Just one week after pulling out a signature win and appearing as if they had finally turned the corner, the Florida Gators (15-8, 6-4 SEC) proved they are still the inconsistent, two-faced team that had played the first 22 games of the 2015-16 season. On the road against the No. 20 Kentucky Wildcats (17-6, 7-4 SEC) at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky, Florida played one of its worst games of the season while allowing Kentucky to put together one of its best.
In doing so, the Gators fell to 1-5 against AP Top 25 teams this season and threw out an opportunity to find a spot in the bottom of the poll. Though UF’s chances to earn an NCAA Tournament bid did not take a major hit, the team’s ego most likely did as it pumped up that of UK and once again fell both on the road and against one of the best opponents its faced this season.
OnlyGators.com breaks down Saturday’s tough loss with nsix quick-hitters.
It was over when: The second half began. Though the Gators cut the Wildcats’ massive first-half lead down in the first 20 minutes (see below), Florida was simply unable to hold on and allowed Kentucky to go up 18 at the break. UF did not have much success stopping UK at the start of the second half either as the Wildcats scored eight straight points right out of the gate to take a game-high 26 point lead and make a comeback nearly impossible. The Gators did chip away at the large lead, cutting it to 14 as the hosts went 0-for-8 from the floor, but the Wildcats had no problem holding on.
Early road woes, again: Florida once again struggled at the start of a road game as Kentucky jumped ahead 24-5 to begin the contest, hitting 10-of-14 field goals while the visitors opened up 3-of-14 with four turnovers. Back-to-back treys from sophomore point guard Chris Chiozza and redshirt senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith cut the Gators’ deficit to 13, but the Wildcats immediately answered with 13-2 run thanks to a couple of threes – they started 6-of-8 in the game – to take a half-high 24-point lead.
UF was able to take advantage of four UK turnovers by rattling off an 11-0 run and cutting its deficit to 13, but Kentucky answered back with eight straight points before the break. Florida would have gone into the locker rooms down 21 had it not been for a half-ending three-point buzzer-beating runner from freshman guard KeVaughn Allen.
Have a game, kids: Maybe if the Gators had just guarded the Wildcats’ hottest players? Backcourt starters Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis combined to score 53 of Kentucky’s 80 points while going 20-of-33 from the field and 10-of-13 from beyond the arc with 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Top-notch play from Florida’s guards was of paramount importance Saturday, but while they did not show up on either end of the court, defense was of particular issue.
There was no one else: Finney-Smith was basically the entirety of Florida’s offense on Saturday, eclipsing 20 points for the fifth time in six games. He finished with 24 on 8-of-11 shooting with eight boards on the afternoon. The Gators’ next-leading scorer, redshirt sophomore center John Egbunu posted half of Finney-Smith’s total with 12 points, though he did go 6-for-7 from the charity stripe.
Everything else: Kentucky continued its streak of never losing three straight games under head coach John Calipari … UF fell to 37-98 all-time against UK, 9-50 all-time in Lexington and 1-8 in Rupp Arena since March 2008. … the Gators also fell to 2-6 on the road and 5-5 this season when allowing 70+ points … Allen disappointed with his only basket of the game coming on the aforementioned half-ending buzzer-beater; he finished 1-for-6 from the field with three points … Florida’s starting backcourt only produced 10 points on 4-of-21 shooting … the Wildcats won the rebounding battle 37-28 … Kentucky led for 39:11 of the 40-minute game
Up next: Florida coach Mike White will take on his alma mater for the second time in less than a month when his team hosts Ole Miss on Tuesday at 9 p.m on ESPNU. The Gators previously defeated the Rebels 80-71 in Oxford, Mississippi, on Jan. 16.