Gators run out of gas in Bluegrass: No. 6 Kentucky 66, Florida 57

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Florida guard Andrew Nembhard looks for an opening on Kentucky's Immanuel Quickley, right, during the second half Saturday in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 66-57. [James Crisp/Associated Press]

By Gary Graves, The Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Free throws seemed destined to be the saving grace for No. 6 Kentucky before it finally strung baskets together.

Tyler Herro made his share of both, and that combination was important in putting away Florida.

Herro scored 16 points and led a big second-half run that helped the Wildcats overcome the Gators 66-57 on Saturday.

The Wildcats (26-5, 15-3 Southeastern Conference) went back and forth with the Gators (17-14, 9-9) early in the second half and trailed 40-39 with 13:46 remaining.

Herro had six points during a 15-2 spree, hitting a couple of shots in the lane and adding two free throws, to give Kentucky a 54-42 advantage. The Wildcats capped the seven-minute burst by scoring 10 straight points.

“I saw some lanes going to the basket,” said Herro, who made 6 of 11 from the field.

Herro hit all four free throws as Kentucky made 26 of 32 from the line. Florida finished 6 for 11 on free throws.

“Me and PJ (Washington) ran a little two-man game when they went man to man. We had to take whatever they gave us, but once they went man I felt like I had some lanes to drive,” Herro said.

Added coach John Calipari, “Tyler made some unbelievable plays. We made some shots and again, we’re a good free throw shooting team.”

Washington added 15 points as Kentucky handed Florida its third consecutive loss. The Wildcats clinched the No. 2 seed for the SEC Tournament by virtue of its sweep of Auburn, which topped Tennessee earlier Saturday. It was regular-season wrapup for the Wildcats and Gators going into the SEC Tournament.

Ashton Hagans and Keldon Johnson each added 14 points, and Washington’s nine rebounds helped the Wildcats dominate the boards 39-23.

Kevarrius Hayes had 19 points and Jalen Hudson 13 for Florida, which overcame a nine-point first half deficit to lead 31-30 at the break. A 5:12 drought in the second half did in the Gators, who also made just 3 of 18 from long range.

“We just really struggled from the 3 and convert at the foul line,” Florida coach Mike White said.

SENIOR MOMENT

Reid Travis missed his fifth consecutive game with a sprained right knee but was honored before his home finale with reserve guard Jonny David, who started and played the first couple of minutes.

Though Calipari wouldn’t speculate about Travis’ availability for the SEC Tournament, he didn’t sound worried.

“Here’s what good, it’s not an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament),” the coach said. “He sprained his knee. He’s going to be fine.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Kentucky took a step toward getting back in the Top 5 with the win that took more work than expected.

BIG PICTURE

Florida: The Gators held their own for a while in the second of consecutive games against Top 10 schools but couldn’t finish with a win. They committed just six turnovers, outscored Kentucky 32-22 in the paint and appeared to make the Wildcats play at their pace for a good stretch. They then went cold and weren’t able to recover in shooting 44 percent.

Kentucky: The Wildcats got through the home stretch 4-1 without Travis. But it required a wakeup call they survived by getting hot midway through the second half. They shot just 41 percent, but those made shots were huge in clinching the game and second place.

“We knew we had to pick up the intensity and make a statement coming into the second half,” Johnson said. “We need to get some separation.”

UP NEXT

Florida will play at 12 p.m. Thursday vs. Arkansas (17-14) in the second round of the SEC Tournament in Nashville. SEC Network will provide TV coverage.

Kentucky plays in next Friday’s quarterfinal at the SEC Tournament in Nashville.

No. 6 KENTUCKY 66, FLORIDA 57
FLORIDA (17-14)

Key.Johnson 1-2 0-0 2, Hayes 8-9 3-4 19, Hudson 6-16 1-2 13, Locke 2-4 0-0 5, Nembhard 1-8 1-2 3, Bassett 0-0 0-0 0, Stokes 3-5 0-1 6, Okauru 2-4 1-2 6, Allen 1-6 0-0 3. Totals 24-54 6-11 57.

KENTUCKY (26-5)

Washington 6-14 3-3 15, Montgomery 0-2 0-1 0, Hagans 3-6 7-9 14, Herro 6-11 4-4 16, David 0-0 0-0 0, Richards 0-1 3-4 3, Kel.Johnson 4-8 5-7 14, Quickley 0-3 4-4 4, Baker 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 19-46 26-32 66.

Halftime_Florida 31-30. 3-Point Goals_Florida 3-18 (Okauru 1-3, Locke 1-3, Allen 1-4, Stokes 0-1, Nembhard 0-2, Hudson 0-5), Kentucky 2-7 (Kel.Johnson 1-1, Hagans 1-2, Herro 0-1, Baker 0-1, Washington 0-2). Fouled Out_Key.Johnson. Rebounds_Florida 22 (Hudson 6), Kentucky 37 (Washington 9). Assists_Florida 14 (Nembhard 8), Kentucky 9 (Kel.Johnson 3). Total Fouls_Florida 21, Kentucky 17. A_24,456 (23,500).

