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MENS BASKETBALL


Kentucky 87, Florida 83

Kentucky 87, Florida 83

BY MARK LONG
ASSOCIATED PRESS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Aaron Bradshaw hit a 3-pointer with 1:27 to play — just the third of the season for the 7-foot-1 freshman — and No. 6 Kentucky rallied to beat Florida 87-85 in the first Southeastern Conference opener between the rivals in 26 years.

Bradshaw finished with 10 points and seven rebounds for the Wildcats (11-2), who won their fifth in a row and ninth in 10 games.

Nothing Bradshaw did was bigger than his 3 from the top of the key coming out of a timeout. It broke a 76-all tie and provided Big Blue all the momentum it needed on the road.

Antonio Reeves led Kentucky with 19 points, and D.J. Wagner added 14. Reed Sheppard also scored 14, including six consecutive free throws to close it out.

Kentucky made 12 of 13 from the charity stripe after missing the front end of consecutive one-and-ones late.

Florida’s six-game winning streak came to an end. The Gators (10-4) led most of the way — all but 8 minutes and 20 seconds — and were poised for a ranking for the first time in more than two years.

But they went cold in crunch time, missing four consecutive shots and going scoreless for nearly 3 minutes down the stretch.

Zyon Pullin’s three-point play gave the Gators a chance with 30 seconds remaining, but Sheppard made two free throws to help ice it.

Pullin and Walter Clayton led the Gators with 23 points apiece. Riley Kugel added 15 off the bench.

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: Coach John Calipari has his best team in years, one that entered the game averaging 91.1 points. The Wildcats could see that number dip in league play, but maybe not by much as evidenced by the opener.

Florida: The Gators are as talented and deep as they’ve been in a decade and will be a tough out for teams in SEC play. They needed more from starters Tyrese Samuel and Will Richard in this one. Samuel finished with three points, and Richard had two while missing all eight shots.


January 6, 2024





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