Top-ranked Florida capped a perfect run through the Southeastern Conference when Kentucky failed to get off a shot on its final possession, allowing the Gators to escape with a 61-60 victory in the league championship game Sunday.
Florida (32-2) built a 16-point lead early in the second half, but Kentucky nearly pulled off an improbable comeback to hand the Gators their first loss since early December. Two missed free throws gave the Wildcats (24-10) a final possession, but James Young slipped trying to drive into the lane.
The ball squirted loose, and the horn sounded while Florida’s Scottie Wilbekin and Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison dived for it. A giddy Wilbekin popped up and sprinted toward the Gators bench in celebration. Harrison rolled over with the ball, then put his hands over his face in anguish.
The Gators extended their school-record winning streak to 26 games and earned the No. 1 overall seed when the NCAA pairings were announced shortly after their SEC celebration. They will face the winner of a First Four game between Albany and Mount St. Mary’s on Thursday.
Patric Young and Michael Frazier II led Florida with 14 points apiece, while tournament MVP Wilbekin and Casey Prather had 11 each.