"I'm very proud of our basketball team," head coach Billy Donovan said. "Kentucky has, over the past two months, proven themselves to be probably the best basketball team in the country right now. We were right there and had a chnace to win."
"I thought we weathered a lot of different problems. We weathered some foul problems, we weathered [Matt] Bonner's foot tonight and we weathered [Anthony] Roberson, who I thought had a concussion when he fell into the table. Our guys fought and battled. I couldn't have asked for anymore as a coach."
Matt Bonner scored a team-high 25 points, shooting 11-of-14 from the floor. Bonner also grabbed seven rebounds for the Gators. Today's plus-20 performance is Bonner's third consecutive and seventh this season.
The game began with Kentucky coming out and scoring the first five points of the game, but the Gators responded with a 9-0 run of their own. Sophomore center David Lee scored Florida's first three points after connecting on a three-point play. Freshman Matt Walsh and senior Brett Nelson each also added a jumper to put Florida ahead 9-5. The Wildcats took a 17-15 lead with 11:43 left in the first half on a three point shot from Antwain Barbour as they went on a 10-0 run of their own. Kentucky never trailed again in the game and the Gators went into the locker room trailing by 12 at the half.
Florida finished the first half shooting 52 percent (13-of-25) from the field, while Kentucky shot 51.5 percent (17-of-33) from the floor, including 5-of-10 from three point range.
In the second half, Florida pulled to within 51-46 with 14 minutes left, but Kentucky responded with three straight 3-pointers, almost all from the exact same spot on the right side of the floor. Shortly after, Florida cut that 14-point lead to seven, but Erik Daniels answered with a driving dunk and Gerald Fitch hit another 3-pointer to stretch the lead to 12 again.
Florida chipped a 14-point deficit to 66-65 with one minute left, and had a chance to take the lead when Christian Drejer hit David Lee for an easy layup, but Drejer was called for the offensive foul. The Gators were forced to foul Chuck Hayes, who made 1-of-2 free throws and then Gerald Fitch was also fouled and made both of his foul shots to put the Wildcats up 69-65 with 12.8 seconds to go. Anthony Roberson got the ball in his hands and drove down the floor to lay the ball in the hoop, taking only 5.7 seconds off of the clock to put the Gators within two. Kentucky's Keith Boggans was fouled on the inbounds, failing to miss both shots, but Florida couldn't not come up with a last second shot with 5.8 seconds remaining.
Lee finished the game with 13 points, with 11 coming in the first half. Lee shot 6-of-7 from the field and grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds to record his fifth double-double of the season. Roberson had 12 points for the Gators and Drejer added a team-high nine assists.
Florida finished the game shooting 52.8 percent from the field, which marks the 13th time this season the Gators have shot over 50 percent.
With the loss, Florida's 19-game home win streak came to an end.
The Gators will travel to the SEC tournament in New Orleans Friday, March 14. Florida has a first round bye and will play at 3:15 p.m. ET with the winner of the West #3 vs. East #6 match-up that will be played on Thursday.