Monday, April 23, 2018
Sports

Florida wins huge SEC game at Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Scottie Wilbekin had 23 points and hit five critical free throws down the stretch, and No.  3 Florida rallied for a tense 69-59 victory over No. 14 Kentucky on Saturday night in a matchup of the Southeastern Conference's top teams.

The Gators tied a school record with their 17th straight win, matching marks they set during the 2006-07 and 2005-06 seasons. It was their first victory at Rupp Arena since 2007 and snapped a six-game losing streak on the Wildcats' homecourt.

Trailing 45-38 with 11:12 left, the veteran Gators (23-2, 12-0 SEC) turned to their best players down the stretch. Wilbekin made 11 of 12 free throws, including two technical free throws with 8:14 left.

Casey Prather scored 24 for UF on 8-of-9 shooting. Patric Young added 10 points, including two three-point plays during a 13-3 spurt that put the Gators ahead for good.

Andrew Harrison scored 20 for Kentucky (19-6, 9-3), which had won 22 consecutive home games.

Prather's three-point play with 38 seconds left helped complete Florida's rare road sweep of Kentucky and Tennessee in the same week.

Kentucky outrebounded UF 31-28 but failed to 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 but basically controlled the paint, outscoring the Wildcats 34-22.

James Young added 19 points for the Wildcats, who shot 48 percent but didn't score in the final 1:55. Freshman Julius Randle had 13 points and 13 rebounds.

Florida hosts Kentucky in the rematch on March 8, but Saturday's win puts the Gators in firm control of the conference race. It also strengthened their resume for a possible No. 1 seed in next month's NCAA Tournament.

Florida's experience and poise — especially before a loud, partisan crowd and a prime-time audience — trumped Kentucky's youth, especially in pressure moments throughout the second half. The Gators improved to 3-2 against ranked teams.

The first half certainly lived up to the hype with seven ties and six lead changes. Kentucky held the largest edge at just seven points, which Florida whittled to 31-28 at the break. Randle had 10 points at halftime.

Florida executed nearly flawlessly down the stretch, outscoring Kentucky 22-11 in the final 8:14.

Young led Florida's 13-3 run over 3:19 for a 51-48 lead with 8:01 remaining. The 6-foot-9 senior sandwiched three-point plays around a 3-pointer by Wilbekin — who added two technical free throws — followed by Prather's jumper that provided the Gators' first lead since the first half.

They also got a big shot from sophomore guard and Tampa's Michael Frazier. Off an offensive rebound, Dorian Finney-Smith passed it back to Frazier, who drained a shot from the right beyond the arc. The 3-pointer extended UF's lead to 60-55 with 4:14 left. Frazier had missed his previous four shots, including his first from 3-point range.

Comments
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays win on Carlos Gomezís walkoff home run

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays win on Carlos Gomezís walkoff home run

Carlos Gomez, who had been struggling, delivers a two-run, walkoff home run as the Rays sweep the Twins for the first time at Tropicana Field. Rick Stroud discusses the moment and the celebration that followed Gomez's first career walkoff hit in toda...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
How Deon Cain went from lifelong quarterback to NFL-bound receiver

How Deon Cain went from lifelong quarterback to NFL-bound receiver

TAMPA — Ricky Sailor thought his colleague had lost his mind.Sailor's Unsigned Preps 7-on-7 team had one of the area's most promising young quarterbacks, Deon Cain. So why would one of his coaches, Carlos Blake, want to risk injury and burn bri...
Updated: 1 hour ago
District softball schedules for Tampa Bay

District softball schedules for Tampa Bay

Note: Some district schedules may be impacted by inclement weather.Class 9A-8 (higher seed hosts)Tuesday: No. 3 Alonso at No. 2 Palm Harbor University, 4; No. 4 Sarasota Riverview at No. 1 Newsome, 7Thursday: Final, 4 or 7 (depending on who hosts)Cla...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Lightning has answer for Devils and David Puddy

Lightning has answer for Devils and David Puddy

You knew those who work the scoreboard for the Lightning games at Amalie Arena would have an answer Saturday during Game 5 to the Devils using David Puddy during Game 4 at the Prudential Center. Puddy meets Homer Simpson. Actually, Puddy met Terry ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Lightning Round 2 playoff tickets on sale Monday

Lightning Round 2 playoff tickets on sale Monday

Single-game tickets for the Lightning's Eastern Conference semifinal series go on sale to the general public at 1 p.m. Monday at nhl.com/lightning/tickets.The Lightning plays the winner of the Bruins-Maple Leafs series. Game 6 of that series is Monda...
Updated: 4 hours ago
How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

TAMPA — The buzz surrounding this year's NFL draft is a class of talented quarterbacks deep enough to challenge the record six taken in the first round in 1983, a group that included future Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.Th...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Andrei Vasilevskiy and the universal language of playoff hockey

Andrei Vasilevskiy and the universal language of playoff hockey

TAMPA — As usual, Andrei Vasilevskiy didn't speak in front of the cameras after the game. He has been like that since he hit the NHL. He still isn't comfortable with his English on TV.But Vasilevskiy spoke loudly and clearly in the first-round ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Rays are suddenly swinging hot bats, but will it last?

Rays are suddenly swinging hot bats, but will it last?

ST. PETERSBURG — Good pitching and hitting go hand in glove, but the Rays did not look like a team that could swing the bats very well until this completed homestand.In their series sweep over the Twins, Tampa Bay scored 8, 10 and 8 runs. ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Jimmy Butler leads Timberwolves against team he loved

Jimmy Butler leads Timberwolves against team he loved

MINNEAPOLIS — All-Star forward Jimmy Butler comes across as the proudest former resident in the history of tiny Tomball, Texas. What he doesn't advertise in his Twitter biography, but also doesn't dispute, is that he grew up dreaming of becomin...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Rick Stroudís takeaways from Rays-Twins

Rick Stroudís takeaways from Rays-Twins

–Yonny Chirinos may be the Rays fourth starter, but it seems to be in name only. He was lifted after pitching 4 2/3 innings against the Twin on Sunday, the shortest start of his career and his second-shortest appearance.  "Going into the g...
Updated: 11 hours ago