GAINESVILLE, Fla. — No. 1 Florida finished its undefeated run through the Southeastern Conference on Saturday, dominating on Senior Day on both sides of the court in a 84-65 victory over No. 25 Kentucky at the O’Connell Center.
Florida (29-2, 18-0 in the SEC) is the fourth team to finish undefeated in the SEC since the league expanded to 12 teams in 1991. The Wildcats had the other three teams in 1996, 2003 and 2012.
In 1996 and 2012, the Wildcats lost in the SEC tournament before winning the national championship; in 2003, they won the SEC tournament and lost in the NCAA regional final.
The Gators are the first team to go 18-0 in the SEC since the league went from a 16-game schedule to 18 games in 2013.
Florida took a 53-32 lead early in the second half, but the Wildcats (22-9, 12-6) had a major push left, scoring 15 unanswered points over the next several minutes.
The Gators seemed lost on offense, missing a handful of point-blank shots, and forward Casey Prather missed two free throws during the stretch.
Kentucky power forward Julius Randle sparked the Wildcats’ run, scoring eight straight points during the stretch. He finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Center Dakari Johnson made a turnaround hook shot with about 12 minutes left, and the Wildcats had closed a 21-point deficit to 53-47.
That’s when senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin of Florida took over in his last game at the O’Connell Center.
With 11:52 left, his step-back 3-pointer gave the Gators their first points since Prather’s lay-up six minutes earlier. He steadied the Gators’ offense even without scoring much, and his defensive presence on the perimeter stymied Kentucky’s comeback.
Wilbekin finished with 13 points, four assists and three rebounds. Patric Young led the Gators with 18 points and seven boards.
The Gators were 16-of-26 from the field in a dominant first half, going into the locker room with a 49-28 lead.
NOTES: Florida has won 23 games in a row heading in to the SEC tournament. Its last loss was Dec. 2 at Connecticut. … The Gators’ last home loss was a 74-59 to Kentucky on March 4, 2012. The Wildcats won the 2012 national championship. … The Wildcats finished the regular season 7-6 in games played away from Rupp Arena.
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