Florida Gators basketball (15-16, 8-10 SEC) gave the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats (31-0, 18-0 SEC) a run for their money on Saturday afternoon at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. But after hanging in for three-quarters of the game, the Gators were eventually run over by the Wildcats 67-50.
UK became the second team in Southeastern Conference history to go 18-0 in league play during the regular season, matching a mark UF set just one year ago. Head coach Billy Donovan‘s team, meanwhile, finished the regular season with a sub-.500 record for the first time since 1996-97.
OnlyGators.com breaks down Saturday’s action with nine quick-hitters:
It was over when: Gators freshman point guard Chris Chiozza telegraphed a pass with less than six minutes to play. Aaron Harrison reached out for the steal, broke ahead for the fastbreak and finished with a layup to put the Wildcats on top 57-45 with 5:41 to play. UK ended the contest by outscoring UF 23-9.
Significant stretch: Florida saw its deficit cut to one with 15:58 remaining and again down to three with 10:30 to go, but a trey by Devin Booker started a 7-0 Kentucky spurt that allowed the Wildcats to push their advantage to 10 points with eight minutes left. UK increased its lead to a game-high 12 points and held on for what turned out to be a dominant win in a contest that was close for 30 minutes.
Prominent players: Sophomore PG Kasey Hill put together a much-needed solid performance for UF, scoring a game-high 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting with two boards, though he only dished a single assist. Redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith was also efficient, going 5-for-11 (2-for-3 from downtown) with 12 points and adding four rebounds. No other Florida player scored more than six points, while six Kentucky players netted at least that many.
First half focus: A relatively poor-shooting first half was highlighted by two late stretches. The Gators gained a large advantage on an 8-0 run, including consecutive threes by junior guards Eli Carter and Michael Frazier II, that gave UF a 21-17 lead over UK with six minutes to go until the break. The Wildcats, however, immediately responded with a 9-2 stretch to go up 26-23 and held that three-point lead thorough the half at 30-27. Carter finished with six points on 2-of-7 shooting with three assists, while Frazier only netted a single three on two attempts.
Perfect play: Hill made a couple athletic plays at the basket in the contest, including this spin move into the lane with a nice, acrobatic finish.
Standout stat: Kentucky dominated Florida in the paint with the Wildcats outscoring the Gators 36-28 and out-rebounding the visitors 31-26. UK also played composed throughout the contest, with UF doubling them up on turnovers (17-8) and nearly doing so on fouls (15-9).
What it means: Florida will finish the regular season with a sub-.500 record for the first time since Donovan’s first season in 1996-97 (12-16). UF also failed to prevent UK from matching them as the second team in SEC history to go 18-0 in regular-season league play.
Next up: The Gators will enter the 2015 SEC Tournament as a No. 8 seed. Florida would need to win multiple games in the event to have a chance at an NIT berth or win the tournament outright to get a slot in the NCAA Tournament, which are the only ways the team’s season would continue.
Everything else: Frazier (high-ankle sprain) returned from injury by coming in off the bench at the 15:26 mark of the first half and played 18 minutes … Kentucky freshman center Karl-Anthony Towns had five blocks in the first 22 minutes of the game, finishing with six overall … UK did not commit a turnover over the final 19:13 of the contest … the Gators led for 4:43 in the first half, but the Wildcats held the advantage for 30:30 of the 40-minute game