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Thursday, May 19, 2022
<p>Senior guard Jalen Hudson's 11 points in the Gators' 65-54 loss to Kentucky were his highest total since Butler (Dec. 29) and the first time this year he'd reached double figures in SEC play.</p>

Senior guard Jalen Hudson's 11 points in the Gators' 65-54 loss to Kentucky were his highest total since Butler (Dec. 29) and the first time this year he'd reached double figures in SEC play.

All Florida could do was watch as Kentucky guard Tyler Herro drained an open three-pointer from the right corner.

He probably could’ve waited a few more seconds before taking the shot. The Wildcats had the Gators on skates that possession.

Kentucky held a four point lead with just under four minutes left in the game, so Florida was still in it. Herro’s three-pointer changed any chance of a comeback. UK went on a 14-0 run late to put some extra padding on its lead.

That late run, boosted by five points from Herro in the stretch, helped the Wildcats defeat the Gators men’s basketball team 65-54 in the O’Connell Center on Saturday.

“We were playing really, really well,” coach Mike White said. “We just couldn’t hold on. It was a mixture of offense and defense. Defense failed us in this one probably as much as it has in any other one of our losses.”

The Gators appeared to be the more aggressive team early on. Guard KeVaughn Allen attacked the basket on the first possession of the game, making an easy floater.

Center Kevarrius Hayes played his best defensive game of the season. He blocked two shots in the first three minutes of the game and posed as a viable threat on the inside. He was also a good answer to Florida’s rebounding struggles, as he boxed out much bigger opponents to allow his teammates to snag the ball.

Offensively, Andrew Nembhard carried the team in the first half. The freshman guard dropped 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting and had three assists in the frame.

Even when Kentucky moved into a tough-knit half court press, Florida continued to create chances. Nembhard found holes to move into, and when he wasn’t putting it up himself, he dished it out to guard Noah Locke in the corner or Allen on the wing.

That aggressiveness continued early in the second half.

Hayes had a steal, three rebounds -- two of which were offensive boards -- and two points in the first 10 minutes.

Guard Jalen Hudson also collected three rebounds in the second half, two of which came on offense.

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But the problem with playing overly aggressive against a team that is a lot bigger is that players start to tire out.

“I feel like we got a little stagnant,” Hayes said. “We weren’t as aggressive. I feel like it was more of trying to hold on to the lead rather than continuously being...aggressive at the end.”

Kentucky was starting to find open shots, as Florida struggled to get back on defense in transition. It led to Kentucky going on that 14-0 scoring run with seven minutes left.

That also contributed to the Gators’ lack of scoring in the final minutes of the game. What was working for them in the first half diminished in the second. Nembhard wasn’t finding those holes on the inside. Forward Keyontae Johnson wasn’t rushing in to make a tip-in basket, and Allen remained quiet from the perimeter.

Even Hayes regressed to the mean, not guarding the paint as well as he had in the first half.

Kentucky, on the other hand, didn’t change its style too much and eventually took advantage of a tired Florida team.

“We just fell off (in the second half),” Johnson said. “We just stopped communicating. We’re the reason why we lost.”

Follow Jake Dreilinger on Twitter @DreilingerJake and contact him at jdreilinger@alligator.org

Senior guard Jalen Hudson's 11 points in the Gators' 65-54 loss to Kentucky were his highest total since Butler (Dec. 29) and the first time this year he'd reached double figures in SEC play.

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