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Top-ranked Florida holds off Kentucky

Feb 11, 2007 - 6:19 AM LEXINGTON, Kentucky (Ticker) -- Florida gave Kentucky tons of chances to pull an upset, but the Wildcats squandered all of them.

Corey Brewer scored 16 points and the top-ranked Gators held off the No. 18 Wildcats, 64-61, in the Southeastern Conference to extend their winning streak to 16 games.

Florida (23-2, 10-0 SEC East) opened conference play with 10 straight wins for the first time in school history and became the first team to beat the Wildcats five straight times since Tennessee (1975-77).

Brewer scored 11 of his points in the second half and continually delivered key baskets to repel a series of rallies by Kentucky, which had its three-game winning streak snapped.

Different guys always have great games for us," Gators center Al Horford said. "Corey really stepped up tonight and did it for us. He's 6-9 and plays the three. He makes a big difference on the court.

The Wildcats (18-5, 7-3 East) killed themselves with abysmal shooting from 3-point range and the free-throw line.

Kentucky hit just 3-of-22 from the arc, with two of them coming two seconds apart inside the game's final half-minute. And the Wildcats were just 12-of-21 from the stripe, with the biggest offender being Ramel Bradley, the SEC's leading free-throw shooter who was just 3-of-8.

"I thought we battled pretty hard tonight," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "Certainly, Florida is a great team. They're very talented. I thought we did some things well tonight other than shooting the ball. We just couldn't make a shot. A lot of it had to do with Florida's good defense.

"I thought their veteran players made shots, free throws and we didn't. You're not going to win many games shooting 57 percent from the free-throw line.

Reserve Chris Richard scored 11 points in the first eight minutes as the Gators bolted to a 22-11 lead. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Lee Humphrey and Taurean Green gave Florida its biggest lead of the game, 30-14, with just under eight minutes left in the half.

Kentucky rallied with a 13-1 run to get within four before Florida scored the final five points to take a 36-27 lead at the break.

"We got up early by five, eight, and then 10," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "Then I think it got up to 14 or 15 and you know they are going to make a run at you. I just talked to the guys, even with a crowd that loud, (and told them), 'Let's just regroup and we will be fine.'

"We found a way to make some plays and keep our composure and I thought that was really key."

Kentucky crept within 43-40 with 11:30 to play after back-to-back jumpers by Randolph Morris, but the Gators pulled away again and seemingly were were home free after Brewer hit a pair of free throws for a 63-54 cushion with 26 seconds left.

Bradley hit a pair of 3-pointers in a two-second span to cut the deficit to 63-60 with 18 seconds left. After each team made one foul shot, Bradley had a chance to tie it but his 3-pointer from the right wing was just short at the buzzer.

"I got over to the wing and picked up my dribble, so I had to shoot," Bradley said on his final shot. "I didn't have enough time to pass. I got a good look and thought it was going to fall, but it was short."

Bradley, who entered shooting 86 percent from the line, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 1:05 to play and split a pair of foul shots with 11 seconds left.

"They wouldn't go down for us today," he said. "I missed a few down the stretch, and I thought they were going in. I'm going to look at the film and evaluate those shots."

Green scored 13 points and Richard 11 for Florida. Center Joakim Noah fouled out and managed just six points.

Bradley had 20 points and Morris 18 for Kentucky, which fell to 12-2 at home this season.

"Give Kentucky credit, they made some great plays at the end," Donovan said. "I thought our guys fought, they battled, they found a way to win the game in a very difficult environment and I was very, very proud of them."