SEC TOURNEY BYE ON THE LINE AS GATORS VISIT RUPP
It all comes down to one game as Kentucky and Florida battle for second place in the SEC East and the first-round bye in next weeks SEC Tournament Sunday at Rupp Arena. The Wildcats, who celebrate Senior Day prior to the battle with the Gators, earned an 80-78 victory over 11th-ranked Tennessee Wednesday to keep them in contention for the first-round bye. Florida, which took an 11-point win over Georgia Wednesday, has lost three of its last four entering the final regular-season game of the year. Sophomore Randolph Morris and Rajon Rondo willed UK to the victory over the Volunteers in a rowdy, sold-out Thompson-Boling Arena. Morris had 22 points and nine rebounds, while Rondo scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half. UK will honor Kentucky-born seniors Preston LeMaster, Ravi Moss, Patrick Sparks and Brandon Stockton in pregame ceremonies beginning at 11:45 a.m.
QUICK NOTES Kentucky is 81-4 since 1920 on Senior Day. The Wildcats have won their last eight Senior Day games and 40 of the last 41. The Cats have not lost a Senior Day game in the Tubby Smith era. The Wildcats shot a season-high 60.4 percent in the win over Tennessee, including 78.9 percent in the decisive second half. Kentucky trailed by as many as 14 against Tennessee (21-7; 12:16 to go in first half ). Over the last two seasons, UK has won eight games in which theyve trailed by 10 or more, including four this season. In Tubby Smiths nine years, UK is 104-2 (.981) when shooting 50 percent or better. After shooting .429 in non-conference action, UK has shot .482 in SEC play (first in the league). Randolph Morris is shooting .629 from the field in SEC action, the leagues second-highest field goal percentage behind Floridas Joakim Noah (.650). Over the last four seasons, UK is third nationally in wins (106).
SENIOR SALUTE In a time-honored pregame ceremony, Kentucky will honor its seniors - Preston LeMaster, Ravi Moss, Patrick Sparks and Brandon Stockton - on Senior Day. The ceremony will include video tributes, over 23,000 fans singing My Old Kentucky Home and the presentation of framed jerseys. The ceremony, which the late Al McGuire once called the most touching moment in all of sports, will begin at approximately 11:45 a.m. The 2006 senior class has accumulated 106 wins over the past four years, while winning two SEC titles, two SEC Tournament titles and three SEC Eastern Division crowns. The group has been to the NCAA Elite Eight twice. As freshmen in 2003, UK finished the year ranked No. 1 by AP and No. 2 in 2004, the groups sophomore season. All four of this years seniors hail from the Bluegrass state - LeMaster from Paris, Moss from Hopkinsville, Sparks from Central City and Stockton from Glasgow.
SENIOR DAY SUPREMACY The Wildcats have been highly successful in their Senior Day games over the years. Since 1920, Kentucky is 81-4, winning the last eight and 40 of the last 41. The Cats have not lost a Senior Night game in the Tubby Smith era. SCOUTING FLORIDA No. 17/14 Florida travels to Lexington with a 23-6 overall record and a 9-6 mark in SEC action. The Gators have gone 3-4 since handing UK a 95-80 loss on Feb. 4 in Gainesville, including losing three of the last four games. Joakim Noah, who had a career-best 37 points in UFs win over Georgia Wednesday, leads the team with 14.1 ppg and is second with 6.4 rpg. Taureen Green adds 13.8 ppg, while Corey Brewer adds 12.6 ppg. Al Horford averages 11.4 ppg and a team-leading 7.3 rpp. Billy Donovan is in his 10th season at Florida, owning a 216-99 record.
SERIES HISTORY This marks the 112th meeting in the series between Kentucky and Florida with the Wildcats holding an 84-27 advantage. Kentucky has lost the last three meetings, but has won 10 of the last 14. UK had won eight straight before the current Gator streak. UK swept the regular-season meetings in 2002, 2003 and 2004, after splitting with the Gators for four years (1997-98 to 2000-01). UK won the first meeting, 44-36, in Lexington on Jan. 3, 1927. The Cats won 21 of the first 22 meetings, winning 18 straight from 1942-64. The Cats are 43-6 against UF in Lexington, including a 25-4 mark at Rupp. The Gators last road win in the series came in 1998. Tubby Smith is 16-7 overall against Florida, including an 12-7 mark at Kentucky. Billy Donovan is 7-16 against the Cats, including a 7- 14 record at Florida. UK-UF
CONNECTIONS Both Tubby Smith and Billy Donovan coached at Kentucky under Rick Pitino. They were on Pitinos first Kentucky staff (1989-90) - Smith as an assistant, Donovan as a graduate assistant. The next year, Smith served as Pitinos associate coach. UK senior Ravi Moss and UF junior Lee Humphrey both traveled to China this summer as a part of a Sports Reach team. The squad was coached by former Wildcat Kyle Macy.
FLORIDA FINALE This is the seventh-straight year Kentucky and Florida have closed out the regular season against one another, either at Rupp Arena or Gainesvilles OConnell Center. The Wildcats own a 4-2 advantage over the Gators to close the season.
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