Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Experience carries Florida past Kentucky

Scottie Wilbekin is big in the clutch for UF, hitting five crucial free throws down the stretch.

Scottie Wilbekin is big in the clutch for UF, hitting five crucial free throws down the stretch.

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Florida had the same plan when it was trailing and when it pulled ahead. The third-ranked Gators just wanted to maintain their composure.

That steady approach turned into a big win at one of college basketball's most hostile venues.

Scottie Wilbekin scored 23 and hit five critical free throws down the stretch, and Florida rallied for a tense 69-59 victory over No. 14 Kentucky late Saturday in a matchup of the Southeastern Conference's top teams.

"It was just one of those games where you have to kind of stay the course," Gators coach Billy Donovan said.

Casey Prather had 24 points on 8-of-9 shooting as Florida tied a school record with its 17th straight win.

Kentucky led the Gators 45-38 with 11:10 left, with the crowd in Lexington going wild.

But as Florida center Patric Young said, "Nobody ever won a game with 11 minutes left."

The veteran Gators (23-2, 12-0 SEC) turned to their best players down the stretch en route to their first victory at Rupp Arena since 2007. Point guard Wilbekin made 11 of 12 free throws, including two after Kentucky coach John Calipari was whistled for a technical with 8:14 left.

"I feel like I'm always confident," said Wilbekin, who was 5-of-10 from the field and had no turnovers. "When the ball's in my hands, I feel like I have to make a play. I try to get to the basket or get the best shot for our team."

Young added 10 points, including two three-point plays during a 13-3 spurt that put the Gators ahead for good. Florida shot 60 percent in the second half and 44 percent (22-of-50) overall while controlling every major statistic except rebounding.

Andrew Harrison scored 20 for Kentucky (19-6, 9-3), which had won 22 straight home games. Julius Randle had 13 points and 13 rebounds but didn't hit a field goal in the second half.

Kentucky outrebounded Florida 31-28 but couldn't grab an errant shot at the biggest moments, especially on the offensive end. The Gators took advantage for a 12-8 edge in second-chance points and basically controlled the paint, outscoring the Wildcats 34-22.

"We're not ready to win that kind of game," Calipari said. "And I told them that. We've got to understand and listen. Take responsibility. If a guy outplayed you, admit it."

The Gators scored at least a point on each of their final 13 possessions. They hit 7 of 10 field goals and 15 of 17 free throws to close the game.

"Down the stretch they had the mental discipline. They locked in, and we kind of had breakdowns," Randle said. "You gotta be willing to make the tough plays. We didn't make enough of them."

Did you know?

• Florida's win snapped a six-game losing skid at Rupp Arena.

• Florida has won 17 straight, tied for longest single-season win streak in school history (national title years 2005-06, 2006-07).

• Since Jan. 25, UF has allowed second-fewest points per game (53.1) in nation (Virginia, 52.3). It has played seven games in that stretch, forcing four of those seven foes into season lows in points.

• In back-to-back road wins against Tennessee and Kentucky, point guard Scottie Wilbekin combined for 44 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists and 0 turnovers.

Experience carries Florida past Kentucky 02/16/14 [Last modified: Monday, February 17, 2014 12:19am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Joe Maddon gets warm reception in return to the Trop

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The night was arranged to honor former Rays manager Joe Maddon in his first visit back to the Trop, and the standing ovation from the bipartisan crowd and scoreboard video tribute seemed proper acknowledgments of his hefty role in the Rays' success during his nine-year stint.

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) talks with reporters during a press conference before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.
  2. Rays vs. Cubs, 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Cubs

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM; 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays' Blake Snell poses for a picture during the team's photo day at baseball spring training in Port Charlotte, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Cubs game

    The Heater

    Chris Archer's night ended with his 11th loss, but he and the Rays should feel good about his six solid innings. After the forearm tightness scare in Chicago, he had two rough outings (15 hits, 11 runs, seven innings), so Tuesday was a reassuring rebound.

  4. At 6-8, Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov comes with, and needs, a high ceiling

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — When Hall of Famer Phil Esposito first saw Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov, he joked that the 6-foot-8 defenseman could reach the Amalie Arena ceiling.

    Lightning 6-foot-8 defenseman Oleg Sosunov competes in the preseason opener. Phil Esposito jokes that Sosunov can reach the ceiling at Amalie Arena.
  5. Jones: Rays' Kevin Cash doesn't mind following in Joe Maddon's steps

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — On this particular night, he's the other guy. He's like a talk-show guest scooted to the end of the couch. He is Kevin Cash. And the Rays manager is standing in the home dugout at Tropicana Field.

    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Manager Kevin Cash (L) of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts to action during the game against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field on September 17, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images) 700012494