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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — No. 25 Kentucky is limping into the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Maybe even literally for one Wildcats star freshman.
Julius Randle had 16 points and 10 rebounds, many of them after injuring his right knee in the first half, but it wasn't even close to being enough in an 84-65 loss at top-ranked Florida on Saturday.
The Wildcats (22-9, 12-6 SEC) have dropped three of four to close the regular season, and the latest one was the program's largest margin of defeat in series history.
"We got to get this thing going," said Randle, who notched his 18th double-double and seventh in the last eight games. "Every game is important to build our confidence and chemistry. The guys in the locker room, we all still believe, but there's a point where we have to put it into action. I still think we will."
James Young added 14 points, and Aaron Harrison chipped in 10 for Kentucky.
The team's biggest issue was on the defensive end, where it allowed Florida to shoot 60 percent from the field and 60 percent from the 3-point line.
The Gators (29-2, 18-0) became the first SEC team to go 18-0 in league play. Kentucky went 16-0 three times (1996, 2003, 2012), but never managed to stay perfect when the conference played an 18-game league slate.
"There's just a lot of pieces they have," Randle said. "It's a great team."
With Florida's ranking, the home finale for four seniors, history at stake and Kentucky in town, it was the biggest home game in school history. Single tickets to the nationally televised matchup were going for as much as $500 on the street, and there even was a successful marriage proposal on the court beforehand.
The Gators delivered for their fans, especially early.
Florida made 14 of its first 21 shots and recorded assists on its first 11 baskets.
Patric Young, who scored 14 points in the first half, did most of the damage inside. Michael Frazier II, a sophomore who made a school-record 11 3-pointers Tuesday at South Carolina, got hot again from outside.
Frazier's consecutive 3s pushed the lead to 19 and had the O'Dome rocking.
The Gators were up 22 after Dorian Finney-Smith's third 3 of the half and led 49-28 at the break.
But coach John Calipari got his team focused, and the Wildcats opened the second half by pounding the ball inside and getting Randle more involved. Kentucky used a 15-0 run to cut the lead to 53-47, quieting the arena and giving the Wildcats confidence they could pull off the upset.
Scottie Wilbekin responded with a huge trey. Casey Prather followed with several driving layups, none bigger than the one that turned into a three-point play and pushed the lead back to 17. All those clutch plays came from seniors on Senior Day.
"Those guys answered the bell," Gators coach Billy Donovan said.
Calipari was more disappointed with his team's shot selection.
"We took the fight to them a little bit," Calipari said. "We made a game of it. All of a sudden we take the worst shots we've taken all season. Like, you've got to be kidding me. But that's what freshmen do."
Florida coasted from there, and shortly after the final horn, started cutting down the nets. Kentucky retreated to the locker room to start figuring out how to end its funk. Calipari believes there are things to build on.
"No. 1 in the country, on the road, you're never supposed to be in the game and you've got your chance," Calipari said. "What I'm proud of is they didn't give up on the game. They gave themselves a chance to win it.
"You have to understand (Florida) is really good. Their execution, naturally being seniors, is going to be better than us. They're going to get better opportunities, which they did. That team shot 60 percent (from the field) and 60 percent from the 3. That doesn't happen to us."
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