A must-win game for Kentucky made for must-see TV Tuesday night.
At the climactic moment, Jodie Meeks decided it with a shot that no dramatist could resist.
Facing its first three-game home losing streak against Southeastern Conference opponents, UK won it 68-65.
Meeks won it by making a three-pointer over Nick Calathes with 4.7 seconds left.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
"Oh, it's great," Meeks said of the feeling produced by the final three of his 23 points (which matched his uniform number). "It can't get any better than that: 24,000 fans, University of Kentucky, ESPN.
"Hopefully, it made SportsCenter."
The shot won Calathes' grudging admiration.
"I might have touched the ball," said Calathes, who matched his uniform number with a career-high 33 points. "I even slapped it out of his hand. And he still got it."
Victory wasn't assured. Kevin Galloway fouled Calathes on a three-point attempt with six-tenths of a second left.
Calathes, who had made 11 of 12 free throws, missed his first two attempts. After a timeout, he missed his third on purpose. But the ball failed to hit the rim, giving UK possession.
That put a disappointing cap on a career-high night for Calathes. "I'd rather have five (points) and get a win," he said.
Kentucky, which rallied from a six-point deficit with barely three minutes left, improved to 17-7 overall and 6-3 in the Southeastern Conference. The latter moved UK into a tie with Florida for first place in the SEC Eastern Division.
Florida dropped to 19-5 overall and 6-3 in the SEC.
UK had to win without Patrick Patterson, who sprained his right ankle in the second half. X-rays showed no damage beyond the sprain, and he's listed as day to day, UK said.
The Cats also dodged a dagger with barely a minute left. With Florida leading 64-63, Calathes found forward Dan Werner wide open in the right corner. Werner, a 33.8-percent three-point shooter this season, got the shot halfway down. But it spun out.
"Sometimes that happens," Kentucky Coach Billy Gillispie said. "Here lately, nobody's been missing. I guess it was our turn to be lucky."
Luck assisted Meeks, who scored 10 of UK's final 12 points. He acknowledged Calathes getting a hand on the game-winning shot. "I re-adjusted it and I threw it up there," he said.
Josh Harrellson scored 11 points in a night for surprise UK contributors. Perry Stevenson added 10, Michael Porter nine and Galloway six.
A familiar bugaboo — turnovers — prevented UK from using this unexpected contribution to take charge.
In fact, UK left the floor at halftime tied at 30. Kentucky needed the surprise contributions because Florida contained Meeks and Patterson. Meeks had 10 first-half points, but only a single free throw in the final 10:34.
Patterson missed all three of his shots and had one point at intermission and finished with seven.
Kentucky's 14 turnovers helped Florida take the early initiative. Calathes, who had 18 first-half points, stole Darius Miller's inbounds pass and sped to a layup and three-point play to give the Gators a 14-6 lead.
Meeks' only three-pointer of the half turned the tide. With the shot clock inside five seconds, he launched an anxious shot over 5-foot-8 freshman Erving Walker. It banked in to start a 9-0 run.
Porter, who had made only three of 16 shots in the last five games, hit a three-pointer in the run. He added a second to erase Florida's last lead. That marked the first game since Louisville on Jan. 4 that Porter had more than one three-pointer.
With the crowd juiced, Galloway jacked up the excitement. He hit a fast-break layup, then passed for a Stevenson dunk and Harrellson layup as part of his nine assists. He'd had only six assists in earlier SEC games.
Kentucky fell behind early in the second half, then got a break when Florida lost its most experienced player.
Walter Hodge, the Gators' only senior starter, got a flagrant foul and was ejected with 16:12 left for stepping on Stevenson while the UK player lay on the floor.
Stevenson had fallen after fouling Chandler Parsons' three-point attempt.
Florida twice built six-point leads, the first being the most memorable. Calathes turned his back to the basket as he twisted to hit a driving layup while being fouled by Stevenson.
But the Cats other than Meeks and Patterson helped Kentucky stay close. Porter's third three-pointer, which tied a career high, narrowed the deficit to 45-42 with 12:12 left.
Galloway, who earlier drove with authority to a rousing dunk, then hit a fast-break layup that reduced the Florida lead to 47-46. The Gators called time with 10:55 left.
Back-to-back putbacks gave Kentucky a 50-47 lead with 9:44 left.
Less than a minute later, Patterson crumpled to the floor after blocking Kenny Kadji's shot. Replays showed Patterson twisted his left ankle coming down on Kadji's foot.
Calathes propelled Florida into a 60-54 lead in the next four minutes. He scored four points and passed for two more baskets in a 10-0 run.
That set up the final dramatics.