Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No. 1 'Cats Too Tough; Gators Hang with Top-Ranked Team, but Fall Short

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No. 1 'Cats Too Tough; Gators Hang with Top-Ranked Team, but Fall Short

Article excerpt

Byline: Garry Smits

GAINESVILLE | The sellout crowd at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center turned up the volume louder than in any Florida home game this season, ESPN's "College GameDay" was in town and anyone unaware of the records wouldn't have been able to pick out the team that was 22-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation or the one that was 12-10 and struggling to find its identity one season after reaching the Final Four.

In other words, typical Florida vs. Kentucky basketball.

Playing with a passion often lacking this season, the Gators swarmed the top-ranked Wildcats early to take nine-point leads twice in the first half, but couldn't keep pace in the second half as Kentucky escaped with a 68-61 victory.

Kentucky (23-0, 10-0) snapped a three-game losing streak against the Gators (12-11, 5-5). UF had won four of the previous five meetings and fell to the 'Cats at home for the first time since March 4, 2012.

After the Gators led 30-28 at halftime, the game really turned entertaining as the lead changed hands five times in the first five minutes, ensuring the rafters of the O'Connell Center would continue to tremble from the crowd noise.

Florida's Dorian Finney-Smith (16 points) and Kasey Hill (12 points, six assists) nailed 3-point shots early in the half and Hill's shot gave the Gators their final lead of the game at 38-37 with 15:35 left.

Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison (23 points) knocked down two 3-point shots and scored eight points during the early part of the half to keep pace with the Gators.

Karl Anthony-Towns (13 points, 8 rebounds) connected from inside and out, and Harrison's 12-foot jumper with 15:12 left gave UK the lead for good.

The Wildcats never led by more than five points. The Gators drew to within two points twice in the final three minutes and had a chance to tie it with 1:41 left. …

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