LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — On an unusual Senior Day where Kentucky honored Davion Mintz, Olivier Sarr, and fan favorite Riley Welch, the Wildcats saw a late game lead slip through their hands in a 71-67 loss to Florida.
After back-to-back dunks by Mintz and Jacob Toppin, Kentucky regained the lead 63-62 with 3:44 to play.
But dagger shots came on back-to-back possessions for Florida from Tyrell Appleby and Tre Mann.
The Wildcats had their chances to hit their own daggers, the biggest one coming when Mintz missed a wide open 3-pt shot with 1:02 to play that would've put Kentucky up by 1.
That doesn't take away the game Mintz had overall, leading Kentucky with 21 points.
The Gators would seal the victory by hitting free throws late.
The energy was immaculate for Kentucky to start the game, both offensively and defensively. The Cats used an 11-0 run in the first half to build their lead to 10.
But Florida would eventually counter with an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 26-24 with 8 minutes to play in the opening half.
The Gators eventually regained the lead before Mintz hit a field goal to give Kentucky a 39-38 halftime lead.
In a game that saw 14 lead changes, Kentucky saw itself in yet another battle until the end.
Over the last few weeks, Kentucky has shown it can close out a game, with close wins over Auburn and Vanderbilt before blowing out Tennessee by 15.
Personally, I thought the Wildcats would prevail again based on the trend of close game finishes as of late.
Now, with a hill that was already steep to climb, that climb has become steeper.
As of Saturday night, Kentucky is 8th in the SEC standings with a 7-8 record, and any at-large bid hope it had to make the NCAA Tournament continues to get more narrow, even though we all figured an SEC Tournament crown was its best way to punch a ticket to Indianapolis.
Kentucky has two more regular season games before tournament play begins. The Cats travel to Oxford to face Ole Miss at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, March 2.
UK's final game of the regular season is against South Carolina on Saturday, March 6 at Rupp Arena. That game was originally scheduled for December 29, but was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. Tip-off time is still TBD.