The Kentucky Wildcats returned home for a matchup with the Florida Gators. A win meant the Cats would earn the 2 seed in the SEC Tournament.
Kentucky struggled to score the ball at first, but the defense was very solid as they led 6-4 early on.
The Cats would finally get it going offensively and jumped out to a 19-12 lead after an Ashton Hagans layup forced the Gators to call a timeout.
With 5:52 left in the half, Hagans knocked down a three to make the lead 25-16. But from that point on Kentucky struggled on both offense and defense as the Gators out-scored the Cats 15-5 the rest of the half to take a 31-30 lead into the break.
After halftime, Kentucky’s defense was much improved, and the better defense led to much better offense as they had a 44-42 lead at the under 12 timeout.
The run for the Cats continued as the lead swelled to double digits with 7 minutes to play. They would close out the game and wins 66-57.
Thoughts on the game
Ashton Hagans bounces back
In recent games, Hagans has been struggling to say the least. He hasn’t looked confident on the offensive end and has been getting beat defensively.
But in this one, he was running the show on offense finding the open man and scoring as well as playing very solid defense.
He finished with 14 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal. The Hagans we saw in this one is the Hagans UK will need to make a deep run in March.
Ashton Hagans knocks down the 3 while falling to the floor. pic.twitter.com/MlbwNLw8V3— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 9, 2019
PJ Washington with another big second half
Like the game at Ole Miss, PJ had a tough first half, as he only had 4 points heading into halftime.
However, he came out in the second half aggressive, and Cal was feeding him, as he finished with 15 points, 9 rebounds and an assist.
PJ Washington with the strong and-1. pic.twitter.com/B73nTGHeik— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 9, 2019
Hot damn. PJ Washington with the catch and shoot turnaround baseline fadeaway. pic.twitter.com/SChBIGCdMR— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 9, 2019
Not having Reid Travis on the floor has made life more difficult for PJ, as he hasn’t had that second option down low to pull the double teams away from him so he can operate on the block.
Hopefully, this was the last time they will take the floor without Travis, and this team will start to have a new look to it.
Tyler Herro continues to shoot well
As the season started to come to a close, Herro heated up in Rupp and had another big day.
He finished with 16 points on 6/11 shooting, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal. He made big plays throughout the second half on offense and did an excellent job defensively, as he held Florida’s best scorer to 3 points.
One thing that stood out is Herro had such a good game without making a single three. That shows just how dynamic of a scorer he really is and how he can impact the game in so many ways.
Tyler Herro floater down the lane. pic.twitter.com/G7MWDBscTt— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 9, 2019
Tyler Herro left hander off the wrong foot. Yowza! pic.twitter.com/UUeyaQlpkL— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 9, 2019
EJ Montgomery stepped up
Once again without Travis, the Cats needed someone to step up, and that person was EJ. He made big plays on defense as well as grabbing huge offensive rebounds (4) on his way to a 7-rebound game. He’s also providing rim protection after getting a block vs. Florida and 4 vs. Ole Miss on Tuesday.
These five games without Travis have been big for EJ, as it gave him more minutes to get himself going, and I believe he has made big strides. He will have a big impact on this team throughout the tournament.
On to the SEC Tournament
With the win the Cats finish the regular season with a 26-5 record, 15-3 in the SEC and will be the 2 seed in the SEC Tournament.
As the 2 seed, the Cats will tip-off on Friday night at 7:00 pm vs. Thursday’s winner of Alabama vs. Ole Miss, two teams on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
If Kentucky wins that game, they’ll likely face the Tennessee Vols on Saturday. That game would go a long way in deciding who gets a 1 seed.
But with North Carolina making a strong push, the Cats may need to win the whole tournament to get that top seed.
More importantly, this week will hopefully feature the return of Reid Travis, who Kentucky must have to be a title contender.
Now, here are the postgame notes and milestones via UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Notes
- Kentucky ends the regular season 26-5 overall and 15-3 in the Southeastern Conference.
- UK could still win a share of the SEC regular-season championship but it will take an LSU home loss tonight vs. Vanderbilt in order to tie for the title.
- Florida is now 17-14 overall, 9-9 in league play.
- Kentucky leads the series 102-40 and has won two in a row.
- UK leads 52-10 in games played in Lexington.
- Today marked the final game in the current configuration of Rupp Arena. Offseason renovation will add chairback seats to much of the upper deck and there will be a new capacity of approximately 20,500.
- Today’s attendance of 24,456 was the second largest of the season and the sixth biggest in Rupp Arena history
- Next for Kentucky is the SEC Tournament, which begins Wednesday in Nashville. UK will be the No. 2 seed and will play in the quarterfinals Friday at 7 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. CDT in Nashville).
In the First Half
- Kentucky started the combination of Ashton Hagans, Tyler Herro, Jonny David, PJ Washington and EJ Montgomery for the first time. It was David’s first career start.
- Kentucky had its largest lead of the half at 25-16 with 5:52 remaining. However, the Wildcats went cold and did not make a basket the rest of the half.
- Meanwhile, the Gators closed the half on a 15-5 run and went to intermission ahead 31-30.
- This is the fourth straight game that Kentucky has trailed at halftime. UK bounced back to win three of those games. UK is 7-2 this season when behind at the half.
In the Second Half
- Kentucky opened with the second half with Hagans, Herro, Johnson, Washington and Montgomery.
- Trailing 40-39, Washington scored a basket-and-one to put the Wildcats ahead with 12:45 on the clock and the Wildcats never trailed again.
- That sparked a 15-2 run as Kentucky staked a 54-42 lead, its largest of the game. UK held Florida to only two points during that nine-minute stretch.
- Florida got no closer than eight the rest of the way as the Wildcats held on for victory.
- Kentucky dominated the rebounding, 39-23, and had an 11-7 advantage is second-chance points.
- UK is 21-3 this season when outrebounding its opponent.
- Kentucky has won all nine Senior Day games under Coach John Calipari. (There was no Senior Day in 2018.)
- UK held Florida to 57 points. UK is 169-7 (.960) under Coach John Calipari when keeping the opponent to 63 points of fewer.
- UK finished the season 17-1 in Rupp Arena.
- This was the 24th season in the 43-year history of Rupp Arena that UK has had zero or one losses during the home schedule.
- UK has an all-time record of 594-69 (.896) in Rupp Arena.
- Tyler Herro led the balanced attack with 16 points and added six rebounds.
- UK is 17-0 this season when he scores at least 15.
- He made 4 of 4 free throws and has made 61 of his last 62 at the charity stripe.
- Keldon Johnson had 14 points, his 23rd game this season in double figures, while adding seven rebounds.
- Ashton Hagans had 14 points, his 10th double-figure game of the season and fourth in the last seven games.
- PJ Washington totaled 15 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
- Calipari is now 301-69 at UK.
- Calipari has a 746-209 all-time on-court record.
- UK is 244-40 vs. Associated Press unranked competition under Calipari, and has won the last 12 in a row.