Florida vs. Kentucky score, takeaways: Gators battle back for huge road win, avenging blowout

By Adam Silverstein
February 27, 2021
Florida vs. Kentucky score, takeaways: Gators battle back for huge road win, avenging blowout
Basketball

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

Looking for revenge and a key Quadrant 1 victory on a familiar late-season road trip to Lexington, Kentucky, the Florida Gators found both on Saturday in a hard-fought 71-67 win over the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena. Despite a propensity for turnovers and questionable officiating, Florida prevailed with a significant road win.

Most of the work was done by the Gators’ floor generals, who dominated the second half and combined to score 32 points with 13 rebounds. Florida helped itself at the charity stripe, particularly late in the game, and overcame plenty of adversity in picking up the W.

What went down on Saturday as Florida and Kentucky clashed once again? Keep on reading for Fastbreak takeawys from the Gators’ latest victory.

It was over when … sophomore point guard Tre Mann made two free throws with 10 seconds left to send Florida to victory. Mann made a baseline jumper with 1:49 to play that put the Gators ahead a game-high four points, and the teams traded points from there. Mann and junior PG Tyree Appleby combined to score 18 of UF’s 20 points over the last 10:51.

Florida led by three with less than five minutes to play when consecutive turnovers by Appleby led to a pair of fastbreak dunks that put Kentucky ahead inside of four minutes. Appleby bounced back by draining a wide-open three and forcing a ball out of bounds off a Wildcats player to put the Gators ahead two, but moments later, he was easily blocked attempting a one-handed layup on a drive to the hoop.

It was a mixed bag for Appleby on Saturday as he had five turnovers in his first 13 minutes on the court in the second half and only went 3 of 10 for the game, but he hit half his triples and filled up the box score with 11 points, five rebounds and five assists and three steals.

First half focus: Florida started in an offensive lull but turned over Kentucky nine times, scored 20 points in the paint and heated up down the stretch. The Gators trailed by as many as 10 midway through the period by led by two late. Despite outshooting the Wildcats from the field and beyond the arc, UF was outgained massively 16-4 at the charity stripe and trailed by one entering the break.

Exceptional efforts: Mann was stellar all day for the Gators, scoring a game-high 21 points on efficient shooting from the floor (7 of 11), downtown (2 of 2) and charity stripe (5 of 6). He also had a game-high eight rebounds. Junior forward Colin Castleton was also exceptional with 14 points on 5 of 7 shooting with five rebounds and four assists, but he also committed three turnovers.

In addition to Mann and Appleby scoring 18 of the final 20 points, no one other than they or Castleton scored over the last 18:08 for Florida; they combined for 31 of UF’s 33 points in the second half and 64.8% of the team’s scoring on Saturday afternoon.

Odds and ends: Florida is now 41-105 all-time against Kentucky, including 4-8 under head coach Mike White … UF ended a five-game losing streak to UK dating back to March 3, 2018 … the Gators improved to 12-0 when holding teams below 44% shooting … the Wildcats oushot the visitors 29-16 from the charity stripe, but the disparity was 21-4 through the first 22:51 of the game … 37.3% of UK’s points came from the free throw line … there were two phantom foul calls on UF in the waining minutes; the hosts converted those into four points … Florida improved to 12-2 this season when scoring 70+ points and 6-0 when allowing fewer than 70 points … junior F Anthony Duruji scored 10 points on 5 of 9 shooting

What it means: The Gators went into Rupp Arena looking for revenge after getting blown out at home earlier this season and picked up a key late-season Quadrant 1 win. Florida is now 4-3 against such opponents and sits firmly as a projected No. 7 seed in the forthcoming NCAA Tournament. The Gators have two regular-season games plus the SEC Tournament remaining to improve their seeding. Considering how many games they have missed this season and their level of play since coming back from their second lengthy absence, Florida is close to a shoe-in for a postseason berth.

What was particularly impressive about UF’s victory on Saturday was its persistence. Despite the blatant foul disparity, some questionable officiating decisions and its own turnover problems, the Gators were able to make baskets when it counted and make their free throws down the stretch. That’s what you need to do to win in March, even if it’s mostly your point guards leading the way.

What’s next? Florida was originally scheduled to wrap up regular-season play in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center against Missouri. While that game will still be played, UF will actually hit the road a few days later to take on Tennessee the following Sunday in a make-up game from Feb. 10.

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