Inside force Oscar Tshiebwe produced 27 points and 15 rebounds for his 25th double-double as #7 Kentucky closed its Southeastern Conference regular season Saturday with a 71-63 victory over Florida in Gainesville, Fla.
Tshiebwe made 11 of 16 field goals and went 5-for-5 at the stripe. He produced 11 straight points for his team early in the second half as he notched his 13th straight double-double.
In sweeping the two-game season series, the Wildcats (25-6, 14-4) led by 12 at halftime as the Gators (19-12, 9-9) struggled to find their game, especially from long range.
Sahvir Wheeler netted 13 points, Kellan Grady added 11 and Davion Mintz 10 as the Wildcats shot 50.9 percent from the field.
Kentucky locked down the #3 seed in next week’s SEC tournament in Tampa, Fla. It won for the seventh time in the past eight contests against Florida, including four straight on the road.
The loss was a severe blow to Florida’s chances of earning an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament. It holds just a 2-9 record against Quad 1 competition.
The club cut the deficit to 38-31 in the first 1:11 of the second half, but Tshiebwe’s presence in the paint thwarted any chance of a serious Florida rally.
Colin Castleton posted 23 and 11 rebounds and Anthony Duruji added 10 points. But the team shot 41 percent from the field and was just 3 of 20 from deep (15 percent).
The Wildcats opened their SEC finale by racing out on a 7-0 run behind layups by TyTy Washington Jr. and Keion Brooks Jr. and a trey from Wheeler in just over a minute of play.
Kentucky’s 9-0 run put them ahead 25-11 after nearly 11 minutes had expired in the half — getting points from seven different players — while only Castleton and Duruji scored for the Gators.
The visitors held their largest lead at 32-16 on Tshiebwe’s mid-range jumper with 6:03 left. After Florida went off on a 10-0 stretch, Kentucky answered with a 6-0 run for a 38-26 halftime lead.
Tshiebwe collected 12 points and 11 rebounds in the half, while Florida’s distance shooting was a poor 2 of 10 (20 percent).