Florida maintained first place in the Southeastern Conference on Saturday night with a 66-64 victory over No. 18 Kentucky at Rupp Arena.
The Gators improve to 14-5, 5-1 SEC. Kentucky falls to 14-5, 4-3 with its second straight loss.
Florida won the game when Kentucky was unable to score on two late drives to the basket, one at 6.2 seconds and another with fewer than two seconds remaining.
Kentucky led 56-53 with under five minutes to play but Florida outscored UK 13-8 the rest of the way. Six of the 13 came via free throws, with two by junior Jalen Hudson with 31 seconds left proving to be the game winners.
Overall, Hudson topped Florida with 17 points. Sophomore forward Keith Stone scored 14, senior guard Chris Chiozza added 13 and junior guard KeVaughn Allen scored 11.
Kentucky got 10 points each from freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and sophomore Wenyen Gabriel. UK shot 40 percent, including 23.5 from 3-point range.
In the first half, Florida built a 33-31 lead thanks to the Gators’ defense holding Kentucky to zero field goals the last 5:08 before intermission. That stretch powered a 13-3 run to the halftime buzzer.
Hudson topped Florida with nine points as the Gators shot 34.4 percent and only 23.1 from 3-point range.
Gabriel led Kentucky with seven points as UK shot 40.6 percent.
Saturday’s game marked the first time all season Kentucky had a mostly complete roster. Freshman point guard Quade Green, who missed the previous three games with a lower back injury, gave Kentucky 17 minutes but only two points. Freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt, who missed the first 17 games with a foot injury, played 13 minutes in his second outing. He had four points and six rebounds.
Kentucky entered the game with two major concerns about Florida.
The Gators lead the SEC in 3-pointers made per game (9.8) and 3-point field goal percentage (39.7). They have four games with 15 or more made 3-pointers. On Saturday, Florida won the game despite being dismal from 3-point range at 6-of-30 for 20 percent.
Florida boasts three of the SEC’s top four free-throw shooters with Egor Koulechov’s 94.1 percent tops in the league. On Saturday, Florida made 16-of-25 but hit six in a row with the game on the line.
Kentucky returns to action Tuesday when Mississippi State visits Rupp Arena. Florida plays host to South Carolina on Wednesday.
--Field Level Media