GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Nick Calathes had 24 points and made several clutch free throws, Walter Hodge hit a huge 3-pointer in overtime and Florida extended its wining streak over Southeastern Conference rival Kentucky to seven games with a 81-70 victory Saturday night.
The Gators (16-3, 3-1 SEC) became the second team in history to win seven in a row against the Wildcats, joining Notre Dame.They made this one much closer than it could have been.Florida missed seven of nine free throws during a 4-minute span in the second half, then Kentucky's Ramel Bradley hit a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds to play to send the game into overtime.The shot came after officials overturned an initial ruling that gave the ball to Florida with 5.8 seconds remaining and ahead 61-58.Calathes, Marreese Speights and Hodge bailed the Gators out in the extra frame.Calathes hit a 3, then made two free throws to give Florida a 68-67 lead with 2:03 to play. Speights and Hodge made consecutive baskets that gave the Gators much more cushion.Speights sank a one-hander in the lane, then Hodge drained a 3 from the corner to make it 73-68 with 57.8 remaining.Calathes made eight more free throws in the final 43 seconds to seal the victory. He also had eight assists and eight rebounds. He finished 13-of-17 from the free throw line.Speights had with 20 points and eight rebounds.Bradley led the Wildcats (7-9, 1-2) with 23 points, his sixth consecutive game with at least 20 points.Despite Calathes' clutch free throws, the Gators finished 28-of-40 from the stripe.Jai Lucas ended the team's woes by making a pair with 1:57 to play in regulation and pushing the lead the 58-53.The Wildcats stayed in it with Derrick Jasper's 3-pointer from the corner. But Speights answered with a dunk on the other end, making it 60-56 with 19.7 seconds remaining.Bradley made two free throws for Kentucky with 16.6 seconds to play. His 3-pointer was even bigger -- at least in regulation.The Wildcats went cold in overtime.Speights was strong from the start and had his best outing in four conference games. He probably impressed former teammate Al Horford, who watched the game from near Florida's bench.Horford was a key part of the two-time defending national champions, who essentially built the big winning streak against the Wildcats.Florida hasn't lost to Kentucky since February 2005.The Gators were up 42-30 early in the second half, getting six points from Speights in a 12-5 spurt coming out of the locker room.But Kentucky went inside -- attacking Florida's interior defense that has been the team's biggest weakness this season -- and scored nine consecutive points to make it 42-39 with about 12 minutes to play.Joe Crawford converted a three-point play, Bradley hit a driving basket and freshman Patrick Patterson added two easy buckets.The Wildcats got even closer when Chandler Parsons missed a dunk on one end and Bradley drained a 3-pointer on the other, making it 46-44.Jodie Meeks' two free throws tied the game on Kentucky's next possession.But Florida bounced right back with a three-point play by Calathes. Leading the way on a fast break, the freshman pulled up in the lane for a jumper and got fouled by Meeks. Calathes made the shot and the ensuing free throw.Walter Hodge followed a few possessions later with a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Kentucky's Crawford answered with one a few steps behind the arc, making it 52-49 with about 6 minutes to play.The Gators trailed early in the game. They were down 19-16 with about 5 minutes to play in the opening period, but used a full-court press to force some turnovers that sparked a 14-6 run to end the half.Kentucky, which has been prone to turnovers this season, had 10 in the first half.Although neither team was ranked, it was still Florida's biggest home game this season.ESPN GameDay was in attendance -- the crew even got a pre-game pep talk from Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow -- and so was Horford.Tebow also spoke to the crowd at halftime, standing in front of his Heisman Trophy and vowing better results. No coincidentally, football coach Urban Meyer and several top recruits were in the stands.Sitting courtside were former Gators and current major leaguers Brad Wilkerson and Josh Fogg.