For 20 minutes the Kentucky Wildcats hung in there on the road with the 7th ranked Florida Gators, even taking a slim 41-39 lead into the lockeroom at the half.
But then the second half started. Final score: Florida 95, Kentucky 80. "We just stopped movng the ball," coach Tubby Smith said, "Taurean Green was playing really well and it just came down to bad decisions on our part. When you are playing a good team like Florida on the road, you are just not going to get away with it."
After making the first two shots of the second half to extend the Wildcats lead to six at 45-39, the wheels came off for Kentucky. In the next six minutes, the Gators would rip off a game defining 18-2 run to turn their 6-point deficit into a 57-47 lead. Taurean Green would score of those points in route to a career high 29 points for the night.
"You have to make better decisions on the road," Smith said, "you have to give Florida credit, but I don't think any team has ever gotten that many open dunks on a team that I have coached. We just didn't play much of any defense."
Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah (who also scored a career high 26 points) and Green would continue to put pressure on the Cats' weakening defense to extend the lead to 15 at 67-52 midway through the second half. The Cats would never seriously challenge Florida the rest of the night.
Rajon Rondo would lead Kentucky with 22 points, though he fouled out of the game. Joe Crawford have his first double double, 19 points and 10 rebounds. Randolph Morris would chip in with 14 points. The Gators had five players that scored in double figures on their way to shooting 56% from the field.
"Joe played well and played hard," Smith said, "he is gaining a lot of confidence. He can score a lot of different ways."
Guard Patrick Sparks, continued his recent history of playing poorly against Florida. Coming off a 25-point effort against Mississippi State team on the road, Sparks shot just 2-11 from the field and finished with just five points.
The Wildcats committed 25 fouls for the night, allowing 37 Gator free throw attempts. Florida obliged by hitting 30 of them. Kentucky shot 50% from the field in the first half but they could not get the shots to fall in the second half and finished just 40% from the field for the game.
"We were really impatient and showed a lack of poise tonight," Smith said, "it's a mental thing. When we fell behind, we rushed. It's one of those things where our guys felt like we had to get it all back in a hurry and it forces you to take bad shots."
Kentucky fell to 15-7 for the season (5-3 SEC) and lost its tie for 2nd place in the SEC East. Their next game is back in Rupp Arena on Tuesday against Tennessee.