Kentucky edges Florida 75-70

Winning is a Senior Day tradition at Kentucky, today was no exception. Perry Stevenson's 16 points, 10 boards & 5 blocks keyed the Wildcats as they built a double-digit second half lead, then held off a Florida comeback to notch the victory. The Wildcats improved to 12-4 in the SEC, and 18-11 overall, while going undefeated at home in league play.

Perry Stevenson calmly walked to the line with 9.6 seconds left, with the score Kentucky 73, Florida 70. A few of the Rupp faithful began and quickly ended a chant of "Perry! Perry!" The chant died down and the Kentucky sophomore calmly hit both his charity tosses, giving Kentucky a two possession lead. Florida's offense came down the floor looking to get a quick three, but the Kentucky defense stiffened and the best Florida could do was to get a contested attempt by Nick Calathes, which missed badly. Kentucky senior Ramel Bradley grabbed the rebound as the buzzer sounded, marking the end of a seven-game Florida win streak over Kentucky.

Florida was hot early, as they hit their first eight shots of the game. When Jai Lucas missed a layup, to mark Florida's firs miss of the game at the 10:49 mark of the first half the Gators led 21-15. Kentucky attacked the basket and sandwiched a Perry Stevenson dunk around layups by Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford to tie the game at 21. After taking a short-lived 2 point lead on a Marreese Speights jumper Kentucky took its first lead of the contest on a three-point play when Stevenson hit a layup, while being fouled, then cashed in at the charity stripe.

The teams traded leads until a Crawford jumper gave Kentucky the 28-26 lead, which the Wildcats were able to hang onto until the half, when UK took a 33-31 lead to the locker-room.

Florida was able to briefly retake the lead after intermission when Speights began the second half by scoring four points on Florida's first two possessions of the half.

A pair of Stevenson charity tosses tied the game, and Ramon Harris drilled a three to give UK the 38-35 lead and begin a 27 to 9 run by the Cats. During the run Kentucky seemingly hit every shot they took, including an AJ Stewart jumper with the toes of his right foot on the three-point line as the shot clock expired. Stewarts shot hit the back of the rim, bounced into the air, bounced again, and then settled into the bottom of the basket.

Kentucky's lead reached its apex when a Derrick Jasper three gave the Cats a 60-44 lead. It was Jasper's fourth three of the day.

With Kentucky leading 70-57 with 3:24 remaining the Gators began a frantic comeback, aided by missed Kentucky free throws. Missed front end shots of one-and-one opportunities by Bradley and Jasper sandwiched around a Florida steal contributed to Florida closing the gap to four points, at 70-66 with 1:28 remaining on a pair of Calathes free throws.

With Florida playing everyone up to pressure the ball Bradley shook loose on the inbounds play for a layup to put the Cats back up by six. A miss by Walter Hodge on a drive to the basket resulted in Bradley being fouled. The Kentucky senior missed his first attempt, the third consecutive miss by the Cats, and converted on the third to give Kentucky the seven point lead.

Florida struck quickly as Speights scored a quick deuce to trim the lead to five. The Gators fouled Jasper, sending the 45% FT shooter back to the line, where he missed both attempts. Jai Lucas missed a jumper for Florida and Dan Werner dug out the offense board and fed Lucas for a layup to trim the lead to 73-70. 27 seconds remained.

After a Florida timeout the Cats had trouble inbounding the ball. The ball was knocked out of bounds twice by the Gators wrapped around a forced timeout when Kentucky could not inbound the ball.

After the game Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie reported that Perry Stevenson told the team during the timeout to get him the ball, he would hit the free throws. Kentucky inbounded the ball, and with 9 seconds on the clock Florida committed the foul that would send Stevenson to the line to put the game out of reach for the Gators.

Stevenson led the Wildcats with his third double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Stevenson also recorded five blocked shots. The double-double was the second for the Kentucky sophomore in the last three games. Crawford tied Stevenson with a team high 16. Bradley and Jasper each scored 14 for the Wildcats; Bradley also dished out a game high 7 assists. Harris scored 9 and Stewart rounded out the scoring with 4.

Speights scored 20 for the Gators. He was joined in double digits by Calathes with 16 and Lucas with 14.

The Wildcats shot a woeful 45% from the charity stripe, hitting on only 9 of their 20 attempts. Kentucky shot better than 58% from the field for the game, and hit nearly 56% of its three-point attempts, as they hit ten of eighteen long range attempts.

Florida won the rebounding battle 35-23; but Kentucky won the battle of the turnovers. Kentucky forced 12 Florida turnovers, and scored 19 points off those 12 turnovers. Kentucky committed only 9 turnovers.

The Wildcats played very good transition defense held Florida without a fastbreak point, while the Kentucky offense scored 11 fastbreak points.

Kentucky will now have five days to prepare for a 9:45 PM Friday SEC Tournament game. The Wildcats wrap up regular season play with a 12-4 record in the SEC, with the #2 seed in the SEC East. Kentucky's overall record improves to 18-11 with the victory.

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