Cats Fall at #5 Florida

By: AP
By: AP

Joakim Noah and Taurean Green broke out of slumps just in time to help No. 5 Florida make history.

Noah and Green scored 17 points apiece and the Gators rebounded from consecutive losses to beat Kentucky 85-72 on Sunday, becoming the first Southeastern Conference team to win six in a row against the Wildcats.

The Gators (26-5, 13-3) got behind early again and were tied at halftime, but they used a 13-2 run to open the second half and pulled away down the stretch to finish the season unbeaten at home (18-0).

Noah scored 18 points the last three games and was admittedly playing without his usual passion. He had plenty of energy against the "Kitty Cats," the nickname Noah playfully gave Kentucky this week. He also had 10 rebounds.

Green was 6-of-32 shooting in the last four games - Florida lost three of those - and was 3-of-17 from 3-point range. He was much better in the regular-season finale.

Green was 6-of-11 from the floor and 3-of-4 from 3-point range. He added five assists.

He also got plenty of help.

Al Horford, who banged his knee in the second half and briefly left the court, had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Lee Humphrey, one of two scholarship seniors honored before their final home game, made three 3-pointers and finished with 11 points. Walter Hodge was 5-of-5 from the field and had 15 points.

Bobby Perry led Kentucky (20-10, 9-7) with 20 points, but 16 of them came in the first half. Randolph Morris, the team's leading scorer this season, added 13 points.

Perry carried the Wildcats in the first half, making four 3-pointers and shooting 6-of-8 from the field. But Florida clamped down on him after the break - he scored his team's first basket of the second half, then was scoreless until the final minute - and no one else stepped up to make shots for the Wildcats.

Everybody made shots for the Gators, who finished 32-of-50 from the field and had a 35-23 rebounding advantage.

It was just what Florida needed after poor shooting performances - and defensive showings - in back-to-back losses at LSU and Tennessee. Now, the Gators have some much-needed momentum heading into the postseason. Florida begins conference tournament play Friday.

The Tigers shot 51 percent from the field against the Gators, and the Volunteers were even better, making 58 percent.

Coach Billy Donovan vowed to get his team's defensive prowess back, and the Gators responded - at least in the second half.

Just two days after Noah said he was tired of "getting punched in the face" early in games and falling behind, the Wildcats took early leads of 6-1 and 16-10.

But the Gators trimmed the deficit behind the inside play of Horford and some key outside shots from Humphrey, Hodge and Green. The three guards combined for six 3-pointers in the first half and 26 points.

Florida shot 59 percent in the first 20 minutes and doubled Kentucky on the boards (18-9).


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