LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - After a milestone scoring night, Florida
guard Nick Calathes was reduced to apologizing for a shot he didn't
quite block and the free throws he didn't quite make.
Jodie Meeks nailed a 3-pointer to break a tie with under five
seconds left as the Wildcats snapped a three-game losing streak
with a critical 68-65 victory over Florida Tuesday night.
The shot was particularly clutch because not only was Calathes
hovering over him, but he also got a hand on the ball before Meeks
readjusted, fired and swished it in.
"He kind of tipped it," Meeks said. "I just threw it up and
hoped for the best. Sometimes it goes in."
The loss spoiled a huge night for Calathes, who scored a
career-high 33 points and joined the career 1,000-point club - the
eighth-fastest Gator to do so.
Florida got an opportunity to tie when Kentucky's Kevin Galloway
fouled Calathes while trying a last-second desperation heave. But
Calathes missed all three shots, the last one intentionally, as
Kentucky held on.
Afterward, he didn't want to talk about the shots he made, but
rather, what went wrong in the final 5 seconds.
"Put this loss on me," the sophomore said. "We're up six, 2
minutes to go. You've got to finish."
But at least Calathes acknowledged he made that last shot
difficult, even for the Southeastern Conference scoring leader.
"It's not a shot he practices," Calathes said.
Kentucky (17-7, 6-3) pulled into a tie with Florida (19-5, 6-3)
atop the SEC East, and avoided matching the second-longest
conference losing streak in school history.
While Meeks put the Wildcats on his back at the end, a balanced
offense was needed to outlast Calathes' scoring barrage.
That was particularly so midway through the second half, when
Kentucky's other star, center Patrick Patterson, got tripped up
during a rebound attempt and was slammed to the floor. He stayed
there for more than two minutes before limping off with an apparent
leg injury that would sideline him for the rest of the game.
X-rays afterward showed a sprained right ankle, and Patterson
was listed as day-to-day.
For most of the game, Meeks hardly resembled the scorer who set
a Kentucky single-game record with 54 points against Tennessee last
month. He made just 3 of 10 3-pointers in this contest.
Less-heralded guard Michael Porter needed just four attempts to
match that total, and even the one he missed was productive as
Perry Stevenson grabbed the rebound and dunked it home, giving the
Wildcats a 48-47 lead.
It was one of nine lead changes in the game, along with six
"We played fairly good defense with a makeshift lineup,"
Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie said. "We had very difficult
matchups. We made a lucky shot at the end, and we won."
For a Kentucky offense that revolves around the inside-outside
combination of Patterson and Meeks, that pair did virtually nothing
in the final 11 minutes of the first half, when Florida appeared
poised to run away.
After Meeks banked in a 3-pointer to cut an eight-point Florida
lead to 14-9, Meeks and Patterson didn't score from the floor again
before halftime. Patterson's free throw with 2 minutes left was his
lone point of the half.
Yet the Wildcats gained ground on the Gators by getting the next
19 points from the floor from a less-heralded combination of
Porter, Stevenson, Josh Harrellson and Kevin Galloway.
Harrellson (11), Stevenson (10) and Porter (9) trailed Meeks in
scoring, and Galloway led the team with a career-high nine assists.
"I didn't know whether my time would come in this game or five
games down the road," Galloway said. "I just wanted to stay
Kentucky's victory was the second straight over Florida, which
had won the previous seven meetings. Even before tipoff, the Rupp
Arena fans voiced their anti-Florida sentiments, loudly booing
coach Billy Donovan, who had been mentioned as a candidate to take
over at Kentucky before Gillispie was hired prior to last season.
The rivalry - and the stakes - sparked extremely physical play
on the court. The teams combined for 23 personal fouls, and Florida
senior guard Walter Hodge was ejected after being called for a
flagrant foul on Stevenson.
"I really hope this experience takes their focus level to a
different level," Donovan said. "When I say a different level, I
mean in every little thing we do that if they are not laser sharp
in everything, then it could come back and bite you."
KENTUCKY 68, FLORIDA 65
Werner 1-6 1-2 4, Tyus 7-11 0-0 14, Parsons 0-4 2-5 2, Hodge 1-5 0-0 2, Calathes 10-20 11-15 33, Shipman 1-1 0-0 2, Walker 2-6 2-2 7, Kadji 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 22-54 17-26 65.
Harris 0-4 0-0 0, Porter 3-4 0-2 9, Stevenson 5-8 0-0 10, Meeks 7-19 6-8 23, Patterson 3-9 1-2 7, Miller 0-0 2-2 2, Galloway 3-5 0-0 6, Liggins 0-0 0-1 0, Harrellson 5-6 0-1 11. Totals 26-55 9-16 68.
Halftime-Tied 30-30. 3-Point Goals-Florida 4-14 (Calathes 2-7, Walker 1-2, Werner 1-3, Parsons 0-1, Hodge 0-1), Kentucky 7-17 (Porter 3-4, Meeks 3-10, Harrellson 1-1, Harris 0-1, Stevenson 0-1). Fouled Out-Galloway. Rebounds-Florida 26 (Calathes 7), Kentucky 39 (Galloway, Patterson, Stevenson 8). Assists-Florida 9 (Calathes, Hodge 3), Kentucky 14 (Galloway 9). Total Fouls-Florida 16, Kentucky 21. Technical-Hodge. A-24,355.