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Noah, Florida top Kentucky to end late-season slump

Mar 5, 2007 - 12:00 AM GAINESVILLE, Florida (Ticker) -- Joakim Noah helped Florida end a late-season swoon. He also helped the defending national champions re-establish themselves as a top seed for the NCAA Tournament.

Noah scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as No. 4 Florida captured its sixth consecutive win over Kentucky with an 85-72 victory in the Southeastern Conference regular-season finale for both teams.

Collecting just their second win in their last five games, the Gators (26-6, 13-3 SEC East) halted a bumpy stretch that included sluggish starts and a disappointing loss at Louisiana State on February 24 despite the absence of reigning SEC Player of the Year Glen "Big Baby" Davis.

Despite the slide, Florida will still enter the league's upcoming postseason tournament as the No. 1 seed with a first-round bye.

With the win, Florida became the first SEC team to beat Kentucky six straight times. Tennessee posted five straight wins over the Wildcats from 1975-77.

Even though the Wildcats' Bobby Perry had an inspired start, the Gators overcame an early deficit to forge a 43-43 tie at the half.

After the break, the Gators took control behind Noah, who took advantage of the foul troubles to Kentucky center Randolph Morris to score all 13 of his points in the second half.

With Morris picking up his third foul just 13 seconds after intermission, Al Horford and Noah both scored inside to ignite a 13-2 run that Taurean Green capped with a 3-pointer for a 56-45 advantage with 13:58 remaining.

Noah, who finished 6-of-8 from the field, later sandwiched consecutive dunks around a slam by Morris for a 62-51 lead with 10:16 to play.

Kentucky (20-10, 9-7 East), which lost for the fifth time in its last seven games, got no closer than nine points thereafter.

Green also had 17 points and Walter Hodge and Horford added 15 and 14, respectively, for Florida, which finished undefeated at home for the first time since 1993-94 (13-0).

Green had 3-pointers, combining with sharpshooter Lee Humphrey and Hodge to finish 9-of-14 from the arc. It was just the second time that the Gators had posted eight or more 3-pointers in their last eight games.

Florida came into the matchup shooting 22 percent (11-of-49) from the arc in its previous three games.

Horford finished 6-of-7 from the field en route to becoming the 41st player in school history to surpass 1,000 points. The 6-10 junior also grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked three shots.

Perry had 16 of his 20 points in the first half for the Wildcats, who shot 33 percent (9-of-27) in the second half.

Perry finished with 20 points for the second straight game after failing to accomplish that feat in the previous 27 games this season.

Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford scored 14 points apiece for Kentucky, which finished 9-7 in the SEC for the second straight season.

Prior to that stretch, the Wildcats had averaged 3.2 conference losses in six seasons between 1999-2000 and 2004-05.