GAINESVILLE, Fla. (UK Athletics)- Tyler Herro scored 19 points, including a dagger 3-pointer with about 3 minutes to play, and No. 7 Kentucky rallied from an 11-point deficit to beat Florida 65-54 on Saturday.
PJ Washington added 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Wildcats (18-3, 7-1 Southeastern Conference), who won their eighth consecutive game and ended a two-game skid against the Gators (12-9, 4-4).
Kentucky used a 14-0 run during a 5-minute span late in the second half to turn the game around. Herro came up big in the spurt, scoring five points and finding Keldon Johnson in the corner for a 3.
Herro’s 3 made it 55-48. Florida fans soon started heading for the exits.
The Gators entered the game in desperate need of a resume-building victory. They ended the day looking more like an NIT team than an NCAA Tournament invitee.
Herro and Washington prevented the Wildcats from a disappointing road loss.
Herro made 6 of 8 shots, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range, and Washington was 6 of 13 from the floor. Washington was looking for his third straight 20-point, 10-rebound performance.
The Gators looked like they might pull away early in the second half. They used a 9-0 run to build an 11-point lead in the opening 8 minutes. Kevarrius Hayes was instrumental in the spurt, getting a putback, taking a charge and plucking an offensive rebound in three consecutive possessions.
Kentucky went nearly 6 1/2 minutes without a point, and turnovers were a big reason for the drought.
But the Wildcats settled down, and the Gators went cold. Florida made 9 of 32 shots in the second half, including 1 of 8 from behind the arc, and scored 12 points in the final 13:53.
Andrew Nembhard led the Gators with 12 points, but just two in the second half. KeVaughn Allen and Jalen Hudson added 11 apiece. Allen and fellow guard Noah Locke combined to make 3 of 14 from 3-point range.
Kentucky: The Wildcats have the talent and depth to overcome a lot of issues, including a double-digit deficit on the road. Defense was a big key, no surprise since Kentucky has held five opponents to 55 or fewer points during its eight-game win streak.
Florida: The Gators can look solid in spurts, but they have way too many cold-shooting spurts to be more than a middle-of-the-pack team in the SEC.
Kentucky will maintain its top-10 ranking in The Associated Press college basketball poll.
IN THE CROWD
Former Florida standout and current Memphis Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons sat courtside. Parsons is not playing while he waits to be traded.
Kentucky continues its toughest stretch of the SEC schedule against South Carolina at home Tuesday. The Wildcats follow that with games at No. 22 Mississippi State and back home against two more SEC front-runners: 19th-ranked LSU and top-ranked Tennessee.
Florida plays four of its next five on the road, a make-or-break stretch that begins at recently ranked Auburn on Tuesday. The Gators also have road games against No. 1 Tennessee, Alabama and 19th-ranked LSU upcoming.