LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP)Immanuel Quickley scored a career-high 26 points, including 15 of Kentucky’s 17 during a decisive second-half stretch as the 10th-ranked Wildcats pushed past Florida 65-59 on Saturday night for their sixth consecutive victory.
Quickley made 4 of 6 from 3-point range and 8 of 17 shots overall to surpass his previous high of 23 points at Auburn on Feb. 1. He scored all but four of his points in the second half. Tyrese Maxey had 13 points for first-place Kentucky (22-5, 12-2 Southeastern Conference), which took a three-game lead over Florida (17-10, 9-5).
Keyontae Johnson had 19 points and Kerry Blackshear Jr. scored 18 for the Gators, who had won their previous three games and five of six.
A back-and-forth game featuring 11 lead changes and 10 ties swung Kentucky’s way midway through the second half thanks to Quickley, who knocked down three consecutive 3-pointers for a 50-44 lead with 11:20 remaining. The sophomore guard’s 3 with 1:34 left provided an eight-point cushion.
But Florida rallied within 61-59 on Scottie Lewis’ tip of his missed free throw with 19 seconds left.
Maxey converted a 1-and-1, and Ashton Hagans made a steal that led to Quickley adding two free thows with 1.9 seconds left.
Florida outrebounded Kentucky 30-27 but committed 16 turnovers, leading to 20 points.
Florida: Blackshear’s perimeter shooting and Johnson’s work inside initially kept the Gators in the game, with help from Tre Mann. After taking their last lead at 44-41, they made one of their next 11 from the field and struggled to stop Quickley.
Kentucky: A strong inside presence helped keep the Wildcats within range until Quickley caught fire. Two three-point plays got him started before his string of 3s made the difference in a game where every possession mattered.
Florida hosts LSU on Wednesday night, aiming to avenge an 84-82 loss to the Tigers on Jan. 21.
Kentucky visits Texas A&M on Tuesday night in the lone regular season matchup with the Aggies.
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