No. 1 Kentucky slides past No. 19 Florida 74-71, eliminates Gators from SEC Tournament

Playing in their second nail-biter in as many days, the No. 19/22 Florida Gators (23-10, 11-7 SEC) showed passion and tenacity despite being outlasted by the No. 1/1 Kentucky Wildcats (32-1, 18-0 SEC) in the semifinals of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament on Saturday afternoon. Kentucky edged past Florida 74-71 at the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, LA, defeating their long-time rivals thrice in one season for the first time since 2003-04.

The Gators were led by sterling efforts from junior forward Erik Murphy and freshman guard Bradley Beal on both ends of the court. Murphy scored a career-high and game-high 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting while going 4-for-4 from long range and grabbing three rebounds. Beal added 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting (4-for-7 from downtown) with team-highs of eight boards and five assists. The duo combined to score 62 percent of UF’s points in the game.

The Wildcats had all five starters score in double figures. G Doron Lamb scored a team-high 16 points while three other players – F Anthony Davis, F Terrence Jones and G Marquis Teague – each added 15. Davis posted a double-double by adding 12 rebounds (five offensive) to go along with two blocks.

The contest started with a frantic pace as both teams scored early and often. Kentucky found success in the paint while Florida hit four of their first seven attempts from long range. The Gators used a 9-2 run including a blockbuster dunk by sophomore guard Casey Prather to take an early eight-point advantage, extending that lead to 10 points with 8:47 left in the half after Beal scored five-straight.

The Wildcats responded with a 9-2 run of their own to cut their deficit down to three, but UF found themselves back up seven on UK with under five minutes to play. However, Florida failed to make a field goal the final 4:24 of the half, and Kentucky concluded the first 20 minutes on an 8-0 run to take a 40-39 lead at the break, their first of the game.

The Gators maintained their intensity coming out of the locker rooms, taking a 54-49 lead as Beal and Murphy combined to score Florida’s first 12 points of the second half. The Wildcats matched their opponents shot for shot, and Kentucky used a 16-2 scoring stretch to take a 64-55 lead with seven minutes to play.

UF allowed UK to get back in the game by going scoreless for 6:32. In that span, the Gators coughed up four turnovers, committed six fouls and grabbed just two rebounds. However, Florida found a way to get back in the game as Murphy scored seven-straight points to reduce his team’s deficit to two with 2:42 remaining.

Both teams traded blows the rest of the way with the Wildcats maintaining a two-point advantage with 14.5 seconds left on the clock. Down four after two free throws, Gators junior G Kenny Boynton missed a contested three-pointer, allowing Kentucky to hang on for the hard-fought victory.

UK outrebounded UF 36-22 (15-6 offensive) and used those boards to take an equal number of attempts from the field as their opponent (60). The difference in the game for the Wildcats came from the free throw line. Kentucky made 15-of-20 tries while Florida was just 2-for-2 from the charity stripe.

While Beal and Murphy flourished, the Gators’ veteran backcourt faltered. Boynton and senior point guard Erving Walker combined to go 4-of-19 from the field (2-of-9 from three) with nine assists. Sophomore center Patric Young was Florida’s only other consistent scorer, posting 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting with five boards (three offensive).

The Gators, already assured of a berth in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, will now wait until Sunday to find out where they will be seeded in the event. Projections have Florida falling in as a No. 5 seed and playing their first game in Nashville, TN.

Photo Credit: Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

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No. 7 Florida outclassed by No. 1 Kentucky

Ending a stretch of three games in six days, the No. 7/8 Florida Gators (19-5, 7-2 SEC) fell in their third opportunity to defeat a top-three ranked opponent on the road this season, getting routed 78-58 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY on Tuesday evening by the No. 1/1 Kentucky Wildcats (24-1, 10-0 SEC).

Kentucky extended their home winning streak to 49 games with the blowout of Florida, and the Gators fell to 0-8 all-time against the Wildcats in games when their opponent is ranked as the No. 1 team in the country.

UK outperformed UF on both ends of the court. Kentucky shot 52.7 percent from the field and 60.0 percent from downtown while holding Florida to 34.9 percent on field goals and 22.2 percent on tries from beyond the arc.

