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Veteran Gators dump inexperienced Wildcats

The SportsXchange

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- For a night, at least, Florida showed that experience matters.

Playing a starting lineup of three seniors and two juniors, the seventh-ranked Gators kept their hold on first place in the Southeastern Conference with a 69-52 win over 25th-ranked Kentucky on Tuesday.

The Gators (20-3, 10-1 SEC) held an opponent under 60 points for the 16th time this season and had another balanced effort, as five players scored in double figures. Florida was too much for a Kentucky team that started three freshmen and two transfers.

"They are a good team top to bottom," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "They don't put any bad players on the court, and the greatest thing is everyone of them is aggressive and tough."

Scottie Wilbekin led the Florida scoring attack with 14 points, and he added eight assists. Patric Young, Mike Rosario and Casey Prather added 12 apiece for the Gators, who snapped a five-game losing streak against Kentucky. Young pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season.

"He gave us a very good game with his effort," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "When he gives incredible effort and he plays with a really, really good motor, he is capable of getting double-doubles every night."

The Wildcats (17-7, 8-3) may have lost more than just a game. Kentucky freshman center Nerlens Noel left the game with an apparent knee injury while trying to block a second-half shot attempt from Rosario. Noel finished with eight points, six rebounds and three blocks in 23 minutes.

Noel was taken to Shands Hospital in Gainesville following the game. Calipari described the injury as "ugly"

"We're hoping for the best," Calipari said,

Willie Cauley-Stein and Julius Mays each scored 10 points to lead Kentucky.

The Wildcats got an Alex Poythress free throw to pull within 38-26 in the opening moments of the second half, but they didn't score again for nearly 4 1/2 minutes. The Gators went on a 7-0 run that was capped by an Erik Murphy 3-pointer.

Kentucky never got closer than 12 points the rest of the way.

Florida shot 49.1 percent from the floor and hit six of 14 3-point attempts. Kentucky made 42 percent of its shots, including four of 12 3-pointers.

The Wildcats finished with a 31-27 rebounding edge, but they committed 17 turnovers to the Gators' 11.

The teams played a tight first half that featured three early lead changes.

Up 11-10, Florida went on a 12-4 run, building a 22-15 lead on a Casey Prather putback. The Gators then got hot from 3-point range. Wilbekin, Rosario and Kenny Boynton followed with 3-pointers to put Florida up 31-19.

After Noel picked up his second foul with 6:26 left in the half, Florida attacked inside. A Prather dunk over Cauley-Stein put the Gators up 34-19.

The Gators led 38-25 at halftime, having scored 15 points off 11 Kentucky turnovers. Florida shot 51 percent and made five of seven 3-point attempts while holding Kentucky to 41.7 percent shooting from the field.

NOTES: Florida posted its fourth sellout of the season and second in a row. Students began lining up outside the O'Connell Center gates at 4:30 a.m. for prime spots in the student section. ... Wilbekin returned to the starting lineup for the Gators after coming off the bench against Mississippi State due to practice performance. ... Murphy also started for the Gators after turning his ankle late in Saturday's game against the Bulldogs. He scored 10 points. ... Florida has posted 20 wins for 15 straight seasons, all under Donovan, who has coached 17 years in Gainesville. "I think the biggest thing you want to do at a school is to have a level of consistency, be able to do something for a long period of time," Donovan said. "In the past there have been pockets of success. ... It's a reflection of the players, the administration and this school."
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