AP Sports Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Eric Bledsoe scored a career-high 25
points, Patrick Patterson added 15 and No. 2 Kentucky stayed
unbeaten with an 89-77 victory over Florida on Tuesday night.
John Wall chipped in 19, including the team's final seven
The Wildcats (17-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) ended the game
with a 17-5 run and snapped a five-game losing streak in
Erving Walker led Florida with 20 points, and Alex Tyus added 17
points. But the Gators (11-5, 0-2) are off to their worst start in
conference play since 1996 - the year before coach Billy Donovan
Florida made this one close in the second half.
Kentucky built a 55-40 lead, but couldn't close it out -
something that's starting to become a trend for coach John
Kentucky watched a double-digit lead slip away Saturday against
Georgia. This time, Walker did most of the damage. He hit two
3-pointers and two free throws, then Kenny Boynton got loose on a
fast break that whittled Kentucky's lead to 61-54 with about 12
minutes to play. Clearly feeling it, Walker hit two more 3s - on
consecutive possessions - a few minutes later. Vernon Macklin
rattled home a layup that made it 68-66 with 7:59 remaining.
The Gators tied the game at 72 on Macklin's putback with 5:13
Patterson put the Cats back ahead with a turnaround jumper in
the lane. He failed to convert the three-point play, but DeMarcus
Cousins gathered the rebound. Darnell Dodson then hit a 3. Bledsoe
added to the pain with another 3 on the next possession that put
Kentucky ahead 80-73 with 3:58 to play.
The Gators never recovered.
Kentucky shot 51 percent from the field and made 7 of 18 from
3-point range. Florida was much less effective. Donovan's squad
shot 38 percent from the floor and hit 8 of 27 from behind the arc.
The Gators struggled even more on the defensive end.
Bledsoe, Wall and Patterson proved tough matchups. Bledsoe was
10 of 13 shooting and added seven rebounds and five assists. Wall
missed six of seven shots from 3-point range, but made up for it
with several fast breaks and six assists. Patterson was 7 of 11
shooting and had seven boards.
Kentucky dominated the first half after Florida scored the first
seven points. Macklin dropped in a hook shot in the lane, Boynton
made a layup and then Tyus drained the first 3-pointer of his
career. It was all Kentucky the rest of the way.
The Wildcats scored at will in the paint, were bigger and faster
on the perimeter, and would have had a double-digit lead if not for
a few improbable shots from the Gators. Tyus, who had taken just
one 3 in his first 87 college games, hit another one from behind
the arc and then Boynton banked in a 3.
Florida shot just 30 percent from the field and was 3 of 13 from
3-point range. Kentucky had a much easier time. Wall and Bledsoe
blew by Florida's backcourt at will, and Florida's frontcourt was
no match for Patterson and Cousins down low.
Patterson and Cousins missed several shots from point-blank
range, allowing the Gators to keep it close early.
Donovan said Monday that his team would have matchup problems
against a Kentucky roster that could have players become NBA
lottery picks this summer.
Donovan had hoped the Gators could force Kentucky's young
backcourt - Wall and Bledsoe are freshmen; Darius Miller is a
sophomore - into turnovers with a relentless press. It didn't pan
out like planned.
Wall and Bledsoe dribbled by Walker and Boynton with relative
ease, driving the ball into the paint for short jumpers, dishing to
big men for easy baskets or kicking out to open 3-point shooters.
Kentucky finished with just 10 turnovers.
The nationally televised game drew plenty of interest. Florida
football coach Urban Meyer and his wife, Shelley, watched the first
half. Meyer, who is taking a leave of absence, spent several
minutes chatting with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who
had courtside seats.
And the Wildcats had fans scattered throughout the O'Connell
Center, a large contingent even by Big Blue standards.
No. 2 KENTUCKY 89, FLORIDA 77
Cousins 5-11 3-3 13, Patterson 7-11 1-3 15, Miller 4-8 0-0 9, Wall 7-17 4-4 19, Bledsoe 10-13 2-2 25, Dodson 2-4 0-0 6, Harris 0-0 0-0 0, Stevenson 0-0 0-0 0, Orton 1-6 0-1 2, Liggins 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 36-70 10-13 89.
Werner 1-8 4-4 6, Tyus 5-12 5-6 17, Macklin 4-6 0-0 8, Boynton 5-17 0-0 12, Walker 6-15 4-4 20, Shipman 1-2 0-0 2, Parsons 3-5 2-4 8, Murphy 1-3 2-2 4. Totals 26-68 17-20 77.
Halftime-Kentucky 38-31. 3-Point Goals-Kentucky 7-18 (Bledsoe 3-4, Dodson 2-3, Miller 1-3, Wall 1-7, Patterson 0-1), Florida 8-27 (Walker 4-9, Tyus 2-4, Boynton 2-8, Parsons 0-2, Werner 0-4). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Kentucky 42 (Orton 9), Florida 38 (Tyus 7). Assists-Kentucky 13 (Wall 6), Florida 14 (Walker, Werner 4). Total Fouls-Kentucky 16, Florida 13. A-12,618.
-- Kentucky is now 17-0, 2-0 SEC) on the season. Florida falls to 12-4, 0-2.
-- UK is 87-32 against the Gators and 32-21 in Gainesville.
-- UK’s 17-0 start is its best start since opening the 1966 season 23-0.
-- Kentucky won in Gainesville for the first time since the 2004 season.
-- Kentucky returns to action next Saturday, traveling to Auburn. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. with the game being televised on the SEC Network.
Team game notes
-- The Wildcats used the starting combination of Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins, Darius Miller, Patrick Patterson and John Wall for the ninth straight game. Kentucky is 15-0 with that starting five.
-- The Wildcats played in their blue uniforms for only the third time this season.
-- DeMarcus Cousins won the opening tip. The Wildcats have on the opening tip 14 times this season.
-- Daniel Orton was the first sub off the bench for Kentucky. It was his team leading 10th time this season to be the first Wildcat off the bench.
-- The Wildcats didn’t score their first point until the 15:52 mark, a fast break layup by Eric Bledsoe.
-- Kentucky extended its streak of game with a three-pointer to 728 games, the third longest streak in the country.
-- UK took its first lead of the game, 14-13, at the 10:08 mark on a three-point play by DeMarcus Cousins.
-- The Wildcats led 38-31 at halftime. UK is 13-0 when leading at the half.
-- The last time more three freshmen scored 25 pts in a game during the season was in 1975 (Givens, Robey and Phillips). DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall scored 25 in a game earlier this season.
Individual game notes
#1 Darius Miller
-- Recorded first dunk of the season.
-- Scored most points since tallying 16 against Hartford.
#3 Darnell Dodson
-- Connected on his first three-pointer since the Hartford game (12/29).
#11 John Wall
-- Finished with 19 points, the most since tallying 19 against Long Beach State.
#15 DeMarcus Cousins
-- Scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half. He is averaging 9.4 points in the second half this year.
#24 Eric Bledsoe
-- Finished with a career high 25 points.
-- Scored a first half career best 15 points.
-- Hit multiple three-pointers for first time since going 4-5 against Indiana.
-- Scored in double-digits in four straight games.
#33 Daniel Orton
-- Finished with career high nine rebounds.
-- Tied career high with four blocks.
#54 Patrick Patterson
-- Moved within 18 points of 28th on UK’s all-time scoring list with 1,302 points.
-- Scored in double-figures in 12 straight games.