Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Sports

Florida blows late lead at Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Florida coach Billy Donovan said there was nothing wrong with his team's execution down the stretch Saturday against Kentucky.

The shots were there. They just weren't falling.

The 11th-ranked Gators didn't score in the final 7½ minutes and lost 61-57 to Kentucky in their regular-season finale.

Florida (24-6, 14-4 SEC) scored with 7:36 left on Scottie Wilbekin's 3-pointer that turned out to be the team's final points. The Gators went 0-for-11 after that and committed five turnovers in coughing up the lead.

"For the most part, we defended pretty well," said Donovan, whose team is 0-5 in games decided by fewer than 10 points this season vs. 24-1 in games decided by double digits. "We just couldn't make it. We don't need to shoot 50 percent. But if we make a couple of chippies around the basket and maybe one jump shot, you're right there to win the game."

It wasn't that UF was taking forced shots during its drought. Patric Young missed a layup and a point-blank jump hook. Wilbekin also missed a layup.

And when Donovan drew up a play to get an alley-oop dunk for Casey Prather, the play worked. But Wilbekin threw a bad pass, and Prather couldn't handle it. The ball sailed out of bounds.

With about 15 seconds left and Kentucky up 59-57, Kenny Boynton pulled up for a 15-foot jumper to tie it. The ball glanced off the back rim and bounced out of bounds to the Wildcats (21-10, 12-6).

"Honestly, we just missed some shots that we should have made," said Erik Murphy, who led all scorers with 17 points. "Everybody had some good shots that they could have made and we just missed them. They stopped us, played defense and caused some misses. That's what happens."

Despite the loss, Florida finished the season as SEC regular-season champions for the second time in three seasons and third time in seven. Five of the Gators' six SEC championships have come during Donovan's 17-year tenure as coach.

UK's victory clinched the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament and bolstered the defending national champions' chances to land an NCAA Tournament bid.

Julius Mays' two free throws with 9.4 seconds left capped Kentucky's comeback. Archie Goodwin's 16 points led the way in a game that Wildcats coach John Calipari described Friday as "do or die" for his team, which needed a signature win to boost its hopes for an NCAA berth.

Kentucky could still use a win or two in next week's SEC tournament. But the Wildcats responded with their biggest gut check of the season.

Florida lost its third straight SEC road game and remains winless at Rupp Arena since 2007.

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