Gators Stymied by UK's defense

In the teams' third matchup of the season, Kentucky won it with defense. The Gators couldn't score consistently inside the paint or from the outside, and the second half splash that benefited No. 12 Florida in its first two games of the tournament was nowhere to be found. No. 16 Kentucky ran away with a 70-54 victory to win the SEC Tournament.

"Kentucky got off to a hot start shooting, but I really thought that it would subside as the game wore on," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "And it's really difficult to really shoot well for three straight days, for both teams. I don't think it was very pretty offensively—it certainly was not for us."

Kentucky played a lot of zone defense that didn't allow the Gators to get open shots. The lack of a true inside presence hurt, and it affected the perimeter players from the outside.

In the first two games, it was Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton that led the Gators to wins, but their struggles from the field on Sunday cost Florida the game. The two combined to shoot 7-for-26 from the field and 4-for-12 from behind the three-point line.

"We're not making excuses," Boynton said. "We just missed easy shots around the rim, stuff we ought to finish. I think that we were tired, but you can say the same for both teams. We've just got to finish well."

Chandler Parsons went from the field, and an uncharacteristic 0-for-4 on three-pointers. The senior did pull down ten rebounds despite only scoring nine points.

The lack of an inside presence didn't help either.

Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus combined for 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting, but the duo only combined to shoot five free throws. Both players recorded only two rebounds.

"Vernon Macklin had five turnovers in the game," Donovan said. "So that's five times he's got the ball in his hands, and never mind his shots. I just didn't think that our frontcourt guys, when they got the ball, did very much with it. We got it inside, and we needed to do a better job."

Florida's big men weren't the only ones who struggled to get to the free throw line. The entire team did. Florida shot only eight free throws compared to Kentucky's 29. The Wildcats had a +21 advantage in made free throws, and it didn't just happen during one half.

The Wildcats dominated the first half because they got to the free throw line 14 times, while Florida only shot one free throw.

"You've got to get to the free throw line," Donovan said. "We went to the line eight times. I think that's the lowest number of free throws attempted we have had all year long. We have been a team that's gotten to the line 23, 25 times. That was disappointing to me."

Florida struggled out of the gates, with Kentucky taking a 14-5 lead just over four minutes into the game. Scottie Wilbekin went on an 8-0 run by himself to close the gap to one point, and Erving Walker hit a three-pointer to give Florida a two-point lead.

The Gators hung close through the remainder of the first half despite the free throw differential and their own shooting struggles, but Kentucky ran away with the game in the second half.

Freshman guard Brandon Knight led all scorers with 17 points, while classmate forward Terrence Jones poured in 16. Darius Miller added 15 points after scoring 24 against the Gators in Rupp Arena two weeks ago.

Parsons and Boynton were named to the All-Tournament Team.

The Gators now await their placement for the NCAA Tournament, which will be announced at 6 p.m.

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