Kentucky basketball outlasts Florida, improve NCAA tournament chances

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Rupp Arena

For a while, it looked like yesterday's game was going to be a microcosm for UK's regular season.

After valiantly fighting against the more talented Gators, UK seemed on the brink of the NIT after a Scotty Wilbekin 3-pointer put Florida up 57-50 with 7:36 left in the game. According to conventional wisdom; UK, which finds itself in the unfamiliar position of a bubble team, needed to beat Florida to earn an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament. After jumping on the Gators to start both halves, it looked like Florida's superior talent and depth was going to prevail and drive the final nail in UK's coffin.

Archie Goodwin had other ideas.

Goodwin scored 5 straight following the Wilbekin 3, and Julius Mays and Willie Cauley-Stein chipped in free throws down the stretch as UK stormed back to beat the Gators 61-57 and improve their tournament resume heading into the SEC tournament this week in Atlanta.

The much maligned Goodwin, who just weeks ago Calipari said was uncoachable, turned in his second straight solid effort with 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 steals to lead the Cats in scoring. Ryan Harrow and Julius Mays each scored 13, and Willie Cauley-Stein continued his best Nerlens impression with 6 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocks despite earning his 4th foul with 13+ minutes left in the game. Erik Murphy led all scorers with 17 points along with 11 rebounds.

After the game Calipari gushed over the role the crowd played in the game, calling it the loudest in his 4 years as UK coach.

With the win, UK not only bolstered its tournament resume they also locked down the #2 seed for the SEC tournament that begins Wednesday in Nashville. They will face the winner of the Arkansas and Vandy Friday night.

Photo: Flickr/Triple Tri

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