WHEW: 'Cats survive Central Florida 59-57

LEXINGTON, Ky -- Kentucky entered the game at home as 20 point favorites over an undermanned Central Florida team. Somebody forgot to tell the Golden Knights, as it took a turnaround jumper from Rajon Rondo with 1.5 seconds remaining for the 'Cats to eek out a 2-point win, 59-57.

It has been a common complaint--Kentucky plays down to the level of the competition. The complaint may not have been more evident than the ballgame tonight against the Golden Knights of Central Florida (6-6), losers of four of their last five games. SEC brethren Florida defeated Central Florida by 33 earlier this season. It took a last second shot by Rajon Rondo for Kentucky to pull out the win.

The 'Cats began lethargically, falling behind 7-0 in the first 41 seconds of the game, and the score was still 9-1 with 14:15 remaining in the first half, courtesy of a free throw by Shagari Alleyne, inserted in a mass substitution by Coach Tubby Smith. The Knights built the lead to 18-7 with 9:37 to play in the half before the 'Cats began a run, closing on a 26-8 streak to capture a 7-point halftime lead. The lead would be extended to 11 in the 2nd half before it deteriorated.

Central Florida's Justin Rose got open for a dunk to cut the lead to 49-43 with 8:15 to play, and following a 3-pointer by Troy Lindbeck, Rose knocked down two free throws and a jumper to give the visitors the lead with under seven minutes to play. Kentucky's Joe Crawford gave the 'Cats back the lead with 4:34 to play, but the game would once again be tied when Mike O'Donnell nailed a 3-pointer to knot the game at 57 with 26 seconds left and set the stage for the last second heroics.

Ramel Bradley led Kentucky with 16 points, with 14 coming in a 4:37 span in the first half, eradicating a 9-point UCF lead and pushing UK's lead to seven. Rondo was UK's only other double digit scorer with 13. Rondo added six assists, four steals, and four rebounds, tying him with Joe Crawford for team-high in rebounds. Central Florida outrebounded Kentucky 36-27, led by guard Justin Rose's 10 boards. Rose had a double double, chipping in 12 points. The Golden Knights were led in scoring by Josh Peppers with 15.

Kentucky (10-3) next faces Kansas at Phog Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday.


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