Kentucky too gritty for the Gators in 76-68 win

Cats get gritty, keep Gators off the boards

jtipton@herald-leader.comFebruary 27, 2011 

Florida scored its one — and only — second-chance point with 3:45 remaining in the game.

After the backboard beating Kentucky took earlier in the month at Florida, that showed how the Cats loved, honored, cherished and obeyed Coach John Calipari's simple request for the rematch: compete.

UK played with purpose in beating Florida 76-68 on Saturday.

"Kind of like an NCAA (Tournament) game the way we played," said Josh Harrellson, who led UK with 12 rebounds. "We fought the whole time."

Darius Miller scored a career-high 24 points to lead Kentucky. Twice victimized by clutch putbacks by Chandler Parsons in Gainesville, Miller brought that memory into the game.

"I definitely was thinking about it throughout the week," he said. "I was thinking of how I played, personally."

In case he forgot, Calipari reminded Miller.

"You know, I put the challenge to Darius, just saying, 'You're as good as anybody in this conference. Please, this is your game to show it,'" Calipari said. "And he showed it."

This time Parsons was the one haunted by what happened.

"He's a matchup nightmare at 'four' (power forward)," Parsons said of Miller. "He can put it on the floor. If he has space, he can hit the three-pointer."

It was coincidence that moved Miller to power forward. Terrence Jones' foul trouble prompted the move.

"I think it was kind of how the game evolved," Miller said. "... I feel that's a good matchup for me and my team, so I don't have a problem with it."

Parsons, arguably the most versatile forward in the Southeastern Conference, grabbed only one offensive rebound, which went a long way to explaining why Florida's one second-chance point fell way short of the previous low for a UK opponent this season: four by Indiana.

"They did a really good job blocking me off," Parsons said.

Whatever happened, Kentucky was determined not to let Parsons (or Florida) win with rebounding again.

"Keeping Parsons off the board, that's a big step," Harrellson said. "... Even if you just face-guard him and don't even worry about the ball, to make sure he didn't get it, that was something we did well."

Kentucky improved its record to 20-8 overall and 8-6 in the Southeastern Conference. The latter kept UK in a third-place tie with Georgia in the Eastern Division.

"This one is a huge game for us," said Calipari, who did not mean UK's post-game recognition of his 500th career victory. "Wasn't like some little game. This was a huge game.

"Because you're talking a great basketball team (in Florida) that's well coached, that's coming into our building with an idea that they are winning this game. And I've got a fragile team at times on the road. And now you wonder, are they going to be fragile at home?"

In short, no.

Kentucky took the lead for good on Brandon Knight's three-pointer with 16 minutes to go. It was part of his 16-point game.

With Miller scoring three straight baskets in one stretch, UK extended its lead to double digits with 6:21 left. The score was 69-58 after a Miller three-pointer with 4:13 left.

Florida's only second-chance point came in a sequence down the stretch that could have sent a shiver down the Big Blue Nation's spine.

Easy as you please, Parsons scored on a layup after taking an inbounds pass. Fouled, he missed the free throw, Kenny Boynton got the rebound, which resulted in an Alex Tyus free throw at the 3:45 mark.

Kentucky continued to wobble on its next possession as Knight's three-point air ball resulted in a 35-second shot clock violation.

But Boynton overadjusted on a driving shot, and UK scored on a Jones post-up to ease the tension.

Anxiety returned in the final minute. Despite leading by 12 inside the final two minutes, Kentucky saw Florida close within six, 74-68. More than 38 seconds remained.

Two Miller free throws kept Kentucky in charge.

"If we lost, we'd be non-ranked," Doron Lamb said of UK's motivation. "We wanted to show everybody we're a great team. We're still a great team, and we can win the (SEC) tournament."

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