45 COMMENTS

  1. Calls went UK’s way in early second half and UF’s shot selection went to pot too. Not sure whey we didn’t go to Stokes and Hayes on every possession to at least try to post them up. We actually had some good offense out of post at times today. Okauru played well. Allen is doing his Hudson disappearing act from earlier in the season.

  2. Once again, play 2 bigs in first half – get momentum and the lead and Mike White doesn’t go back to it until 9:19 left in the game when momentum was lost and Bassett never plays in 2nd half. Ridiculous! This is a mid major coach who can’t execute basic fundamental coaching moves. We got destroyed on the boards 39-23 and he insists on sticking with his guard offense instead of making adjustments that give us the best chance to win. Someone in a press conference needs to call him out on this versus a forum which he’ll never know about but it’s too late anyway. Too frustrating.

    • It’s puzzling. He went away from everything that worked in the first half, and then when there were under 4 minutes and we were trailing by 10 he still kept running his slow, zombie offense which seems designed to eat up time and set up low percentage shots– neither of which is a good thing. I am sure he will say it “disappointing” or “disheartening” as if it was all just something that happened and not something he caused with his terrible game management.

      • Yeah, playing this 4 guard (I like zombie) offense puts so much pressure on everyone to make their shot because it’s like if you miss your shot basically you know we are probably not going to get a rebound and a chance at another shot. Plus, it’s pressure on Hayes too because he has little help inside. Hayes flourishes when he has help inside.

        • Steve, at times playing two bigs seemed to work, but consider this: Bassett and Stokes combined for 21 minutes of playing time and 1 whole rebound. Keyontae Johnson had 5 in 11 minutes. Interesting to me how the zebras kept calling Johnson for fouls with UK players draped over his back. Hayes took 32 minutes to get his 5, and Hudson led the team with 6. I agree that Stokes helped offensively, and he showed some hops on the dunk that I didn’t think he had, but when the Gators needed him down the stretch he fell over his own feet trying to catch a lobbed entry pass. Hayes, Hudson, and Johnson combined for all 5 offensive rebounds the Gators managed to produce today. I do think Stokes can consistently help on the offensive end, but neither he nor Bassett are going to help much on the glass.

          • Some of the calls that went UK’s way were absolutely ridiculous. The first foul on Johnson in the second half should have gone against UK. And the foul on the UK drive to the basket moments later was the worst call I saw all season long. He didn’t even get touched. Yet Hudson had contact almost every time he drove and didn’t get a whistle.

    • Steveob. The reason he went away from the 2 bigs look was because we don’t have enough depth to run it all game. If you couldn’t tell, the guys were GASSED with like 6 minutes left in the game. If we had stone or gak i would agree with you, but you have to consider the entirety of the game. The slow methodical offense was working well during some parts of the game, we just couldn’t find a basket late in the game. Kentucky is a way better team than we are and their superior athleticism showed. Next year, though, we have a top recruiting class, bringing in some bigs, we’ll get Stone and Gak back as well as Basset and Stokes. The seniors and lack of leadership on this team are to blame, not CMW (who I think has actually done a pretty good job this year.) It’s unfair to compare the guy to Billy this early in his career.

      • Not comparing him to Billy D here and it’s his 4th year now. I just meant for parts of the game to get some momentum and than go back to the guard offense which is what happened in the first half but to basically abandon it in the second half killed us as we were getting torched on the boards so as a coach you have to sense this and play 2 bigs more out of necessity in this game – and in game adjustment. He did not do that. Bassett did not play the entire 2nd half. We may have lost anyway but at least give us our best chance to win. These are all coaching moves and on Coach White.

      • I agree that White has actually done a decent job coaching this year. Short rotation with only one effective big (with limited offense mind you). Recruiting is a bigger issues imo. Hope next year’s class can help solve that although I still think we are very thin on the front line. Potentially even thinner than we were this year which is scary. We lose Hayes who was one of UF’s all time 10 best defensive players in the front court and we only get one big in the highly rated class. Bassett (and I don’t intend to be mean here) just isn’t that good. I don’t think Gak is much different. And Stone likely won’t be back until mid-season. I just don’t see a road to a different outcome. Where is the front court help going to come from? Maybe LSU’s players will join us since their coach is going the way of the dodo and the program will likely have to vacate wins/go on probation.

    • Steveob, you are 100% correct in calling Mike White a mid major coach. Four guards and an undersized big just won’t get it done in the SEC. I’m willing to give him one more year before saying he should be fired. I keep hearing about next year’s recruiting class. I hope it includes a big man who plays like a big man.

  3. I thought the 7 min. scoring drought in the 2nd half was what did U.F. in for this big matchup game (U.F. vs. U.K.).
    Some local media said a 9-9 conf. record would get U.F. into the NCAA Tourney. Well, now we all find out for sure. Nostradamus, or… “NOT!”