Wildcats forwards Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and guard Doron Lamb were dominant throughout the game, scoring 16, 13 and 18 points, respectively. Davis was 8-of-18 from the field with six rebounds, four blocks and two steals, while Kidd-Gilchrist added 13 rebounds and three assists. Lamb dominated the Gators on the perimeter by hitting 4-of-5 of his attempts from beyond the arc.

After three consecutive possessions without a shot being taken by either team, Florida scored six-straight points to open up with an early lead, but Kentucky quickly negated that in part by converting consecutive steals into field goals to even up the score.

The Wildcats started just 3-for-12 from the field but shot much better down the stretch while converting the Gators’ turnovers and miscues into quick points. With the game tied at 17 following a pair of Florida free throws, Kentucky took over and outscored the visitors 21-9 over the final 9:36 of the half to take a 12-point lead into the break thanks in part to a three-pointer by Lamb just before the buzzer.

UK ended the half hitting 12 of their final 17 shots while also going 4-of-8 from downtown compared to just 2-of-9 for UF from beyond the arc.

The Wildcats began the second half in similar fashion, hitting consecutive threes and going on an 11-0 run to pull away from the Gators 49-30 with 15 minutes left.

Florida never recovered from the onslaught, continuing to miss shots and allowing their poor offense to affect their effort and defensive intensity. Kentucky continued making baskets while taking it to the visitors defensively.

Gators junior G Kenny Boynton, who was just 2-for-5 in the first half, finished 6-for-12 (4-of-8 from downtown) with a team-high 18 points. Freshman G Bradley Beal was Florida’s most consistent player throughout the game, but he also struggled hitting just 5-of-15 shots (and 2-of-7 threes) for 14 points with six boards and three dimes.

Senior point guard Erving Walker, though he did his best to hold onto the ball, was irrelevant offensively, going 0-for-7 from the field (0-for-4 from deep) with just one assist and not a single free throw attempted.

The Wildcats registered 18 assists on 29 makes, blocked the Gators six times, scored 38 points in the paint and received 15 points from their bench. Florida only had nine assists on their 22 scores and was also outrebounded 38-31 over the course of the evening.

The Gators will have four days to recover from this difficult loss before hosting one of the four other teams they lost to this season. Florida will take on Tennessee on Saturday at 4 p.m. in a game set to air on SEC Network (check your local listings).

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No. 7 Florida Gators at No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats

Location: Rupp Arena – Lexington, KY [Capacity: 23,500]
Time: 7:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD
SiriusXM: 91
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(7) FLORIDA GATORS (1) KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Calipari
Record: 19-4 (7-1) Record: 23-1 (9-0)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida +9; O/U 142.5

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Kentucky leads the all-time series against Florida 90-33, and the Gators are just 13-20 against the Wildcats since Donovan took over the team.
» Florida is 0-7 against Kentucky all-time when the Wildcats are ranked No. 1 in the country; however, all seven of those games were played before Donovan was coach with UK’s most recent victory in such a matchup coming in 1996. Since then the Gators are 2-0 against top-ranked opponents (both wins under Donovan), defeating Duke in 2000 and Ohio State in 2007 (for the national title).
» Kentucky is 65-2 all-time at home as the No. 1 ranked team in the AP poll.
» Calipari is one of three coaches (Frank McGuire) to lead three different schools to No. 1 rankings; he has accomplished that feat in five total seasons.
» UF’s seven-game winning streak is their longest since 2009-10 (eight games) and lengthiest in-conference streak since 2006-07 (13 games). UK, on the other hand, has a 16-game winning streak including a number of blowout victories.
» All five of Florida’s normal starters are averaging double figures in scoring.
» The Gators have made 10+ three-pointers in 16 of 23 games this year, a season-high mark under Donovan.
» Florida has made a three in 674 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» UF has posted a positive assist-to-turnover margin in 16-of-19 victories but has put forth a negative ratio in that category in all four of their losses.
» The Gators are 284-37 since 1988-89 when holding opponents under 70 points.
» Florida is one victory away from winning 20+ games for the 14th consecutive season, which is currently the longest active streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally.
» Kentucky holds a 48-game home winning streak at Rupp Arena, the longest such home winning streak in the nation.
» The Wildcats lead the SEC in rebounding margin (+7.8 per game).
» Kentucky has more wins (2,075) than any other NCAA team – ever.
» The Wildcats also have five players averaging double figures.
» Kentucky is 68-1 under Calipari when holding an opponent to 67 points or fewer.
» The Wildcats’ defense has been outstanding recently as UK has held their last four opponents to an average of 47.5 points per game.
» Florida is ranked No. 9 in scoring offense (80.1 points), No. 8 in scoring margin (14.1 points), No. 1 in three-pointers (10.5 per game), No. 12 in field goal percentage from three (40.2 percent), No. 16 in assists (16.3 per game) and No. 5 in assist/turnover ratio (1.48) nationally as of Feb. 5. The Gators are also 189th (out of 338 teams) in free throw shooting (68.4 percent).
» Kentucky is ranked No. 19 in scoring offense (78.2 points), No. 9 in scoring defense (57.5 points), No. 2 in scoring margin (20.5 points), No. 14 in field goal percentage (48.6 percent), No. 1 in field goal percentage defense (35.8 percent), No. 9 in rebound margin (+7.8) and No. 1 in blocked shots (9.4 per game) nationally as of Feb. 5. The Wildcats are No. 10 in fouling, committing 15.2 per game and No. 225 (out of 338 teams) in three-pointers (5.5 per game).

