By Ricky Blair
The Kentucky Wildcats let an opportunity for the championship of the SEC tournament slip away on Sunday afternoon, March 16. Going against the #1 ranked Florida Gators and falling down by as many as 16 points, the Wildcats fought their way back to within one point when they called a time-out with 14 seconds to go in the game. The Cats set up a play for Andrew Harrison to drive and give the ball to a cutting James Young for a running layup. But as Young took the ball from Harrison, his feet slipped out from under him, and with it, a chance for the championship.
Despite losing the game by a score of 61-60, the Wildcats showed improved play throughout the tournament. It was this young team’s third game within a 48-hour period, but they showed a resilience that had been lacking all season long.
A poor shooting night did not help the Wildcats cause – they only made 35 percent of their shots from the field and 27 percent from behind the three-point arc. Even though the ball did not consistently go in for the Cats, these young Cats kept chipping away at the Gators’ lead by playing tenacious defense. After giving up 40 points in the first half, the Wildcats held the Gators to only 21 points in the second half, which helped set up the last second opportunity.
Kentucky saw contributions from several players. Aaron Harrison led the Wildcats for a second straight day in tournament play, pouring in 16 points, while Willie Cauley-Stein recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
The Wildcats will enter NCAA play with a 24-10 record on the season and a number 8 seed, as they battle Kansas State in the first round of the tournament.