Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete, Casey Prather and Patric Young, the group of four seniors that form the core of Florida men’s basketball, had never won a game at Kentucky.
They can now say that they have.
Florida defeated Kentucky 69-59 in front of a sold-out, 24,000-strong Big Blue Nation crowd Saturday night in Rupp Arena. The win ties the school-record 17-game winning streak for Florida (23-2, 12-0 Southeastern Conference) and breaks Kentucky’s (19-6, 9-3 SEC) 22-game home winning streak. It also puts the Gators up three games over the Wildcats in the SEC.
The first half was a power struggle between the top two SEC teams with six lead changes and seven ties. It ended with Kentucky up 31-28. But the seasoned Gators rose to the challenge in the second half.
Over the final six minutes of the game, they outscored the Wildcats 16-6. Wilbekin, who finished second in scoring for Florida with 23 points, made 11 of 12 free throws throughout the game, including five to help widen the lead for the Gators when they needed it most. In fact, UF’s largest lead was by 10 points with only 38 seconds left in the game.
Head coach John Calipari tweeted from his official account to “stand at the 8-minute mark and remain up until the final buzzer” in order for the crowd to help his young Wildcats close out the game. But it was Kentucky who faltered in the end against the older, more experienced Florida squad.
For Kentucky, this home loss was only its third in 84 games under Calipari.
Prather was first for Florida in scoring with 24 points. Andrew Harrison led Kentucky with 20.
Florida will return home to face Auburn (12-11, 4-8 SEC) next. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19.