Kentucky WBB will take on Florida in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament

Aritcle written by:Zack GeogheganZack Geoghegan

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The stage has been set for Kentucky's conference tournament opener. After the Florida Gators took down the Auburn Tigers in the opening round of the 2021 SEC Women's Basketball Tournament on Wednesday afternoon, the Kentucky Wildcats officially has its opponent for the quarterfinals matchup that is scheduled for Thursday. UK, who enters as the conference's five-seed, will take on 12-seeded Florida at roughly 1:30 p.m. EST. It'll be a rematch between the 'Cats and the Gators after Kentucky won the first matchup on Feb. 15 down in Gainesville, 88-80. Even though UK is coming off a bad Senior Day loss to Ole Miss, Florida had lost its previous four outings before taking down Auburn. UF will have less than a 24-hour turnaround before they take on the Wildcats. Kentucky could have snagged a top-four seed and the double-bye that comes along with it had they taken care of Ole Miss, but now they'll have to win four games in four days to win just the program's second conference tournament championship (the lone title came all the way back in 1982 when Valerie Still was on the team). Winning four games is obviously more difficult than three, but it does help that Kentucky will play the weakest team remaining of the bunch to open things up. Florida entered the tourney with a 3-11 conference record that included wins coming against Auburn earlier in the season, Ole Miss, and LSU. The Gators went through a tough stretch after that win over LSU, losing to Kentucky and another top-20 foe, the Georgia Bulldogs. Mix in losses to Alabama along with Missouri and it's resulted in Florida flailing down the stretch. One glaring reason? Star sophomore Lavender Briggs has been ruled out for the remainder of the season due to a foot injury, which happened just ahead of the first game against Kentucky. It's no wonder that Florida has struggled to find a groove since her absence from the rotation, as she was the team's leading scorer at over 19 points per game. The win over Auburn could give them some momentum rolling into Thursday as they slowly try and piece together what is left of the roster. On paper, Kentucky should have no problem taking care of Florida, but if this season has taught us anything, it's that this Wildcat squad has two very different versions of itself. One is the team that has beaten five ranked opponents, while the other has lost to Ole Miss twice and is seemingly on the brink of a collapse at any given moment. Over the next four to five days, there can't be any transition between those two versions of the same team--if Kentucky wants to win, they have to buy into the idea that they can win. At times, the gravity of the situation hasn't always appeared to sink in for the Wildcats and that was evident in the two losses to Ole Miss. "What you have to do is focus one game at a time," head coach Kyra Elzy said on Wednesday. "That is all we can do and is look at the next game, which is always most important. In March, it is one or done. You have to play with a sense of urgency. We have been resilient all year and maybe we have had some mishaps but we have been able to bounce back. This is the time in March where all coaches and all teams are prepared to peak at the right time.” We'll know rather quickly which Kentucky team has traveled to Greenville, SC for the long weekend. The third quarter has consistently been the turning point for the 'Cats--win or lose--and going up against one of the conference's worst teams should set up the perfect trial run to see if UK is up for the test. This roster has repeatedly been touted as one of the greatest in program history; the time to prove that as true starts on Thursday afternoon. We'll have plenty of tournament coverage right here at Kentucky Sports Radio dot com, so make sure to tune in throughout a (hopefully) extended stay in South Carolina. [UPDATE: Kentucky-Florida will play in the second round, not the quarterfinals]

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2021-09-25

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