The Kentucky Wildcats closed out the month of February with one final shot to the heart, losing to Florida 71-67 on Saturday afternoon at Rupp Arena.
The Wildcats went 3-4 in February, losing to Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri before winning three straight prior to Saturday’s home loss to the Gators.
With Riley Welch starting at the point guard position for Senior Day, Kentucky held its own early and jumped out to a 13-5 lead on a Davion Mintz steal, lay-up and free throw to complete the three-point play. The graduate transfer then nailed a three-pointer to push the lead to 18-10 as the Wildcats found some early rhythm on the offensive end.
The Wildcats led by as many as 10 points in the first half behind 16-of-17 free throws, but Florida battled back as Kentucky held on to a 39-38 halftime lead.
With the game tied at 59-all late in the second half, Florida pulled ahead on a free throw and lay-up to take a 62-59 lead with 5:06 remaining. But Devin Askew then came up with back-to-back steals that led to a run out dunk by Mintz and a missed lay-up that was slammed home by Jacob Toppin to take back the lead at 63-62.
Florida responded with a quick three-pointer and baseline jumper that gave the Gators a 67-63 advantage with just 1:38 left in regulation. Isaiah Jackson scored in the post to cut the lead to 67-65 but the Gators went 4-of-4 from the line to close out the win.
Mintz led Kentucky with a team-high 21 points, while BJ Boston added 13. Jackson and Toppin each added 11 in the losing effort.
John Calipari’s top “recruit” for next season might already be in a Kentucky uniform as Davion Mintz is still mulling over the option of returning for another year despite participating in Senior Day activities on Saturday.
Mintz, a graduate transfer from Creighton, is in a two-year Master’s Program and has indicated that he would like to complete the course work, meaning an extra season is still on the table thanks to COVID-19 flexibility provided by the NCAA. Mintz has said that a final decision will come at the end of the season.
While the future remains uncertain, the 6-foot-3 shooting guard has taken full advantage of his time in a Wildcat uniform, leading the team in three-point goals and has been on fire the past three games, scoring in double figures against Florida (21), Tennessee (15) and Vanderbilt (18). He has also shown great ability to control his body when driving to the basket, either scoring or getting to the foul line.
Mintz has also been a calming influence on a young team that now needs a big lift as the SEC Tournament is on the horizon.
Kentucky falls to 8-14 (7-8) and returns to action on Tuesday with a road game at Mississippi before closing out the regular season on Saturday at home in a make-up game against South Carolina.