Gators Can't Slow Kentucky Late

Down four points with just over nine minutes to go, the No. 13 Gators looked like they had a chance to do what only one team has done all season—beat Kentucky. That's when the Wildcats turned it on. No. 1 Kentucky finished the game on a 15-4 run to secure the first undefeated season in SEC play since 2003. The Wildcats ran away with a 74-59 win over Florida.

"We had great shots," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. They were as good of shots as you'll get against them. There's not more you can do. Their talent and ability to make difficult shots was much better than our ability to do that. They did a really good job of that."

Just as they did in the first four minutes of the game, Kentucky did what it wanted down the stretch. Three-pointers, alley-oop dunks and blocked shots—the Wildcats used the final nine minutes of the game as an exhibition. When things are going well for Kentucky, things have a tendency to look like the Harlem Globetrotters.

There's too much talent on the floor for things to look any other way. When the game is close and they feel challenged, the Wildcats knew how to explode.

"That's what makes really good teams," Donovan said. "They have it regardless of the situation and what's going on."

Florida shot 42.9% from the field in the first half, including a late run to cut the deficit to eight points at halftime. The execution in the second half on offense actually improved.

The Gators shot just 33.3% in the second half, but Donovan was surprised that total was so low because the offensive execution produced better looks than that number.

"I thought we shot the ball better in the first half, but we actually moved the ball better in the second half and had better looks," Donovan said. "We just shot a much better percentage in the first half.

"We had some really decent looks, but the ball didn't go in the basket. Like (Kentucky has) done all year, and with their talent level, you don't finish out and you're vulnerable."

The Gators started the game with guard Kenny Boynton out of the lineup. The junior was late to a team meeting during the week and was held of the starting lineup because of it. He played 25 minutes while Brad Beal and Erving Walker were on the court for 36.

The disappointment Donovan had in Boynton was a familiar issue with the Gators this season. It's a lack of maturity and leadership that has hurt them from the start.

"As much as I want to expedite some of that process, sometimes it takes longer," Donovan said. "When you look at (Kentucky players) Gilchrist and Davis, the reason they're special is their focus and ability to remain undistracted in what they're doing. At that age, it's rare.

"There's a maturing process these guys are going through and understanding what goes into it. The discipline, understanding and attention to details of doing what you're supposed to doing—that kind of stuff is something we've got to learn and get better at."

The loss on Sunday means the Gators end the regular season on a three-game losing streak. Playing Kentucky and at Vanderbilt are tough ones to expect victories, but the loss at Georgia still stood out in Donovan's mind as a tough one to swallow.

His hope is that Florida has learned and processed its lessons in the last two weeks that can help them in the SEC and NCAA Tournaments to come.

"I'm just hopeful that at the right time our guys can understand what can be taken from the experiences they've gone through," Donovan said. "The biggest thing is the commitment. It's not only will they work hard, but the commitment to what needs to be done collectively as a group in every situation."

Walker, who surprised himself by getting teary-eyed during the pregame ceremony for Senior Day, said that there isn't much of a moral victory involved.

"Not at this point in the season," Walker said. "It's about wins and losses. Whether you play hard or not, you've got to come out with a win. We're in a one or done situation now, so we've got to figure this out."

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