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UK Hoops resilient in comeback victory over Florida

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Keyla Snowden scored 17 points and made four 3-pointers in UK's SEC Tournament quarterfinal win over Florida. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Keyla Snowden scored 17 points and made four 3-pointers in UK's SEC Tournament quarterfinal win over Florida. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
It didn't take Kentucky women's basketball head coach Matthew Mitchell long to say what many people were thinking themselves.

"I'm not sure exactly how we won the game," Mitchell said.

That's not coach-speak, either.

Kentucky shot a season-low 29.7 percent from the field, its lowest shooting percentage in a victory since Nov. 29, 2008 when the Wildcats shot 27.9 percent vs. Long Island. UK trailed by 14 points in the first half and got only one field goal from Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year Bria Goss. In the game's final 9:18, Kentucky hit just one field goal.

At halftime, Goss and A'dia Mathies combined to score just three points on 1-for-14 shooting. The Wildcats were in a seven-point hole and had been outrebounded 32-20. The Gators had 10 assists on 13 made field goals, and the Wildcats had been outscored 20-10 in the paint.

But when the dust - or should I say hail? - settled, it's the SEC regular season champion Kentucky Wildcats that will move on to the semifinals of the 2012 SEC Tournament after a gritty 71-67 victory over eighth-seeded Florida.

Now, what it was exactly that enabled the Wildcats to come out with their 25th win of the season is up for debate, but 3-point shooting and the spark Keyla Snowden provided are two possible explanations.

Trailing by just one point at the first media timeout, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. That all changed coming out the break though, as the Florida Gators went on a 16-0 run, the largest run by a UK opponent this season. Kentucky's quickly responded with a 12-0 run of their own, highlighted by 3-pointers from Mathies and Snowden.

"Keyla did an amazing job," Goss said. "Once again, the senior leadership. She came in there, did what she had to do, got us going, got us some points, but she also brought us a lot of energy."

Snowden entered the game at the 12:54 mark with the Wildcats trailing 18-6. Two minutes and 28 seconds later, Snowden had six points and the Wildcats trailed by just five.

"It's so difficult to fight out of that hole," Mitchell said. "But when you get the 3-point ball going, it can kind of lift everybody's spirits, lets you play harder on the defensive end. Keyla's performance was spectacular. Obviously we could not have won without that kind of performance. So (I'm) real happy and proud of her on that."

Snowden finished with 17 points, including four of UK's eight 3-pointers. It was her highest scoring output since scoring 22 vs. Mississippi State on Jan. 8.

Joining Snowden in the comeback effort, among others, was Mathies, who scored 21 of her game-high 24 points in the second half. After going 1 for 7 in the first half, Mathies showed off many aspects of her game in the second half, shooting 6 of 12 from the field, 2 for 3 from deep, grabbing four rebounds, dishing out a pair of assists and getting a steal.

While the win may not have been pretty, and in fact may have been quite the opposite, it is still a win. It is officially March, the time of "survive and advance," and that's what the Wildcats did Friday afternoon against a gritty Florida team that played the Wildcats within five points for the third time this season.

Not only does the win advance Kentucky to the semifinal round of the SEC Tournament, it also beefs up Kentucky's resume in hopes of attaining a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Perhaps even more importantly, Kentucky's younger players get another chance to play in a tournament game, and it gives the Wildcats confidence should they find themselves in another similar situation.

"This does a lot for us," Snowden said. "Florida is a great team, they kept battling the whole game. For us to be able to have that under our belt, we know that we can fight through adversity with any other team in this tournament."

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