- Saturday, February 10 2007 -
Florida - 64 (Head Coach: Billy Donovan) - [Ranked 1st by AP and 1st by ESPN/USA Today]
Kentucky - 61 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 20th by AP and 18th by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: Florida 36, Kentucky 27
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|South Carolina 95 - 89|||||Tennessee 85 - 89|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Brick City: Poor shooting dooms Cats
Ramel Bradley lowered his chin and shook his head. The pulse of Kentucky's basketball team had no answer for another razor-thin defeat at the hands of the nation's No. 1-ranked team.
The Cats battled back from a 16-point deficit to back defending national champion Florida into the ropes but were ultimately doomed by a horrendous shooting night, losing 64-61 in front of a Rupp Arena record crowd of 24,465. It was UK's fifth straight loss to Florida, tying the record Tennessee set against it from 1975-77 for most consecutive losses to a Southeastern Conference opponent.
"I'm not going to sleep," Bradley said. "Anytime you miss shots that you know if you make them you winÉno, I'm not going to sleep."
UK missed 18 of its first 19 three-point attempts on its way to a 3-of-22 effort, the second worst performance from long range this season. The Cats also made just 12-of-21 from the free throw line, another damaging area that could have lifted UK to its most significant victory of the season. The poor shooting offset a defensive performance that caused Florida to score its lowest point total of the season and be held under 70 points for just the third time all year.
"We executed the game plan to a 'T'," junior guard Joe Crawford said. "We played great defense but we just didn't knock down shots. It was still only three points even with the way we shot the ball.
"This is going to be really tough. The game was right there in our hands. It's going to be hard to sleep because we let an opportunity slip right through our hands."
Despite falling behind 30-14 in the first half the Cats fought back behind an ear-splitting crowd and stingy defense to close within eight at the break. After Florida pushed the lead back to 11 to start the second half UK went on an 11-3 run that sliced the deficit to 43-40 with 11:34 remaining.
That's as close as UK would ever get. Not that they didn't still have their chances in the end.
Florida fended off several UK challenges to take a seemingly insurmountable 63-54 lead with 26.6 second left but that's when Bradley, who was suffering through a nightmarish shooting game, caught fire to give the Cats a chance.
Bradley drilled a long three from just left of the top of the key with 20.8 seconds left to close the gap to six and then scooped up an errant Florida inbound pass in the corner on the ensuing possession and swished a second triple to slice the lead to 63-60 with 18.4 seconds on the clock. Brewer made one of two free throws at the other end before Bradley came down and was fouled by Taurean Green going to the basket with 11.8 left.
Bradley, an 85.5 percent free throw shooter coming into the game, had already missed four of his six attempts in the game and converted only one on this trip to put the lead at three again. Still, Florida gave UK one last opportunity to send the game into overtime when Al Horford's baseball pass past midcourt sailed over Walter Hodge's head and out of bounds, giving the ball to UK with 9.7 seconds on the clock.
Instead of calling their final timeout, UK coach Tubby Smith let the Cats go with Bradley bringing the ball up the court. Bradley dribbled to the left, picked up the bounce and then forced a leaning three over Green that drew front rim at the buzzer.
"I thought it was going to fall in," Bradley said. "It was a tough shot to get off. There were nine seconds and we were down three so we needed a three. (Green) covered me but I had to put it up anyway. I thought it was good."
Perhaps it was poetic justice the Cats had their final shot harmlessly clang off the rim. Bradley led UK with 20 points but was 7-of-17 from the field and 3-of-10 from three-point range. Crawford missed all six of his bombs, the first time he had failed to make a triple in 14 games. Bobby Perry missed all four of his from deep during a 1-of-7 performance as well.
"I thought we battled pretty hard," Smith said. "We just couldn't make a shot. We shoot, what, zero percent from three in the first half? Basketball is about putting the ball in the basket. A lot of it is predicated on that. You have to score points. Thirteen percent on threes, 57 percent on free throws, that's the game."
The Cats will have visions of bricks dancing in their heads after this one.
Joe Crawford cuts to the basket
Randolph Morris works against UF's Chris Richard and Joakim Noah
Derrick Jasper grabs a rebound