No. 3 Florida Gators basketball (23-2, 12-0 SEC) pulled away late in the second half on Saturday evening extend their lead in Southeastern Conference play and defeat the No. 14 Kentucky Wildcats (19-6, 9-3 SEC) at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY for the first time since 2007.
The Gators won their 17th-straight game, matching a school record set during the 2006-07 season, and picked up a victory for the 22st time in their last 23 contests. Florida has also started the season 12-0 in league play and put together the second-best start to a campaign in program history (24-2, 2006-07).
OnlyGators.com breaks it down with eight quick-hitters:
It was over when: With a four-point lead and less than three minutes to play, Gators senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin made a concerted effort to drive, get fouled and take free throws. He hit 5-of-6 in that span to help increase Florida’s lead from three to 10 points and solidify the victory.
Prominent players: Wilbekin and senior forward Casey Prather combined to score 47 of UF’s 69 points (68.1 percent) and were also extremely efficient shooters on the evening. Wilbekin scored a career-high 23 points by hitting 5-of-10 shots and 11-of-12 free throws (adding three boards, two assists and a steal), and Prather posted 24 points by making 8-of-9 baskets and going 8-for-12 from the line (adding four rebounds and four steals).
Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Significant stretch: Florida’s 13-3 run, including two old-fashioned three-point plays by senior center Patric Young and a big three-pointer by Wilbekin, worked the Gators out of a seven-point deficit and gave them a three-point lead at 51-48 with 7:58 to play. UF never trailed again. Young, one of three Florida players to score in double-digits, notched 10 points by hitting three of his final four shots. He also grabbed a team-high five rebounds (four offensive).
First half fumble: Young had a put-back slam negated by the referees, which were out of position yet waved off the two points by calling basket interference (it was not). The basket would have tied the game at 25. Instead, UK was able to extend and complete a 10-1 run to take a half-high seven-point lead. Florida scored the last four points of the half and trailed by three at the break.
Perfect plays: With the game tied at 21 in the first half, Prather stole the ball from Jarrod Polson around midcourt and drove into the lane before executing a behind-the-back pass to redshirt sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith, who completed the play with a dunk. Similarly, early in the second half, Wilbekin drove to the hoop after swiping the ball from James Young and completed a behind-the-back bounce pass to Prather for a layup of his own. Finney-Smith scored eight points on 4-of-10 shooting and matched Young with a team-high five boards.
Standout stat: During a close game in which they only hit 3-of-13 three-pointers, the Gators made up for their shortcomings from long-range – at the charity stripe. Florida hit 22-of-28 free throws, outscoring Kentucky with eight more made free throws.
What it means: The Gators improved to 3-2 against ranked opponents and 7-2 in true road games, winning a huge contest at Rupp Arena. UF head coach Billy Donovan beat UK’s John Calipari for just the third time in 11 tries and is now 4-14 in Lexington. Calipari lost just his third home game as the Wildcats’ head coach. The Gators also remained undefeated in SEC play, took a huge step toward the league title and extended their winning streak to match a school record with 17-straight wins.
Next up: Florida gets a break from its heavy road schedule with a home game Wednesday against Auburn. The Gators beat the Tigers 68-61 back on Jan. 18.