Scout.com/Jeff Drummond

Jamal Murray explodes for 35 points to lead Kentucky Wildcats over Florida Gators

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The Kentucky Wildcats found the best way to get over their stunning collapse against Tennessee when they returned home to Rupp Arena on Saturday.

Jump all over the Florida Gators. 

Led by freshman guard Jamal Murray's hot shooting hand, Kentucky raced to a 24-5 lead in the game's first seven minutes and never looked back en route to an 80-61 win over the Gators. Murray scored 13 of his career-high 35 points during the run.

Sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis added 18 points, a career-high 11 assists and two steals for No. 20 Kentucky (17-6, 7-3), which halted a two-game losing skid. The Cats have never lost three straight in their seven years under head coach John Calipari.

"They were incredible," Florida coach Mike White said of the UK backcourt duo. "I thought Ulis really controlled the entire first half, offensively and defensively. He didn’t allow our guards to even get into ball screens defensively. I thought he put on a clinic, some of those things that won’t show up in the box score offensively.

"But Jamal Murray stole the show with his ability to make shots. I think he’s still open right now... He was unbelievable. He’s a really good shooter and they did a great job of getting him open.”

Kentucky shot 52 percent from the field while holding Florida to 40 percent. The Cats also held a 37-28 rebounding advantage despite playing without senior forward Alex Poythress, who missed the game after experiencing soreness in a knee prior to tipoff.

Freshman center Isaac Humphries helped fill the void, grabbing six rebounds to go along with four points and two blocked shots in 15 minutes off the bench. It marked his first extensive action since the UCLA game on Dec. 3.

"He earned his space, and I'm so happy for him because he has worked so hard and hasn't had the opportunity," Uk coach John Calipari said of his young Australian import. "What he did was he took advantage, and we all look and say, he needs to play. Let him play. And then you've got to stop waiting on some other guys. You've got to say, hey, he deserves it."

Florida (15-8, 6-4 SEC) got 24 points and eight rebounds from senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith. Sophomore center John Egbunu added 12 points for the Gators, who had won five of their last six games.

In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some quick-hitters from UK's victory...

KEY MOMENT:

Kentucky was able to set aside the disappointment of blowing a 21-point lead to Tennessee with a fast start against the Gators. That got the crowd of 24,406 into a good vibe, and the Cats fed off the energy as the lead grew. The game was played on mostly even terms after the 24-5 opening, so the strong start was crucial. The margin would fluctuate between 24 and 14 points for most of the final 33 minutes of play.

BY THE NUMBERS:

1st - Kentucky player (Murray) to have two 30-point games in his freshman season. He also had 33 points against Ohio State.

3rd - Double-double of the season for Ulis.

8 - Three-point shots for Murray, one shy of the UK Rupp Arena record (9) set by Tony Delk against TCU in 1995.

16 - Consecutive games with at least four assists for Ulis, the first UK player since Roger Harden (1985-86) to do so.

33 - Game winning streak at Rupp Arena for the Cats, tied for the second-longest by a UK coach. (Calipari 54, Pitino 33, Calipari 33).

QUOTABLE:

"I got away from defense because I was trying to get us better offensively... Now we've gotten better offensively, and we started stinking on defense and rebounding, so I went back to it." -- UK coach John Calipari on the Cats' chance of focus entering the Florida game.

UP NEXT:

Kentucky returns to action on Tuesday night at Rupp Arena against Georgia. The Bulldogs (13-8, 6-4 SEC) are coming off a 65-55 win over Auburn today. Tipoff for UK and UGA is slated for 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.


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