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Kentucky 66, Florida 57: Gators run out of gas as Wildcats parade

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Would you believe Kentucky won a game in which it shot more free throws than Florida?

NCAA Basketball: Florida at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Yeah, so: Florida’s didn’t beat Kentucky on this Saturday.

And given the final score — Kentucky 66, Florida 57 — and location of Rupp Arena, you could probably guess most of the other dimensions of the result.

Florida got a season high — and near career high — in points from Kevarrius Hayes, who had 19 points, five rebounds, two assists, and two blocks in a bravura performance. But the Gators got precious little from anyone else.

Jalen Hudson followed a 33-point outburst against LSU with 13 points on 16 shots and an 0-for-5 night from deep. Andrew Nembhard, Noah Locke, and KeVaughn Allen combined for 11 points on 4-for-18 shooting. Keyontae Johnson had just two points and five boards before picking up his fifth foul.

And not even a surprising showing from Isaiah Stokes — whose six points and one assist featured a few spectacular highlights from the versatile big — could help Florida stave off a slow drowning under the Big Blue tide.

Kentucky made 26 of its 32 free throws, parading to the line for 21 more shots — and 20 more points — than Florida got at the charity stripe, and got at least 14 points from all four of Ashton Hagans, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, and PJ Washington, which helped compensate for fellow starter E.J. Montgomery going scorless. (Johnson, who typically starts, came off the bench to accommodate senior walk-on Jonny David starting on Senior Day, while Reid Travis sat with an injury.)

And the line was largely where the Wildcats compensated for taking eight fewer shots and making five fewer shots than Florida — that disparity based largely on Florida committing just six turnovers to Kentucky’s 11 — with 21 fouls by the Gators somehow translating to those 32 free throws for the Wildcats while Kentucky’s 17 only got Florida 11 FTs. When Kentucky made an extended 15-2 run in the second half to take control of the game, seven of the points came at the line.

And lest one think that Kentucky was just augmenting its brilliance at the foul line: Kentucky only made two threes — though more efficiently, on seven attempts, than Florida’s three on 18 tries — and went just 17-for-39 on its twos.

But this is life for Florida this year, with its undersized and undermanned roster arguably underperforming — if only slightly — against the most rugged SEC this decade. The Gators could maybe have had this game, had a couple more threes fallen or a couple more calls gone their way; they did not, in fact, have it, and now almost certainly need to win a game in next week’s SEC Tournament to be assured of making the NCAA Tournament, with the NIT awaiting should Florida exit with only a loss.

It’s hard to know whether Florida will get that win. Surely, the Gators will try their damnedest — like they did in this game.

But so often, that hasn’t been enough.