Gators Hold Off the 'Cats

As Brandon Knight dribbled the ball up the floor, Florida guard Kenny Boynton thought about how familiar the situation was. Whether it came during AAU practice or when the two faced off at rival high schools, the matchup was recognizable for both players. The game would be decided by which player got the best of the other.

Kentucky ran a pick-and-roll to get Knight open, but his three-point shot fell short, helping Florida escape with a 70-68 victory over Kentucky in front of an O'Connell Center record crowd of 12,633.

"That has happened a lot of times," Boynton said of defending Knight on the final possession. "Every time we play, it has been a close game. I was just hoping that (the shot) didn't go in."

When Knight got the ball down the court, forward Terrence Jones stepped out to set the screen. Instead of fighting through it and trying to keep Boynton on Knight, the Gators had already decided in a previous timeout that they would switch.

Alex Tyus gave Florida more length to cover Knight with. Tyus got a hand up against Knight, but it was still a good look. For what seemed like the first time all night, Knight missed a shot. He went 4-for-5 from behind the three-point line on the way to 24 points, with the only missing being the one that did Kentucky in.

"I thought they would go high pick-and-roll, and they did," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "Alex did a pretty nice job, even though it's a tough matchup. We just didn't want two guys guarding the ball with 12 seconds left, because they would pass and have an open shot. That's why we switched at the end."

Florida had the two-point cushion because of Chandler Parsons, who was fouled with 13 seconds left. After missing the first one short off the rhythm, Parsons hit the second free throw to make sure his team couldn't be beat by a two-point shot.

"I was hoping I would get both of them," Parsons said. "I had to get (the second) one in for my team. I just wanted to make sure we were up by two and give my team a better chance to win."

Parsons had his fifth double-double of the season, recording 17 points and 12 rebounds. He also added five assists while playing 37 minutes.

"The lights don't get any brighter than tonight. It's College Gameday in primetime at nine o'clock- Kentucky vs. Florida. These are the games you dream about as a little kid to play in. The crowd was great. I'm sure everybody was watching tonight and knows how good Kentucky is. If we can beat them, who can't we beat?"

The Gators had a 55-42 lead with 11:50 left after Boynton hit three free throws. They had a chance to pull away and make it easy. However, as is the case with this team for most of the year, they didn't do it.

Kentucky went on a 17-3 run, capped by Jones' only three-pointer of the game, to take a 59-58 lead with 5:41 left. The offensive struggles hurt the Gators in that period of time, and it came because Kentucky switched defenses and ran a zone that stopped Florida's scoring.

"Their zone changed the pace of the game for us offensively. The only way we were scoring was offensive rebounds. They've probably played about four possessions of zone the entire year, but I think (Kentucky head coach John Calipari) felt like he had a hard time guarding us and wanted the zone. It broke our rhythm offensively."

The Wildcats hadn't shown much zone defense earlier in the season, but they spent time working on it during practice this week.

"It showed (Florida) a different look," Knight said. "It got them out of their rhythm. It's something we did the last week of practice. It was efficient."

Tyus was solid on defense against Knight during the last possession, but his overall play in the second half is what the Gators needed. He had zero points and one rebound in only seven minutes in the first half. Donovan didn't waste time pulling him from the game because he couldn't guard Jones in the post.

Patric Young played better on Jones down low, but the Gators didn't have much of an answer for Jones, who scored 18 points and pulled down seven rebounds.

Florida recorded its first win against Kentucky since March 7, 2009. However, the Gators also moved to 4-0 against the Wildcats when ESPN's College Gameday is in town.

The Gators will hit the road this week and head to South Carolina where they will take on the Gamecocks at 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

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