Oscar Tshiebwe led four scorers in double figures with 25 points as Kentucky escaped with an 82-74 win over Florida on Wednesday night in Gainesville, Fla.
Jacob Toppin added 19 points for the Wildcats (19-9, 10-5 Southeastern Conference), who won their third straight. Antonio Reeves scored 16 points and Chris Livingston posted a double-double with 10 points and 15 rebounds.
Riley Kugel led Florida (14-14, 7-8) with a career-high 24 points. Kowacie Reeves added 16 points for the Gators.
Florida cut Kentucky’s lead to 74-72 with 1:12 remaining on two free throws from Kyle Lofton. But Livingston responded with a big play for Kentucky, grabbing an offensive rebound and scoring a put-back layup as he was fouled with 46 seconds left. Livingston made the free throw to complete the three-point play and extend Kentucky’s lead to 77-72.
From there, Kentucky closed out the game, making five of its final six free-throw attempts.
Kentucky dominated on the boards throughout the night, outrebounding Florida 40-21 and outscoring the Gators 15-0 in second-chance points.
Kugel scored 14 points in the first half as Florida rallied from an early 15-point deficit to take a 37-36 lead into halftime.
Kentucky made 12 of its first 19 shot attempts, taking a 30-15 lead with 8:17 left in the first half on a jumper by Antonio Reeves. Tshiebwe dominated inside early and finished the half with 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting.
But the Gators answered with a 13-0 run fueled by defense. A Myreon Jones 3-pointer cut Kentucky’s lead to 30-22. Will Richard then scored on a fastbreak layup to cut Kentucky’s lead to 30-26 and Lofton followed with a layup to cap the run and pull the Gators within two.
Kentucky then scored six straight points, extending its lead back to 36-28 on a Tshiebwe jumper. But Florida closed the half with a 9-0 surge, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers from Kugel.
The Gators played their second game without leading scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker Colin Castleton, who is done for the season with a broken hand.
–Field Level Media