LAST TIME OUT

After splitting the regular season series 1-1 with each squad winning at home, Kentucky upended Florida 70-54 in the championship game of the 2011 SEC Tournament in the teams’ last meeting. Brandon Knight was one of four Wildcats in double figures and scored a game-high 17 points in the contest, while the Gators struggled offensively (38.6 percent from the field, 37.5 percent from the line) and saw Kenny Boynton lead the way with 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting. Florida lost both halves and Kentucky’s 42.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc kept UF at a distance the entire contest.

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Senior point guard Erving Walker (#11)…who is the longest tenured player on the team having appeared in 127 consecutive games with 66-straight starts. A shoot-first player much of his career, Walker has been tasked with distributing the ball and managing the game this year. He is the SEC’s active leader in minutes (3,906) and treys (264) but also ranks second in points (1,620), assists (495), steals (149) and free throws made (400). Walker is No. 6 on the school’s all-time scoring list, No.23 in assists, No. 8 in free throws, No. 4 in threes made, No. 2 in treys attempted (687) and No. 4 in minutes. He is also hitting a team-best 80.9 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe while averaging 12.6 points and an SEC-best 5.1 assists per game.
» Junior guard Kenny Boynton (#1)…who is a dynamic scorer and just the second starter returning from a year ago. Boynton is working on his consistency this season and is already shooting better than he has throughout his career (47.3 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from downtown). He is the best defender on the Gators and is often put on the opponent’s best backcourt playmaker. Boynton currently ranks fifth in the SEC among active players in points (1,405) and third in three-pointers (229). He had hit a trey in 34-straight games and is the SEC’s second-leading scorer averaging 17.6 points per game. Boynton is No. 6 on UF’s list for threes made.
» Freshman G Bradley Beal (#23)…who is starting at the three for Florida fresh out of high school. Beal was the 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year and is arguably the most talented player to sign with the Gators since Donovan took over. He is averaging 14.3 points and 6.1 rebounds while shooting 44.2 percent from the field and 74.3 percent from the line while playing a team-high 33.4 minutes per game.
» Sophomore center Patric Young (#4)…who joined the starting lineup this year after being the primary frontcourt reserve as a freshman. Young saw action in all 37 games as a freshman, averaging 3.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in limited action. He has four double-doubles on the season and scored a career-high 25 points against Arizona. Young is posting averages of 10.7 points, 6.5 boards and 1.0 blocks per game.
» Forwards junior Erik Murphy (#33) and sophomore Will Yeguete (#15)…who are trying to be do-everything players for Florida. Murphy is averaging 10.2 points and 4.2 boards with team-highs of 1.3 blocks and 46.1 percent accuracy from three. Yeguete is netting 4.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 22.9 minutes per game.
» Redshirt junior G Mike Rosario (#3)…who is finally playing for Florida after transferring out of Rutgers and sitting out the 2010-11 season. Rosario scored more than 1,000 points in two seasons with his former team and averaged 16.7 points per game during his sophomore year. He is the Gators’ de facto sixth man and is seeing 15.8 minutes of court time each game, averaging 8.2 points while shooting 43.9 percent from the floor and 39.0 percent from beyond the arc.

