Monday, January 22, 2018
Sports

No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats beat No. 22 Florida Gators 74-71 in SEC tournament

NEW ORLEANS — In its first two games against Kentucky, Florida lost by a combined 35 points, and the Wildcats made it appear they were playing a rec league team. So when the Gators earned the right for one more meeting in Saturday's SEC tournament semifinal, they vowed things would be different.

Mission almost accomplished.

No. 22 Florida (23-10) gave its best effort of the three, but No. 1 Kentucky capitalized on a Gators scoring drought and some clutch late free throws for a 74-71 victory.

"We didn't give up," said Florida guard Bradley Beal, who had 20 points and eight rebounds. "The first two games we kind of gave up down the stretch. But during this game we were down and we battled back. So I think from those three games this is the best we played against them by far, and I'm really proud of my guys."

Kentucky (32-1) plays Vanderbilt today at 1 for the tournament title.

Junior forward Erik Murphy had a career-high 24 points, including a basket with 2:43 remaining to pull the Gators within 65-63. But Kentucky went 7-of-8 from the free-throw line in the final 2:23 for the win.

"The game was tough," UK guard Doron Lamb said. "It's hard to beat a team three times straight. … We executed at the end of the game, and we made clutch foul shots and pulled out the win."

Florida shot 48.3 percent from the field (29-of-60) and 50 percent from beyond the arc (11-of-22). But the Gators shot just two free throws, while Kentucky was 15-of-20 from the line — a fact Florida coach Billy Donovan said altered the complexion of the game.

"I really thought the difference in the game to me was the fact that we got to the free-throw line two times, in by far the most physical game that we have played in all year," he said. "How we only got there two times is beyond me. But I thought that was a huge factor for us to be that close as we were with such a huge discrepancy."

That, rebounding and the Gators' two scoring droughts. Florida was outrebounded 39-25, including 16 offensive rebounds to seven.

Florida led 39-32 with 4:24 in the first half, but Kentucky closed on an 8-0 run for a 40-39 halftime lead

"We probably should have stepped on the gas instead of stepping on the brakes," center Patric Young said.

But a 6:36 second-half scoring drought was more costly. Trailing 56-51, Kentucky went on a 14-0 run for a 65-56 lead with 6:59 remaining in the game.

Florida now awaits its NCAA Tournament seeding fresh off two good solid games in the SEC tournament and playing with renewed confidence.

"Definitely, we know we can play with any team," senior guard Erving Walker said. "That's the best team in the country right now and we basically just played them on their homecourt, more or less, and we made it into a battle."

Antonya English can be reached at tampabay.com.

Comments
Crisco, dune buggy and a face-plant: Fired-up Philly fans take to the streets

Crisco, dune buggy and a face-plant: Fired-up Philly fans take to the streets

PHILADELPHIA — Not even a coat of Crisco on light poles across the city could keep Philadelphia Eagles fans from scaling new heights in celebrating their team’s first Super Bowl appearance in 13 years and setting up a rematch with the AFC champion N...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Pats’ Eric Lee the latest former Bull to reach Super Bowl

Pats’ Eric Lee the latest former Bull to reach Super Bowl

Former Bulls DE Eric Lee has joined one of the more elite fraternities in USF football lore.Lee, who had three tackles for the Patriots in Sunday's AFC Championship Game, becomes the 11th Bulls player to reach a Super Bowl. He's among only eight to r...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Super Bowl LII preview: First look at New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Super Bowl LII preview: First look at New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Remember when the Bills were 3-1 and in first place in the AFC East? And when the Patriots were 2-2 and allowing 32 points per game? Weird, right?The Bills part, yes. The Patriots part, no.New England had done that before. Four other times in the Bil...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Eagles blow out Vikings to win NFC title

Eagles blow out Vikings to win NFC title

PHILADELPHIA — Confetti filled the air, fireworks erupted overhead, and fans sang "Fly, Eagles Fly!" No one dared head for the exits. There was too much to celebrate.The Eagles are going to the Super Bowl.The makeshift podium hadn’t taken space on Ph...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Patriots rally past Jaguars to return to Super Bowl

Patriots rally past Jaguars to return to Super Bowl

Updated: 9 hours ago
Add swagger to Lightning’s loss column

Add swagger to Lightning’s loss column

CHICAGO — It didn’t take the sound of a door slamming in the visitor’s dressing room Saturday night to sense this Lightning team is frustrated.Tampa Bay believed it had worked hard against the Wild — at least, harder than it did in Thursday’s letharg...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Jones: Saluting CBS, honesty and goats (not to be confused with GOATS)

Jones: Saluting CBS, honesty and goats (not to be confused with GOATS)

Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.Best coverageThe best football broadcast I’ve ever seen was Super Bowl XLIII. That was NBC’s coverage of the Steelers’ last-minute victory over th...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Sports in brief

Sports in brief

hockeyU.s. men’s olympic Gm, key program builder dies suddenlyLongtime USA Hockey executive and U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team general manager Jim Johannson died unexpectedly Sunday at age 53, shocking the sport less than three weeks before the start...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Healthy Keys back in Aussie quarters

Healthy Keys back in Aussie quarters

MELBOURNE, Australia — Madison Keys continued her strong run through the Australian Open draw, returning to the quarterfinals here for the first time in three years with today’s 6-3, 6-2 win over Caroline Garcia.The U.S. Open finalist is yet to drop ...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Monday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballNorth Carolina at Virginia Tech7 p.m.ESPNOhio State at Maryland7 p.m.ESPN2Iowa State at Texas7 p.m.ESPNUMaryland at Indiana7 p.m.FS1Holy Cross at American7 p.m.CBSSNWomen: LSU at Texas A&M7 p.m.SECNebraska at Ohio State8 p.m.Bi...
Updated: 10 hours ago