Recap: No. 1 Kentucky 68, Florida 61

Florida delivered one of the best punches it has severed up all season on Saturday against top-ranked Kentucky.

The Wildcats, as one would expect an undefeated opponent to do, countered and delivered the knockout blow to the Gators.

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In a challenging matchup that UK coach John Calipari previewed with a press conference full of boxing metaphors, the Cats got off the mat and battled back from a nine-point deficit on their way to a 68-61 victory in Gainesville.

Aaron Harrison scored a game-high 23 points and Karl-Anthony Towns posted 19 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots to lead Kentucky (23-0, 10-0 SEC).

“Aaron Harrison was unbelievable,” Calipari said. “He made every big play when we needed one to be made… That’s the Aaron Harrison that people at the beginning of the year said could be the player of the year. That’s what he was today.

“And I think Karl is finally showing signs that he can be as good as anyone in the country. He’s showing signs.”

Florida (12-11, 5-5 SEC) led for most of the first half, forcing 10 UK turnovers. But the Cats closed the half with an 8-2 run to pull within 30-28 at the break.

The second half belonged to Harrison, who scored 18 of his 23 in the final 16:45. He went 8-for-8 at the free throw line.

Despite the loss, Florida coach Billy Donovan called it his team's best effort of the season. "Was it because it was Kentucky? I think we'll find out as we move forward as a team."

The Gators were led by Dorian Finney-Smith with 16 points. Kasey Hill added 12. Michael Frazier II scored 10 points in the first half, but had to leave the Florida lineup with an ankle injury.

In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some of the night's highs and lows:

WHAT WE LIKED: Kentucky rediscovered its rebounding mojo, winning the battle on the glass 33-20. The Cats had been outrebounded by three of their last four opponents coming into the game, but had their way with the Gators.

KEY MOMENT: With 12:09 left in the game, a cutting Willie Cauley-Stein took a pass from Andrew Harrison and threw down a monster jam over Florida's Devin Robinson, who was called for a foul on the play. Cauley-Stein converted the free throw for an epic three-point play that will be featured on ESPN's SportsCenter repeatedly the next 24-48 hours. It ignited an 11-4 run for the Cats that ultimately made the difference.

STAT OF THE DAY: UK was 21 of 22 at the line, a 95-percent performance for a team not known for such focus. The Cats' first miss didn't come until 42 seconds left in the game.

BY THE NUMBERS:
1st – UK win in Gainesville since the 2012 national championship season.

2nd – Best shooting effort versus the Cats this season, 49 percent, by the Gators. Only Ole Miss (49.2) fared better against UK.

5 - Number of Cats who found their way into the scoring column, a bit of an oddity for UK's deep squad. Until Andrew Harrison's free throw with :42 remaining, only Aaron Harrison, Towns, Devin Booker and Willie Cauley-Stein had tallied points.

9 - Only points Gators were able post off 15 UK turnovers, including just four in transition.

QUOTABLE: "The first half was just what we needed. We needed to be attacked.” – UK coach John Calipari.

UP NEXT: Kentucky returns to action Tuesday night at LSU in a 7 p.m. ET tipoff on ESPN. The Tigers (17-6, 6-4 SEC) defeated Alabama 71-60 on Saturday in Baton Rouge.


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