No. 3 Kentucky completes 18-0 home season
Darius Miller and Eric Bledsoe had 14 points apiece and No. 3 Kentucky withstood a Florida comeback with a 74-66 victory Sunday, completing an 18-0 home season and likely cementing its hold on a top seed in the NCAA tournament.
The Wildcats (29-2, 14-2) had already clinched their 44th Southeastern Conference title outright with Vanderbilt’s loss to South Carolina on Saturday night. Florida (20-11, 9-7) may need to win a few games in this week’s SEC tournament in Nashville, Tenn., to reach the NCAAs.
Kentucky, college basketball’s all-time winningest program, last had 14 wins in the league in 2005.
On the day a freshman-dominated team was honoring its seniors, it was a sophomore – Miller – who had the hottest shooting hand for the Wildcats.
Miller was 5 for 7 from the field, including three 3-pointers. Miller’s third 3 early in the second half stopped a 9-1 run by Florida that had helped cut an 18-point deficit to two.
Kentucky led by as many as 18 late in the first half, but Florida got a slew of uncontested baskets and cut it to 57-54 midway through the second after a 3-pointer by Alex Tyus , who led Florida with 12 points.
The Gators pulled within two when a layup by Vernon Macklin made it 60-58 with seven minutes left. Patrick Patterson answered with a dunk and John Wall followed with a 3 to give the Wildcats some breathing room.
Kentucky never trailed and began to pad the lead midway through the first half when Miller passed up a wide-open 3-pointer but dished it around to Bledsoe, who nailed the long jumper instead. Then, on the next trip down, Miller added his own 3, putting the Wildcats up 16-9.
Kenny Boynton answered for Florida by hitting a 3-pointer in transition.
After Tyus hit a fade-away jumper to cut the Kentucky lead to 20-16 midway through the first half, the Gators didn’t get a field goal for more than five minutes while the Wildcats pulled away early with a 14-0 run.
Miller had five points in that stretch and Darnell Dodson added one of his two 3-pointers.
However, Bledsoe punctuated the run with the showstopping play of the afternoon – a reverse layup that he finished with his back to the basket while plummeting out of bounds. That gave the Wildcats their largest early lead at 34-18.
Florida cut the deficit to 41-31 at halftime.
Kentucky coach John Calipari typically starts three freshmen and one sophomore, but the team’s lone seniors, Mark Krebs , Perry Stevenson and Ramon Harris , started and played the first five minutes. Also honored on Senior Day was usual starter Patrick Patterson , a junior who is expected to graduate in three years and will likely enter the NBA draft.
Wall, a freshman and near-lock for the draft as perhaps the No. 1 overall pick, joined those four in the starting lineup.
Wall finished with 11 points, including back-to-back driving layups in the second half that helped withstand the Florida comeback.