CBKB: No. 3 Kentucky completes 18-0 home season
Associated Press Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky. — 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.