Saturday, December 16, 2017
Sports

Florida routs Kentucky, finishes 18-0 in SEC

GAINESVILLE — If someone had told Casey Prather four months ago that Florida would become the first team to go 18-0 in Southeastern Conference play, he knows exactly what he would have said.

"I would have told them to get out of my face, I don't believe you," Prather said.

But as he stood outside the locker room at the O'Connell Center on Saturday afternoon with remnants of a basketball net still hanging around his head and neck, he and his three senior teammates basked in the glory of just that accomplishment.

No. 1 Florida defeated No. 25 Kentucky 84-65 on an emotional senior day, only the second team this season to have a perfect league record (with Wichita State). The Gators' 29-2 record is the best regular-season mark in school history, and they won the SEC by six games.

"For me as a coach, it's the greatest regular season I've ever been a part of," Billy Donovan said.

"When you invest four years like these guys have invested, it means something to them. They are going to carry this with them the rest of their lives. They're going to be remembered for what they've done. They've done something that has not happened here before. It has not happened in our league before."

The 19-point win was Florida's largest over Kentucky (22-9, 12-6) in the series. Florida is now tied with Duke and Stephen F. Austin for the longest home winning streaks in the nation (32).

"It was the perfect way to end" the regular season, senior guard Scottie Wilbekin said.

Perfection didn't come without challenges, which epitomized this season for a team that overcame multiple injuries and suspensions on the road to undefeated. The Gators got big-time help from freshman guard Kasey Hill, who played 21 minutes, including critical time for Wilbekin who was in first-half foul trouble. And Michael Frazier (who turned 20 on Saturday) and Dorian Finney-Smith combined for 20 points. But ultimately, it was the seniors who paved the way.

Florida led 49-28 at halftime, but Kentucky refused to go down without a fight. The Wildcats scored 19 of the first 23 in the second half, including a 15-0 run.

"When you're dealing with a great team, you know they're going to fight back," Prather said.

Kentucky pulled within 58-50 with 10:03 left but never got closer.

Seniors scored the first 28 of the Gators' 35 second-half points.

When the nets had been cut down, Florida's seniors took a moment to stop and reflect one last time. Then they kissed the floor — together.

"This is the way to go out," said senior center Patric Young, who had a game-high 18 points. "You couldn't have scripted this any better. You go 18-0, you get to cut the nets down, we all walk off the court together, kiss the floor. What else could you want? This is the perfect way to end things."

Without actually being the end.

"We want to win nine more games," Young said. "Three in the SEC tournament and six to win the national championship."

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]

 
Comments

Boys basketball: Lakewood 45, Gibbs 44

ST. PETERSBURG — Once the lights dimmed in the gymnasium and the capacity crowd dispersed, Lakewood coach Anthony Lawrence spotted Gibbs coach Larry Murphy strolling past the the bleachers."Hey, Murph. Do we have to do this every time?" Lawrenc...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
Boys basketball: Nature Coast 78, Central 29

Boys basketball: Nature Coast 78, Central 29

BROOKSVILLE – Once again supporting its place as the top program in Hernando County, Nature Coast maintained its undefeated record in a dominant win over rival Central.While the Bears were able to upset the Sharks to win the Class 6A, District ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Girls basketball: Plant 66, Steinbrenner 31

LUTZ — Here's some discouraging news for any team that has to play Plant this season or in the next few seasons: The Panthers beat Steinbrenner 66-31 Friday night. Of those 66 points, 48 were scored by a sophomore and two freshmen.Freshman powe...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Boys basketball: Plant City 79, Tampa Bay Tech 74

Boys basketball: Plant City 79, Tampa Bay Tech 74

TAMPA — Traveling to play at Tampa Bay Tech is a test for any area basketball team these days because the Titans are tough and the crowd is loud.Plant City prepared for all of the above, answered most of the questions and passed the exam Friday...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Nobody has Jameis Winston’s back more than Dirk Koetter, offensive coordinator Todd Monken insists

Nobody has Jameis Winston’s back more than Dirk Koetter, offensive coordinator Todd Monken insists

Nobody is a bigger supporter of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston than head coach Dirk Koetter.That was the passionate message that offensive coordinator/receivers coach Todd Monken unloaded at his news conference Friday, saying that reports that Winst...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Westbrook, Embiid put on show in triple OT thriller

Westbrook, Embiid put on show in triple OT thriller

PHILADELPHIA — Russell Westbrook had 27 points, 17 rebounds and 15 assists, and the Thunder and the 76ers went basket-for-basket in a three-overtime thriller before Oklahoma City pulled out a 119-117 victory Friday night. Andre Roberson scored the wi...
Updated: 6 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Dec. 15

Friday’s scoreboardGirls soccerCountryside 7, Clearwater 0Osceola 9, Bradenton Bayshore 0Palm Harbor U. 2, Plant 1Boys soccerPalm Harbor U. 0, Plant 0Lennard 4, Armwood 1
Updated: 6 hours ago

Saturday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYBoxingMiddleweights: Lemieux vs. Saunders9:30 p.m.HBOCollege basketballButler vs. PurduenoonFoxMiami at George WashingtonnoonCBSSNLouisville vs. MemphisnoonESPN2Detroit vs. MichigannoonESPNUNC-Greensboro at N.C. StatenoonFSFSeton Hall at Rutgers...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Ryan Callahan out at least 3-4 weeks for Lightning

Ryan Callahan out at least 3-4 weeks for Lightning

When Lightning wing Ryan Callahan took a nasty spill into the boards Thursday night, it didn't look good.Turns out, it wasn't. Callahan will be sidelined indefinitely with an upper body injury, evaluated after three to four weeks, per GM Steve Yzerma...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Rangers hold off Pacific-leading Kings

Rangers hold off Pacific-leading Kings

NEW YORK — Rick Nash scored the tiebreaking goal with 3:27 left to lead the Rangers to a 4-2 victory over the Pacific Division-leading Kings on Friday night. Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller scored to help New York win for the second time i...
Updated: 6 hours ago