The Florida Gators will head into the SEC Tournament without the momentum they were hoping to carry. After two big conference wins, the Gators fell to the Kentucky Wildcats 61-57 in the regular season finale. The loss drops Florida to 24-6 (14-4 SEC), while Kentucky improves to 21-11 (11-6 SEC). The Gators hadn’t won at Rupp Arena since 2007 and will have to wait another season for a chance to break that streak.
The game was one of streaks as both teams jumped out to big leads only to have the other fight back. It was good for Florida at times and bad at others. Unfortunately, the last of the bad times encompassed the final 7:36 of the game. With that much time left on the clock, the Gators went up 57-50. Florida would not score again. Yes, you read that correctly. The Gators would not add a single point to their total for the final seven minutes and 36 seconds. In that time, the Wildcats went on an 11-0 run to close out the regular season on the SEC champs.
The Gators shot better than the Wildcats across the board, but it wasn’t enough. Senior forward Erik Murphy and junior center Patric Young combined for 27 points on 11-for-22 shooting, but they weren’t helped by the other Florida starters. Senior guards Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario and junior guard Scottie Wilbekin combined to go 8-for-24 from the field and 2-for-7 from behind the three-point line. None of the three were able to get into double digits in scoring.
While Kentucky didn’t shoot as well as Florida overall, they did when it mattered. The Wildcats only went 13-for-22 from the free-throw line on the day, but were 3-for-4 in the final 25 seconds. The Gators struggled to find a good look at the basket as time was running down as Kentucky kept up the defensive pressure and didn’t allow Florida anything easy.
The Gators regular season has to be considered a successful one, but ultimately it’s all about how you finish. Florida is 3-3 over the final six games and all three losses came to unranked opponents. While the Gators do have quality wins, the selection committee will be taking recent play into account and the end to the season will hurt Florida when it comes to seeding.
Florida has a chance to shake off the Kentucky loss before the SEC Tournament, but that will be here soon. The Gators should find themselves in the conference tourney title game, but they have to get there first. The regular season is over. It’s tourney time. There’s no excuse for losses of any kind.