Cats get marquee win, defeat No. 11 Florida



By David Schuh | @DSchuhKernel

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With 7:36 left in the game , the UK men’s basketball team was down seven points to Florida, on the brink of losing control of the win they need most this season.

The Gators didn’t score another point.

UK beat No. 11 Florida, 61-57, on senior day Saturday to put the Cats back in the NCAA Tournament picture.

The Gators missed their final 11 shots, allowing the Cats to finish the game on an 11-0 run.

“That team we had out that last seven minutes — every one of them guarded,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “They just locked down, they rebounded and they went and got balls.”

The Cats busted out of the gate with a lot of energy, spurred on by the capacity crowd of 24,294. They went out on an 11-2 run, but Florida quickly answered.

The Gators used a 9-0 run to take a five-point lead with four minutes left in the half, but six straight from the Cats, capped by a transition dunk by freshman guard Archie Goodwin, kept the Cats in stride.

The two teams went to half tied at 31, even on the scoreboard and fairly even statistically.

The Cats came out of halftime much like they did to open the game. They quickly built a seven-point lead with 14 minutes left. But an 8-0 run from Florida changed the momentum, giving the Gators a one-point lead.

Back-to-back three-pointers from senior Erik Murphy and junior Scottie Wilbekin extended that lead to 57-50 with 7:36 left.

From there, UK’s defense closed the door.

Calipari subbed freshman center Willie Cauley-Stein into the game with four fouls at the 11:15 mark of the second half. It was a dangerous move, but one he felt like he had to make.

“I said I’m forgetting he has four,” Calipari said. “I told him to stay on the ground. A basket doesn’t kill us. You fouling out can kill us.”

Cauley-Stein did as his coach asked. He finished the game with just six points, but eight rebounds and four blocks, including some big stops down the stretch to keep the Cats in it.

“That goes to show how far along he has come,” Goodwin said. “He’s an exceptional player now … He brought unbelievable energy.”

Not only did the Cats get stops, but they turned them into easy points. Goodwin went on a personal 5-0 run in a one minute span to cut the lead to two.

One possession later, two free throws from sophomore guard Ryan Harrow tied the game.

Then, up two points with 10 seconds left, graduate student guard Julius Mays, in his last game in Rupp Arena, took matters into his own hands.

“I told coach when we went into that timeout that I wanted the ball … I wanted to shoot those free throws.”

And he made both to put UK up four, all but sealing the marquee win the Cats had been searching for all season.

Freshman forward Alex Poythress said he realized last night that he had to step up and be the player his team needed him to be.

“I just looked myself in the mirror and realized I could have been better this whole year,” he said. “It’s time to grow up.”

He backed it up, finishing with nine points and a season-high 12 rebounds, a crucial stat given that Cauley-Stein’s foul trouble limited the latter to just 25 minutes.

Goodwin led the Cats in scoring with 16 points and four steals. Harrow and Mays added 13 points each, while Cauley Stein had four blocks to go with his six points and eight rebounds.

Calipari has been using the “sink or swim” analogy a lot lately, calling on his team to realize their season is dying and to fight to survive. Today, he said, they did just that.

“This kind of fight and effort — where we look like a team, where guys weren’t breaking off and doing their own thing — it’s what everybody wants to see,” he said. “It’s what I want to see as a coach, too.”