By Ricky Blair – Turn about is fair play. Last season, it was the Florida Gators that handed the Wildcats three losses during the year. This season, the Wildcats turned the tables and have now handed the Gators three defeats – this time with a 64-49 win in the third round of this year’s SEC tourney.
The Wildcats got off to a sluggish start in their SEC tourney opener, allowing Florida to convert several layups to start the game. The Gators jumped out to a 10-5 lead and was still leading when Andrew Harrison made a steal and passed ahead to Devin Booker for a fast break lay-up with 8:40 to go in the first half. That basket gave Kentucky a 18-17 lead, and while the Wildcats would not completely close out the game until late in the second half, they never trailed again.
Freshman Karl-Anthony Towns showed why he is being mentioned as possibly the NBA’s number one overall pick, leading the way for the SEC regular season champs with 13 points and 12 rebounds. The Wildcats had a very balanced attack, with Aaron Harrison also chipping in 13 points on the day
Kentucky’s defense did not start the game as sharp as usual, and Florida took advantage of it by making five of their first six shots. But the Wildcats started doing a better job, playing passing lanes and cutting off some of the easy shots that the Gators converted early on. Once the Wildcats’ defense kicked in, it was just a matter of time before the offense followed. The Wildcats held Florida to 39 percent shooting on the day and a poultry 18 percent from three-point range. The Cats also had five steals and six blocks as they clamped down on the Gators and pulled away for the 15-point win.
The Wildcats are now 32-0 on the season and will take on the Auburn Tigers in the SEC semi-finals tomorrow at 1:00 PM EST. Florida fell to 16-17 on the year with this loss. If they don’t get to a post-season tournament, they will finish with a losing record for the first time since Billy Donovan’s second year as their head coach in 1998.