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No. 13 Florida Gators basketball (23-6, 13-3 SEC) simply could not keep up with the No. 11 Kentucky Wildcats (24-5, 14-2 SEC) on Saturday as a tremendous foul disparity made it nearly impossible for Florida to pull off a win at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. The Gators’ impressive win streak ends at nine games, as the Wildcats won 76-66 to take their sixth straight while appearing poised to capture the SEC regular-season crown with two games left to play this season.
OnlyGators.com breaks down the latest win below.
It was over when … After going up eight points in the second half, Florida succumbed to continued foul trouble. Kentucky answered with a 15-3 run to take a lead at 59-55 and found itself in the bonus with 9:15 remaining. A subsequent 6-0 run put the Wildcats up 10 with less than four minutes to play, and it was clear the Gators were not going to have a shot at bouncing back with everything working against them down the stretch.
First half focus: Talk about a rollercoaster. Florida opened the game up 8-0 and pushed its lead to 12 thanks to a top-notch effort from sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen and Kentucky starting 1-of-10 from the field. However, once Allen was benched with two fouls, UK erupted on a massive 17-3 run to go from down 12 to up two as UF went scoreless for 4+ minutes and made just 1-of-12 shots over an extended stretch. The Gators eventually used a 7-0 run to go up five as the Wildcats went scoreless for six minutes, but the home team made five unanswered free throws over the final 1:19 to tie it at 28.
UF and UK combined to go 1-for-18 from the floor down the stretch. Kentucky outrebounded Florida 30-17 in the first half and got 13 attempts at the line compared to two for the visitors. However, the Wildcats also committed 12 turnovers with the Gators coughing it up just four times.
“The way we finished the first half, we weren’t very solid. We made a couple decisions there with a couple of our fouls, I believe we had two fouls in the last 11-12 seconds that led to three points. They were very ill-advised by older guys. We needed to be the more mature team, and we didn’t take advantage in that regard,” head coach Mike White said.
— Only Gators .com (@onlygators) February 25, 2017
Exceptional efforts: Allen shined for the second straight game, posting a team-high 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting while hitting 5-of-11 threes. Junior forward Devin Robinson was awful in the first half, but he scored seven straight points early in the second half to give Florida an important lead, finishing with nine points and a team-high 11 rebounds.
— Only Gators .com (@onlygators) February 25, 2017
Significant stats: The foul disparity was atrocious on Saturday. Florida was called for 22 fouls while Kentucky got whistled for just 13. The problem was the Gators’ fouls piled up late in the first half with the Wildcats in the bonus and early in the second half to get UK into the bonus. As such, the hosts took 27 free throws in the game (making 22), while the visitors had just six attempts at the line (making four). The difference in fouling — both Florida point guards had four midway through the second half and six players finished with three or more fouls — coupled with the Gators being down a big man led to a tremendous rebounding disparity as well. The Wildcats won that battle 48-30.
Odds and ends: UK star Malik Monk scored just three points in the first half but posted 30 in the latter period, finishing 5-for-7 from downtown and 10-for-11 from the line … senior F Justin Leon scored 13 points but went just 2-for-7 downtown and was cold for much of the game … graduate transfer G Canyon Barry was basically invisible in his second game playing on a sprained ankle, hitting 1-of-5 shots in 18 minutes … point guards junior Chris Chiozza and senior Kasey Hill combined for only two turnovers but committed eight fouls while scoring 13 points … Florida led for 24:45 compared to 11:41 for Kentucky and had big leads in both halves despite falling by 10 … UK committed 12 turnovers in the first half but just four in the second, while UF only committed six in 40 minutes … the Gators’ usually high-scoring bench posted just 12 points on the day … Florida went 10-for-30 from three and 16-for-41 from two
What it means: The loss by Florida likely means Kentucky will capture the SEC regular-season title and earn the No. 1 seed in the 2017 SEC Tournament, depending how the final two games of the season shake out. Not taking the league championship is certainly a downer for the Gators, but they will still get a double bye in the SEC Tournament, so not all is lost. “We lost at Kentucky. It’s OK. It happens. A lot of teams lose here,” White said. “There’s a lot of things that we can learn from today.”
Up next: Florida will play its home finale on Wednesday at 7 p.m. against Arkansas in a game that will air nationally on ESPN2. The Gators previously beat the Razorbacks 81-72 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, back on Dec. 29 when they opened SEC play.