LEXINGTON, Ky. — Rhyne Howard scored 27 points, seven in the last three when 17th-ranked Kentucky outscored No. 12 seed Florida 14-4 to earn a 73-64 win in the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament on Thursday.
That ended an entertaining duel with Florida’s Kiki Smith, who scored a career-high 36 points, the ninth-highest game in tourney history.
The Wildcats (17-7) advance to face fourth-seeded Georgia in the quarterfinals on Friday.
KeKe McKinney added 10 points and eight rebounds for Kentucky, including a key 3-pointer in the closing run. The Wildcats outscored the Gators 27-15 in the fourth quarter when Howard, a junior just named SEC player of the year for the second time, also contributed three of her four assists. She had two of her four steals in the last three minutes.
Smith, who surpassed 1,000 career points in a first-round win over Auburn, also led the Gators (11-13) with nine rebounds. She made 5 of 7 free throws while her teammates were 3 of 9 and was 3 of 6 from 3-point range for a team that finished 4 of 17.
Florida took a 17-15 lead after an entertaining first quarter that saw Smith score 15 points and Howard 10. Smith had 18 and Howard 16 as the Wildcats took a 33-32 lead at the half.
Smith outscored Howard 11-2 in the third quarter and Florida regained the lead 49-46 entering the fourth.
Kentucky won the regular-season matchup 88-80 with Howard scoring 31 and Smith 23.