Gators' rally falls short at UK


Florida's Erik Murphy, right, has the ball knocked away by Kentucky's Eric Bledsoe, left, in Lexington, Ky., on Sunday.

The Associated Press
Published: Sunday, March 7, 2010 at 2:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 7, 2010 at 2:50 p.m.

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Florida entered its showdown with No. 3 Kentucky on Sunday afternoon with the attitude that it wasn't going to be satisfied with a moral victory.

Facts

THREE QUESTIONS

1. Can Florida get off to a better start after falling behind by double figures in the first half of back-to-back losses to Georgia and Vanderbilt?
Florida again was flat early, failing to score in the game's first four minutes. The Gators couldn't take advantage of a Kentucky starting lineup that included Mark Krebs, Ramon Harris and Perry Stevenson on the floor for Senior Day. Florida fell behind 36-18 before mounting its comeback late in the first half.
2. Can Florida keep Kentucky forwards DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson off the offensive boards and limit second-chance scoring opportunities?
Florida did a solid job on the glass, holding Cousins to eight points and nine rebounds and Patterson to 13 points and five rebounds. The Gators finished the game with more second-chance points (16) then the Wildcats (12).
3. Can Florida rebound shooting the ball after going 2-for-13 from 3-point range last Tuesday against Vanderbilt?
The Gators were slightly better (4-for-15) from 3-point range against Kentucky, but not good enough. Kentucky, meanwhile, won the game from the 3-point line, going 8-for-18 from beyond the arc.
Go to Gatorsports.com after the game to read Kevin Brockway's answers.

After falling behind by 18 points in the first half at Rupp Arena, the Gators rallied to within two points of Kentucky in the final five minutes. But again, failing to score down the stretch proved costly in a 74-66 loss to the Wildcats on UK's Senior Day.

"A loss is a loss," Florida junior forward Chandler Parsons said. "They are the third best team in the country and we feel like we can play with anybody on their home court and in their hostile environment."

Florida (20-11, 9-7 SEC) goes into its first Southeastern Conference Tournament game Thursday against Auburn (7:30 p.m. tipoff) on a three-game losing streak. But the Gators avoided being embarrassed on the road with its late charge.

"Florida is an NCAA Tournament team," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "When you go through all that they (the selection committee) are looking at, they are an NCAA Tournament team. They have to win at least one in our league tournament and then they are in. If they win two games, it's a lock that they are in and I'm rooting for them. They never quit and went right at us."

After freshman Erik Murphy's dunk with 5:23 left cut the Kentucky lead to 62-60, the Gators failed to score on their next five possessions during a 3:40 stretch.

The stretch included a charge from freshman Kenny Boynton, a missed front end of a one-and-one free-throw from Parsons and two missed 3-point attempts from sophomore guard Erving Walker.

On the other end, Kentucky freshman John Wall made a big 3-pointer to extend the lead to 65-60. Wall and Kentucky sophomore Darnell Dodson then made three more free throws to extend UK's lead to 68-60 with 3:27 left.

Florida closed the game out making just two of its last 10 shot attempts and two of its last five free-throws. Florida also had four of its 13 turnovers in the final five minutes.

"I thought we did a pretty good job," Donovan said, when asked about the offense down the stretch. "Their (Kentucky's) pressure turned up. I thought we did a really good job."

Said Parsons: "We made some not-too-smart plays. I know I turned the ball over a lot, different guys driving the lane and not making good decisions with the ball. Credit their defense, those guys are really strong down low. They block shots and they don't allow second-chance opportunities."

Florida also failed to score down the stretch in previous back-to-back losses to Georgia and Vanderbilt. Asked if fatigue was an issue, Parsons responded: "We have to continue to execute our offense whether it's the first play of the game or with four minutes left to go. We have to screen, come off hard on cuts, and just the little things that will eventually get us open shots."

Alex Tyus led Florida with 12 points, but also missed four costly free throws. Boynton added 11 points and Parsons had nine points and six rebounds.

The Gators also got a lift from their bench. Sophomore guard Ray Shipman scored nine points in nine minutes and Murphy had nine points and six rebounds in 17 minutes.

Darius Miller and Eric Bledsoe led five Kentucky players in double-figures with 14 points apiece. Patrick Patterson had 13 points, Wall had 11 points and Dodson had 10 points.

Kentucky won the game at the 3-point line, going 8-for-18 from beyond the arc. Florida went 4-for-15 from 3-point range but outrebounded Kentucky 38-36, grabbing 19 offensive rebounds.

"They outworked us," Calipari said. "We're undefeated at home this season and they probably played us as hard as anyone has played us here."

Kentucky (29-2, 14-2) threatened to break the game open early. Fueled by an early 14-0 run, Kentucky jumped to a 36-18 lead on a Dodson jumper.

"We certainly dug ourselves a hole early," Donovan said.

But the Gators closed the half on a 13-5 run. With Walker and center Vernon Macklin on the bench with two fouls, Shipman and Murphy picked up the slack. Shipman started the run with a three-point play that cut the Kentucky lead to 38-21.

Back-to-back inside layups from Murphy cut the Kentucky lead to 41-29 with 1:02 left. Boynton then hit a jumper with 37 seconds left to cut the Kentucky lead to 41-31.

Boynton had a chance to cut the Kentucky lead to single-digits, but his 3-point attempt at the end of the first half rimmed out.

Florida carried the momentum of its strong first-half finish into the second half. Walker's first 3-pointer of the game cut Kentucky's lead to 49-44 with 14:59 left. Walker and Tyus later followed with back-to-back 3-pointers that pulled Florida within 3 points, 57-54, with 11:35 left.

"Overall, I thought our guys competed pretty hard and played pretty well," Donovan said. "They really tried to do the things they needed to do to put themselves in a position to win."

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