stay composed and be smart. It's a big win for us, especially in the road, because they count double."
Ronni Williams followed Bonds with 19 points and January Miller and Christin Mercer added 10 points each.
Florida made 24-of-31 free throws and shot 49 percent from the field. The Gators connected on 18 of 22 shots from the charity stripe in the second half.
The Gators weren't intimidated by Kentucky's recent dominance in the series between the two conference rivals. Bonds scored eight of Florida's first 13 points as the Gators raced out to a 21-10 lead.
Kentucky stayed close with six 3-pointers in the first half and connected on two shots from long range during a 12-2 run that gave the Wildcats their first lead at 32-31 with five minutes remaining in the first half.
The two teams battled through four ties and six lead changes during the remainder of the half. Bonds made two free throws with 17 seconds left in the first half, giving Florida a 45-44 lead at the break.
Bernisha Pinkett connected on three of Kentucky 3-pointers in the first half, including two back-to-back treys and led the Wildcats with nine points in the half.
Florida forced two ties and a pair of lead changes in the first five minutes of the second half but the Wildcats grabbed the lead after scoring nine straight for a 62-53 lead with 11:49 remaining.
The Gators weren't rattled by the nine-point deficit and rallied successfully to remain undefeated in the SEC.
"That was a really tough game, and hats off to Florida, they just played so hard to today. They started the game with energy and just never let up. I just thought they were outstanding, worked hard and played together as a team. They had a lot of toughness, played through adversity and they had a great day. They just came in here and beat us today, simple as that."
Kentucky senior DeNesha Stallworth returned to the lineup for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on Dec. Dec. 18. Stallworth had missed the previous five games and finished with four points.
But things fell apart for Kentucky down the stretch.
Kentucky (12-2, 1-1) was led by Jennifer O'Neill with 15 points, while Samarie Walker followed with 10.
O'Neill's production paced the reserves, who combined for 40 points.