  4. Someone posted on here in the past about how we should have hired a coach like “LSU”. I would rather lose with Coach White than deal with crap that’s about to come down on them. Win a game in the sec tourney and we’re in the big dance. Depending on how some mid major tourneys go, we may sneak in either way. Go Gators!

    • Now we see how all of a sudden 5 star talent in Metro Orlando ends up in Baton Rouge. Omar Payne coming to Fla has kinda ended that run, but it was a head scratcher starting with Ben Simmons & Antonio Blakeney…and then Emmitt Williams last year, who is a current freshman.

  5. Once again the team leads at half only to wilt and disappear in the second half. I am so tired of watching a team that can’t execute basic offense. Its sickening. I watched Duke vs. North Carolina. That’s basketball. Yes, I know they have way more talent that us. So what. At least both teams push the ball, play up tempo, drive to the basket, kick out. There is no reason in the world we can’t play that way. Mike White needs to change his offense or next year will be the same. Pathetic.

  6. Well I missed the game today not on purpose just had other obligations. It sounds like a broken record from most everyone. I see Allen didn’t help us at all again, where’s Money as someone expressed to me last game. Coach Cal was quoted saying his team is a good free throw shooting team. That was a shot at us. We also got out rebounded imagine that??? We couldn’t score for 10 minutes that pretty much sums up every loss this season. Anyways win or not this season was very disappointing and there is plenty of blame to go around. I believe it starts with the coach and trickles down to the players. We were out coached, out rebounded, out shot at the free throw line and out played most of the season. The only thing I was satisfied with was the good defense we played. It’s going to be hard watching the tournaments coming up knowing that we can win but thinking we will not. That sucks!

    • I was most disappointed with a lack of understanding of time and score. Down 10 with 3 minutes left and Nembhard is walking the ball up court. That, I don’t mind blaming on CMW. Nembhard did have a couple of good assists down the stretch to cut the lead to 8 with 45 seconds left and give a glimmer of hope, but then an inexplicable failure to foul, giving the UK player a path down the sideline leading to an easy basket. CMW can be criticized for that as well, but it’s hard to blame him for 17% shooting from 3 point range. This team, heck, almost any team, needs to hit more than three 3-pointers to win. He can’t shoot it for them.

  7. Hard to win in Rupp with the calls that the refs were making. Free throw disparity huge 32 to 11. Mick and Mark Wise were not happy when I was listening to game on radio. Allen did his disappearing act again. Arkansas is next and he always plays his best against his home team state. Maybe that will wake him up. The walking the ball up the court needs to go. I watched Duke, North Carolina, Michigan, and Michigan State tonight. None of them play like that. The Gators finally started attacking with 2 minutes left and were scoring like crazy. The Mike White stall ball needs to go.

    • Some of the calls were downright embarrassing. If UK missed a shot…foul. There were at least two “and one’s” that Hayes should have been awarded that were not called. I’m not saying we win without these calls but the calls definitely changed the momentum of the game in the early 2nd half. The play of Stokes and Okauru were some bright spots.

  8. Mike White has to go. At first I thought it was all on the players. But now I am convinced that a better coach would be able to get these guys to play better. There simply is no excuse for how bad they play game after game. Players disappear from the games time and again. That’s on the coach. He has proven incapable of devising an offense that can score points. Its time to move on. Jay Wright is the man for this team.

  9. Interesting how Mike White was a genius after the LSU game but is a donkey now who has to go. No matter, hate to loose but as an optimist one has to appreciate the setup we have for the SEC tourney. We do have a path to the championship game and it does not involve KU or UT.

  10. Horse crap – the coaching was good you cant beat the team of equally skilled or better players and the refs phantom call after phantom call, at one point it was Kentucky missing a basket and a whistle nearly 10 times in a row down the floor, also what about out of bounds favoring Kentucky when clear no Gator touched the ball. Now go back to LSU who will be on probation soon the sham of not calling goal tending on hudsons shot lost the game. and it was goal tending against taller more athletic players. The coaching is good, White could not do anything to stop the phantom whistles and no calls. How many times did you see a Gator on the deck even away from the ball? do think we are so clumsy we trip all over ourselves. This is not sour grapes simply what was visibly evident. Dont know why but it is this way. Notice all the calls against kentucky once the game was out of jeopardy? No affect on game but the stat line looks more even in foul totals then right? One more question of the fouls and the error of out of bounds in favor of Kentucky mid second half did you ever see a replay on the tv? Me neither

      • I coached for 20 years. white could not play up tempo without consistent catch and shoot 3 pt players or guys who could rebound and make the quick outlet pass and who have speed; he couldn’t run the half-court as no one could hit a 3 pt. shot with consistency; nobody could set a screen’; nobody knew what pick and roll meant; he couldn’t run overload with 4 guards and a missing in action Hudson; and Hayes played like he was back in high school, and the rotation looked like it was an audition for a Keystone Kops movie. Other than that, this is a great team. LOL.

  11. You will not beat Kentucky and LSU by scoring 50s point offense. No matter how good your defense is.
    We are having the same problem in Basketball that McElwain had with football team low scoring, boring winning with great defense some times.