Game Summary: The first half was owned by UK, who used a run led by John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson, Darnell Dodson, Darius Miller and Daniel Orton to stretch their lead to a game-high 18. Florida chipped away at that lead a bit to cut it down to a modest 10 at the half way mark. The second half was marked by good transition defense by the Gators and desperation scoring on their offensive end, cutting it down to two at various points. An early 7-0 run by the Gators would bring within 7 with 15 minutes left. Boynton, Walker and Tyus led the charge with their three point shooting and also aided by Florida’s scrappiness around the rim. Florida would continue to chip away, cutting it to 4 with 12:00 left, 3 with 10:00 left and then finally 2 with 6:30 left.
Patrick Patterson kept the Cats steady and slammed home a dunk with 6:00 left, but a defensive let down by UK on the other end would keep Florida rolling. Finally, John Wall made his mark as he often does in clutch moments, using a three, a foul shot and an assist to Patterson to give UK a little breathing room with a 7 point lead. From that point on it was free throw shooting show for the Cats, who (sort of) did their job to end Florida’s hopes of a comeback. Poetic justice allowed Patterson to grad UK’s final rebound and sink the final two free throws for UK to give them a 74-66 victory and an outright SEC regular season championship, their 44th.
UK would finish the game with a 44% mark from three point range, shooting 8 of 18 from behind the arc. Darius Miller and Eric Bledsoe led UK with 14 points a piece. Miller went 5 of 7 shooting, including 3 threes. Wall had 11 and Patterson used 13 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks to move past Cliff Hagan for 16th place on UK’s all-time scoring list.
Post-game Quotes (via UKathletics.com):
On Senior Day: “It was hard and the one thing that was really hard was seeing Mark Kreb’s mother. We pray for her everyday and I got emotional just seeing that alone. I have been with these guys, I want to say 11 months, but with this summer and all you do it has been about six months. I just respect all of them and what they stand for and their families. When I saw Mark’s mom, that hits you right in the gut.”
On what Patrick Patterson means to the team: “I have been with him a short period of time, but you are talking about a young man that is going to graduate in three years and a young man that has done everything that he was asked to do. They asked him to play under the basket a year ago and he did it and didn’t say anything. He made the choice to come back (to UK), I didn’t talk him into it. He probably had people trying to talk him out of it, not me personally but maybe people that were close to him and now all of a sudden I am asking him to play out on the floor and shoot three and guard twos. He is doing things that he has never done before and he says, `Whatever you need.’ Then I bring in a group of freshmen who are really good and immature. He is fine with it, you think about that. He could have said, `This is my team and I am getting all the shots.’ He never did it. That is why we are 29-2.”
On pulling out the game down the stretch: “We had two or three plays that we have been talking about like saving the ball under their basket and we throw it right to them and it is a three-point play. We don’t rebound on a free throw and it is another three-point play and it goes from 18 to 10. You just sit there and tell them that these are things that we cannot do. I thought that Florida outworked us at individual positions which gave them a chance. I keep coming back to our goal has got to be playing harder than that other team. We have to. If not, we are going to disappoint ourselves somewhere along the way.”
On ending the season: “I am just glad that it is over. I just wanted it to end. I told them that we are playing for that other tournament. That is why we play. I have never coached a team that worried about a conference championship or a tournament championship. Every team that I have coached is worried about postseason and where we are going to get seeded. What happens is that instead of playing for that championship, you are playing for something bigger. I am not sure that we are quite there yet, but we have done everything that we were supposed to up to this point. We are playing for a one seed.”
On three strong games in a row: “I’m just trying to stay aggressive for the most part. Everyone is focusing on the other guys and it makes room for me to attack.”
On UK struggling to hold leads: “That’s happened a few times this year and we really need to take care of that because it might not work against other teams we really have to come out and play the whole forty minutes against. Coach has stressed that for a while and hopefully we can go out and take care of that.”
On Mark Krebs and his mother’s moment: “We were happy for Mark more than anything. We were so happy that he got a scholarship offer. We are so happy for him and that he got to be on the team. To see his mom out there when he walked out meant a lot. He was pumped in warm-ups.”
On what he expects in the SEC tournament: “I expect it to be crazy just like the regular season. We just have to be prepared. We had to use these games to keep getting better and at the same time use them to help us be prepared for post-season play
On where the pregame moment with his mother ranks: “It will be up there with my all time greatest moments. I can’t think of anything more. It’s an honor to put on the uniform and do this and be here for four years. It will rank way up on my list because my whole family experienced it. My family has been through a lot and most families have, but to be able to experience something this special it’s awesome.”
On senior day emotions: “I looked over at my mom and saw her crying, my grandma was crying and I thought I saw my grandpa crying. I was trying to hold back the tears. I looked at them and then the fans screaming and just tried to soak it all in. It was a fun day. We got the win, I was just hoping that we could continue playing like we did in the first half in order for the seniors to play more and those who do not already play enough. ”
On what he thinks of the team right now: “I think we are great. We still need to improve on defense and communication. The pick and roll got us a few times today. We know we are strong on offence and we know we can push the ball down the court. We still have areas to improve ”
On how he felt changing his role as a player after two years: “There was not much concern. I knew what Coach Calipari wanted to do and that he would help me. Day in and day out at practice I was on the perimeter working on my shot, right off the bat he had me as a ball handler. It was tough at first but as I progressed I caught myself realizing that I liked being on the perimeter better.”