GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)—Taurean Green and Joakim Noah gave No. 8 Florida a rare streak against Kentucky.
Green scored a career-high 29, Noah added a career-best 26 and the Gators beat the Wildcats 95-80 Saturday night to extend their winning streak over the Southeastern Conference’s most storied program to three games.
Florida’s previous long streak against Kentucky, also three games, came nearly two decades ago.
“When we first got here, everybody said we couldn’t beat Kentucky,” Florida sophomore Corey Brewer said. “We said we’re going to change that.”
The Gators (20-2, 6-2 SEC) also set a school record with their 20th consecutive home victory.
The Wildcats (15-7, 5-3) lost for the first time since mid-January, snapping a five-game winning streak and dropping them to third place in the Eastern Division.
The Gators were relatively healthy for the first time since opening the season with 17 straight wins.
Brewer, slowed the last four games with a sprained ankle, looked like his usual self. He ran the break, slashed to the basket, made acrobatic shots and played stingy defense. He finished with 16 points, including nine from the free throw line.
Lee Humphrey, who missed Florida’s last game after separating his left shoulder during a bicycle accident, returned much earlier than expected. Coach Billy Donovan initially said he could miss up to three weeks, but Humphrey entered the game midway through the first half.
He badly missed his only shot, an air ball from behind the 3-point line, but his return allowed the Gators to avoid playing walk-ons—something they had to do in a tough win at Mississippi on Tuesday.
Even with Humphrey still hurting, the Gators looked like they were back to full strength—especially in the second half.
They used an 18-1 run over a 5-minute span early in the second half to build a double-digit lead that quickly turned a close game into a rout.
“We really got rattled,” Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. “They really had another gear; they turned it up.”
The decisive spurt started with two free throws from Brewer and really got rolling with Green’s 3-pointer the next time down the court.
Al Horford added a layup, Green hit a jumper in the lane, Noah had a dunk on an inbound pass from Green, and the beatdown began.
“We just didn’t have an answer for their inside people,” Smith said. “They really manhandled us.”
Green and Noah dominated play after the break.
Green had 19 second-half points, the majority of them coming on drives and from the free throw line.
“It was just open shots. They went in,” Green said.
Noah had 13, most of them coming down low.
“I’m not doing anything special,” Noah said. “I’m just getting easy baskets in transition.”
Rajon Rondo led the Wildcats with 22 points before fouling out with 1:35 to play, and Joe Crawford added 19.
Crawford sank a jumper in the lane just before halftime to put Kentucky ahead 41-39, but the opening period was dominated by guards and centers.
Green and Noah combined for 32 points on 9-of-10 shooting, while Randolph Morris and Rondo were 9-of-12 from the floor and totaled 20 points.
Noah constantly beat Morris down the floor, getting in position for easy and uncontested shots. He made each of his six shots in the first half—three dunks and three layups.
Morris was more effective on the other end, getting two dunks, a layup, a turnaround bank shot and two free throws. He also made several key passes out of double teams and had five assists. But Morris had just four points in the second half.
“We were just a little more hungry that Kentucky,” said Florida’s Chris Richard, who had 10 off the bench. “We wanted this one for so many reasons.”