- Sunday, March 4 2001 -
Kentucky - 86 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 15th by AP]
|J. P. Blevins||8||0||2||0||2||0||0||1||0||1||0||1||0||0||1||0|
Florida - 94 (Head Coach: Billy Donovan) - [Ranked 6th by AP]
Halftime Score: Florida 38, Kentucky 31
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|Auburn 90 - 78|||||South Carolina 78 - 65|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Stephen John; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
Gators Clinch Tie
The #6 ranked Florida Gators (22-5) secured a tie for the SEC East Championship by beating the #15 ranked Kentucky Wildcats (19-9) 94-86 in Gainesville. The Gators sizzled the nets, shooting 55% from the field for the game, including 11-17 from 3-point range. Billy Donovan's club used runs of 12-0 and 10-2 near the opening of each half to build a fifteen-point lead, then held off the Wildcats the rest of the way. Ted Dupay scored 27 points for the Gators (6-7 from three point range), Udonis Haslem added 19 and Brett Nelson 18. Keith Bogans had a career high 29 points to lead Kentucky, 21 of those points coming in the 2nd half as the sophomore tried to keep the Wildcats within striking distance. Prince had a double-double, with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Gerald Fitch and Saul Smith added 10 points each.
"We didn't make great decisions with the basketball and we got out rebounded again," Coach Tubby Smith said, "Bonner really pulled down some key rebounds. This was one of those games that, if you don't do those little things, you are gonna get beat, especially against teams like Florida and Arkansas on the road. They really pushed the ball on transition and we just didn't do a great job."
For Florida, this was their 7th straight win and their 11th win in their last 12 games. The Gators' only loss in that time frame was a one-point loss to Kentucky in Rupp Arena on February 6.
Both teams ended up with league-high 12-4 records in the SEC and both will play in opposite brackets in the SEC Tournament in Nashville, March 8-11. "We really didn't want to share this title," Keith Bogans said, "we wanted to come in here and win, but they were hot and had their fans really behind them." Kentucky shot 60% from the field in the second half but could not get it going from long-range, shooting just 7-27 (25.9%) from three point range for the game, "We had a number of open shots, but just couldn't get them to fall," Smith said.
The Gators opened the game on fire, but the Wildcats hung in there early. Florida hit their first three 3-point attempts, one by Brett Nelson and two by Teddy Dupay. But heralded freshman Gerald Fitch would nail two of his own from the outside and Bogans would add a bucket. The Cats were just down 9-8 at the 16:47 mark. But then Kentucky's guns would fall silent and Florida, behind Udonis Haslem, Ted Dupay and Matt Bonner, would go on a 12-0 run to extend their lead to 21-8. The Cats would manage only 3 points in over eight and a half minutes as Florida built its largest lead at 26-11. "We were really not hitting our shots. When we weren't hitting from the outside, we told Keith and the guys to take it inside and work the paint." The Cats would listen and begin to cut into the lead. Saul Smith canned a 3-pointer. Prince and Bogans would score and Saul would add a pair of free throws, pulling the Cats to within 10, at 30-20. The Cats closed the half with a mini-run of 7-4 to pull within seven at the half, 38-31. Keith Bogans led the Cats with eight points in the first half.
"They went out on that first half run and we couldn't seem to get anything to fall," said Keith Bogans, who led all scorers with 29 points, "later I started to get some shots to fall, but they always seemed to have an answer for us."
Brett Nelson scored seven key points as the Gators opened the second half with a 10-2 run to extend their halftime lead to 48-33. The Cats would get no closer than 7 points the rest of the way. One key play (a 6-point swing) may have been the killer for the Wildcats. With Kentucky down 64-56, Stone tipped a miss shot into the basket, which would have cut the lead to 6, but the basket was waved off for goal-tending. Coach Tubby Smith thought that Matt Bonner grabbed the net causing basket interference and complained angrily to the officials. Tubby was hit with a technical foul and Brett Nelson canned both free throws. Florida then scored on the inbounds completing the 6-point swing.
"I thought it was offensive goal-tending," Coach Tubby Smith said, "We should have had the two points. I am saying to the officials, 'what are you talking about here,' and I probably pushed it a little too far. Those things are part of basketball."
Still, the Wildcats continued to hang in there, cutting the lead to 83-76 under the 4-minute mark. But Florida answered as they answered most of the day, this time with a Matt Bonner 3-pointer, which effectively iced the game. "I stayed positive and my team stayed positive," said Bogans, "we know the kind of team we are and we thought if we hung in there that we could get back into the game."
"We were fortunate to stay as close as we did the way we were shooting," Coach Smith said, "We gave it a good effort but we did not give it that extraordinary effort that we need to give in these kind of situations."
Kentucky and Florida have set themselves up for a possible rematch in the SEC Tournament finals, should each team play well enough to get through the field. This was the second straight year that a Kentucky-Florida finale had decided the fate of the SEC Championship. Kentucky is now 1-1 in those games, winning last year's finale with Florida 85-70.
"We have learned from games like this that we can't dwell on the past," Bogans said, "we are going into Thursday's SEC Tournament down in Nashville with the attitude that this is a new season."
Kentucky has now lost two of their last three games but Coach Smith thinks the Cats still have a chance to move up the seedings in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, "When you look at the games we have lost recently, they were both tough losses against really hot teams and both on the road. Florida will probably be a number two seed. I think the selection committee will take those things into account."
Florida Gator Brett Nelson(#10) drives into Gerald Fitch while Saul Smith (#11) looks on
Matt Bonner is blocked by Marquis Estill (#50)