Walter Clayton's shot gives Florida Basketball a much needed road win

Jan 31, 2024; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Florida Gators guard Walter Clayton Jr. (1) shoots the ball
Jan 31, 2024; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Florida Gators guard Walter Clayton Jr. (1) shoots the ball / Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

With 37 second left in Lexington, KY, it looked like Florida Basketball was going to repeat a story we have seen countless times this season. The Gators had just given up a layup to go down by four points and the theme of "close by no cigar" was rearing its head once again.

But Kentucky left the door open for one last Florida chance and Walter Clayton made sure not to let the moment go to waste.

The end result was an overtime win that Florida desperately needed if it hopes to make the NCAA Tournament this March.

Florida Basketball: No Quit

Florida was down by 10 points with 70 seconds left in the first half, but a three pointer by Zyon Pullin and a layup from Will Richard pulled it back to within five points heading into halftime.

Florida kept it going coming out of the half, and a Richard three-pointer quickly gave the Gators a second-half lead. From there, neither team was able to pull away by more than four points, and with 3:50 left in regulation, the score was tied at 75.

This is where it looked like the same old story for the Gators was about to play out. Florida's next five possessions went:

  • Missed layup
  • Turnover
  • Missed three pointer
  • Missed shot in the paint that Samuel Tyrese rebounded and put back in
  • Missed three pointer

With 13 seconds left, Kentucky had a two point lead and was heading to the free throw line. This is where the Wildcats kept the door open after missing its second shot.

Enter Clayton to save the day.

It's not just that Clayton made the shot, it was the poise to allow the Kentucky defender to fly past the pump fake, reset, rise, and send the game to overtime.

The Gators made sure Clayton's shot didn't go to waste as Florida played lockdown defense in overtime. After getting on basket on its opening overtime possession, Kentucky only managed a single free throw over its next six possessions as Florida was able to build a seven point lead with 16 seconds left, and despite a late attempt to blow it Florida was able to emerge with the 94-91 victory.

Todd Golden and crew entered the day listed among ESPN's Bracketology as one of the first four teams out. While the Gators were 14-0 against teams ranked in Quads 2-4, Florida was 0-6 against Quad 1 teams.

A road win over a top ten team, Florida's first in over 20 years, should give the Gators a much needed boost as they will travel to College Station this Saturday to take on Texas A&M.