KENTUCKY
» F Anthony Davis (#23)…who is leading his team in scoring (13.9 points) and rebounding (10.1 boards) while shooting a team-best 66.3 percent from the floor (third nationally). He is also the country’s leading defender with a NCAA-best 4.8 blocks per game and a team-high 1.5 steals (eighth in the SEC). Davis has set the SEC freshman blocks record with seven games left to play and is in consideration for a number of top conference and NCAA awards.
» G Doron Lamb (#20)…who is one of the Wildcats’ “veterans” as a sophomore and is the team’s second-leading scorer averaging 13.5 points per game. He shoots 47.0 percent from the field and team-highs of 47.8 percent from three and 82.4 percent from the charity stripe.
» F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (#14)…who is another dazzling freshman, averaging 12.6 points and 7.5 rebounds in 31.0 minutes per game, the second-most on the team.
» F Terrence Jones (#3)…who is the third member of the Wildcats’ big frontcourt, hauling in 12.5 points and 6.4 boards per game. Unlike Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist, Jones also has range and is netting 36.7 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc while still averaging 49.5 percent shooting all-around.

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Kentucky gets revenge, hands Florida 76-68 loss

A last-minute win on Feb. 6 in Gainesville, FL helped propel the No. 13 Florida Gators over the No. 22 Kentucky Wildcats in the Southeastern Conference standings. Saturday in Lexington, KY, the Wildcats (20-8, 8-6 SEC) got a measure of revenge by defeating the Gators (22-6, 11-3 SEC) 76-68 in Rupp Arena, extending their home winning streak to 33 games and earning head coach John Calipari his 500th victory.

Guard Darius Miller posted a career-high 24 points for Kentucky on 9-of-15 shooting, and the Wildcats piled it on late in the second half to pull away with a decisive victory.

A 7-0 run toward the end of the first half capped by a three-pointer by G Brandon Knight put UK up four with 5:01 to play. UF responded quickly as G Kenny Boynton scored five-straight as part of a 7-2 run to give the Gators a 27-26 lead. The teams went back-and-forth with the Wildcats pulling ahead 34-33 on a free throw by Knight.

Kentucky scored five-straight to start the second half, but an 8-2 run by Florida including two treys from Boynton tied the game at 41. That is when things fell apart for the Gators.

The Wildcats took off on a 10-2 run to go up 58-49 with 9:39 to go. Florida cut their deficit to five on a layup from senior forward Chandler Parsons, but a three from Miller and a 8-2 run gave Kentucky an 11-point lead with 4:13 remaining.

UK went up a game-high 12 points with the clock winding down. Back-to-back field goals from redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and senior F Alex Tyus reduced the Wildcats’ lead to six with 42 seconds left, but the Gators were unable to capitalize.

Complementing Miller’s 24 points was Knight, who scored 16 while adding six assists. G Doron Lamb added 14 more for Kentucky. Fs Josh Harrellson (12) and Terrence Jones (nine) were strong on the glass, combining to grab 21 of the team’s 32 rebounds.

Boynton led the way for the UF with one of his best all-around performances this season. He scored a team-high 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting while nailing 5-of-9 three pointers and dishing four assists. Parsons was an efficient 6-for-11 from the field for 15 points to go along with eight boards and seven dimes. Macklin contributed 10 points and five rebounds, and Tyus scored nine with three offensive rebounds.

Junior point guard Erving Walker struggled all game, finishing 2-of-11 from the field (1-for-6 from downtown). He hit all five of his attempts from the charity stripe but was blocked numerous times, took a few questionable shots and turned the ball over twice.

It was a block party for the Wildcats, who rejected the Gators seven times; former Florida F Eloy Vargas blocked Walker twice in five minutes. Kentucky won the rebounding battle 32-29, coughed up four fewer turnovers (6-10) and was more disciplined defensively by committing seven fewer fouls (14-21).

Luckily for UF, SEC West leader Alabama (19-9, 11-3 SEC) simultaneously fell 68-63 to Ole Miss (18-11, 6-8 SEC) on Saturday; the teams remain tied for the conference lead and will square off in Gainesville on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The game will air live on ESPNU and marks Senior Day for the Gators.
 
 

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