No. 6 Kentucky tops Florida 76-69
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky and Florida have played plenty of close games recently. A'dia Mathies and Jennifer O'Neill just wanted to make sure the Wildcats came out ahead again.
Mathies scored 20 points and O'Neill had 12 of her 17 in the second half and No. 6 Kentucky topped Florida 76-69 in the teams' Southeastern Conference opener on Thursday.
"I just knew I wanted to come out very aggressive," said Mathies, who added six rebounds and four assists.
"For whatever reason, Florida's always a great game for us. I just knew I wanted to come out aggressive and play as hard as I could for the team."
DeNesha Stallworth added 17 points and 10 rebounds for her fourth double-double as the Wildcats (13-1, 1-0) won their school-record 12th straight game.
Last season's regular-season conference champions had to work hard and often for their sixth straight win over rival Florida.
Kentucky trailed just once, but had to withstand several rallies from Florida.
O'Neill helped with consecutive 3-pointers and eight straight points overall to give Kentucky its biggest second-half lead at 58-49. Her layup with 1:59 remaining provided a 70-62 lead.
"Sitting on the sideline, I was kind of anxious to go back in," said O'Neill, who finished 3 of 4 from 3-point range and has scored 38 points the past two games. "Coach (Matthew) Mitchell called my name and I just did what he asked me to do."
Added Mitchell, "when we were stagnant, she makes a great play that lifted our team. ... She was big in the game tonight."
Florida got within 72-68 with 21 seconds remaining, but Kentucky sealed it with four free throws, the final one by O'Neill in the final second.
Jaterra Bonds scored a game-high 21 points for Florida (11-4, 0-1), which had its six-game winning streak end. January Miller had 17 and Jennifer George 14 for the Gators.
Bria Goss added 10 points for the Wildcats, who also tied a school record with their 30th straight home win.
Better shooting made the difference for Kentucky, which was 27 of 62 (44 percent). Florida, despite out-rebounding the Wildcats 40-36, shot just 37 percent (21 of 57).
"I felt like sometimes we got lazy on defense and let them catch inside easily," George said. "I think that they are very good in the post and that hurt us. We could have boxed out a little more. They had a lot of easy offensive rebounds and put backs that we can learn from."
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