Florida rallies to upset No. 18 Kentucky 66-64
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Florida worked through ugly play for much of the night against No. 18 Kentucky, and the persistent Gators eventually made the necessary shots to go ahead before holding on with several big defensive plays.
On both ends of the floor, Jalen Hudson came up big.
Hudson came off the bench to score 17 points, and Chris Chiozza, Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes contributed clutch baskets down the stretch as Florida rallied to upset the Wildcats 66-64 on Saturday night.
The first-place Gators (14-5, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) saw their 45-37 second-half lead become a 56-53 deficit before they regrouped behind Chiozza’s 3-pointer, Hayes’ jumper and Stone’s layup to go ahead 62-58 with 2:02 remaining. KeVaughn Allen added two free throws with 44 seconds left before Hudson made two more from the line, shots that offset 3-pointers by Kevin Knox and Wenyen Gabriel.
Stone’s missed free throw gave Kentucky a chance to tie at the end, but Egor Koulechov and Hudson blocked shots by Quade Green and PJ Washington respectively before stealing the inbounds pass with 2.5 seconds left to win for eighth time in nine tries and take a two-game SEC lead on the Wildcats (14-5, 4-3).
Kentucky had won 30 straight at home against SEC opponents and 16 in a row overall in Lexington.
“We didn’t take home run shots” down the stretch, said Hudson, who shot 4 of 13 overall and 2 of 8 from 3-point range. “We stayed poised.”
Florida was especially calm in those final seconds as Kentucky tried to tie the game.
“We just literally had to sit down in a stance the whole 25 seconds,” Hudson said. “We didn’t know what they were going to do. ... We had to make sure that they drove into our hands and make them finish over us.”
No foul was called on Washington’s drive, and Kentucky coach John Calipari said he wasn’t sure if there was one.
“At the end of the day we had our chances, and I love the fact we fought,” Calipari said.
Stone finished with 14 points, Chiozza scored 13 with eight assists and Allen had 11 as Florida won despite shooting 33 percent (22 of 66) before 24,394 blue-clad fans at Rupp Arena.
“Winning at Rupp is enormous,” Florida coach Mike White said. “We have 11 conference games left and it’s a big win.”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Wenyen Gabriel had 10 points each for Kentucky, which lost its second in a row and third of five.
Florida: The Gators shot just 20 percent from 3-point range (6 of 30), well below their SEC-leading 40 percent average coming in. But they got key perimeter shots from Hudson, Allen and Chiozza, and then closed the game by making their final three field goals. “I thought Kentucky played really hard,” White said. “They defended at such a high level.”
Kentucky: The Wildcats shot 40 percent and won the boards 49-38 but went cold after taking their last lead. They also couldn’t stop the Gators from making 3s in clutch moments. Kevin Knox had nine points, while Hamidou Diallo and Nick Richards had eight each. Green played 17 minutes after missing three games with a back issue but only made a layup in eight attempts, including four from long range.
White said ugly wins aren’t new for Florida, which beat New Hampshire 70-63 in November while shooting 32 percent overall and 17 percent from long range. Doing it in a loud, hostile environment was a different story, but the Gators found a way to make it happen at Rupp.
“I promise, I didn’t think that,” said Chiozza, who was 5 of 11 shooting. “But we’re showing that some games when we don’t hit shots, we do a good job.”
Kentucky figures to fall a few spots after letting one slip away. Florida might move closer to the Top 25.
Florida visits South Carolina on Wednesday night.
Kentucky hosts Mississippi State on Tuesday night.