Cats coast to 71-63 win over Florida to close out regular season


Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) complains about a call to forward Jacob Toppin (0) during the UK vs. Ole Miss mens basketball game on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 83-72. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Hunter Shelton

Kentucky will head into the SEC Tournament as the No. 3 seed following a 71-63 win over Florida in Gainesville. 

The dominance of Oscar Tshiebwe was once again the story, as the Wooden Award finalist tallied 27 points and 15 rebounds, taking it to the Florida frontcourt for his 25th double-double of the season. 

In two games against the Gators, Tshiebwe compiled 54 points. He has totaled seven games with at least 20 points and 15 rebounds, further cementing his position as a National Player of the Year candidate. 

“The things he’s done haven’t been done in 50 years,” UK coach John Calipari said. “So how could you not [vote for Oscar]?” 

Colin Castleton did his best to match the Kentucky star, as he poured in 23 points on 11-19 shooting. 

The Gators managed to hang around for a majority of the contest, but never managed a lead for the entire 40 minutes. 

With under one minute remaining, UF managed to cut the deficit to six points after a layup by Tyree Appleby. 

UK (25-6, 14-4 Southeastern conference) would turn the ball over in the ensuing possession, as Brooks threw away the inbound pass. 

Florida (19-12, 9-9 SEC) was unable to take advantage of the turnover, missing an open 3-pointer. Kentucky would play the foul game, making four straight free throws to extend its lead back to 10. 

The two teams would trade layups for free throws the rest of the way, resulting in the eight-point win for the Wildcats. 

With the win, Kentucky has now won 25 or more games for the 11th time under Calipari. 

Kentucky’s starting lineup was back to normal for the first time in two weeks, as both TyTy Washington and Sahvir Wheeler were once again in the starting five together. 

Wheeler was efficient, making six of 10 shots for 13 points while totaling four assists. Washington provided just six points, failing to get going on the offensive end. He would manage a team-best five assists and add four rebounds. 

Washington wasn’t the only starter with an off-game, as Keion Brooks was seemingly invisible on Saturday, scoring just two points in 15 minutes.

Kentucky shot 50 percent as a team in the first half, which saw seven different Wildcats score. The UK defense held Florida to 36.7 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes. 

Florida struggled to get going from deep, shooting 3-20 from 3-point range on Saturday. 

“I thought we really guarded until the last two minutes,” Calipari said. “We didn’t want to foul.” 

The Wildcats continued its efficient shooting in the second half, shooting 52 percent despite not making a 3-pointer in the 20 minutes. 

With the win, UK will carry a tiny two-game winning streak into Tampa, Florida, where they will participate in the SEC Tournament. 

For Calipari, he feels as though his team is locked in with postseason play looming: 

“We’re a machine, It’s not about emotion. It’s about us locking in and playing with the spirit and a toughness and an energy for 40 minutes.” 

The Cats earned a double-bye into the quarterfinals, where their opponent is yet to be determined. Kentucky’s matchup is set to tip-off at approximately 8:30 EST on Friday, March 11.