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Bob Dixon

Agency Manager


Middlesboro, KY 40965


Go Big Blue!

JAMIE H. VAUGHT: Kentucky Overcomes Slow Start To Attack Florida 66-57

LEXINGTON, Ky. – After a sluggish first half, Kentucky bounced back and finished its regular season on a high note as the Wildcats used their muscle to outrebound Florida to a 66-57 victory Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 24.456, the sixth largest in Rupp Arena history.

With the win, Kentucky improved its mark to 26-5 (15-3 in SEC) and boosted its impressive NCAA tournament resume with a potential No. 1 or No. 2 seed, while the Gators, who are expected to get an at-large bid in the Big Dance, dropped to 17-14 overall with 9-9 in the league.

The Wildcats, who had four players with at least six rebounds, attacked the boards, getting 39 rebounds as compared to Florida’s 23 caroms. Kentucky is 21-3 this season when outrebounding its foes.

UK sophomore PJ Washington (pictured), a national player of the year candidate, had a team-high nine rebounds (along with 15 points). Freshmen Keldon Johnson and EJ Montgomery each grabbed seven rebounds with 6-5 rookie Tyler Herro getting six rebounds.

Leading Kentucky’s balanced scoring attack was Herro, who gunned in 16 points on a 6-of-11 field goal shooting. He was perfect from the charity stripe, hitting all four free throws. The Milwaukee native now has made 61 of his last 62 free throws.

After a slow start which saw the Gators race to a 31-30 halftime margin, the Wildcats roared back with more energy and led the game by 12 with less than six minutes remaining.

“We just knew we had to pick up the intensity and make a statement coming into the second half,” said Keldon Johnson. “We needed to get some separation.”

On getting more rebounds, Johnson commented, “We knew that we definitely had to be more aggressive and impose our will.”

Added Herro, “I think we just brought more energy (in the second half). We were leaving our assignments in the first half, so it was just communicating better and bringing more energy in the second half.”

Kentucky hit 41.3 percent of its shots, including 2 of 7 three-pointers. Florida, which was led by 6-9 senior center Kevarrius Harris with a game-high 19 points, was slightly better with a 44.4 shooting percentage.

Senior Jonny David and graduate transfer Reid Travis were honored in a special pregame Senior Day ceremony.

The Wildcats, who finished with a 17-1 record at Rupp Arena this winter, will play its next contest in the SEC Tournament in Nashville on Friday evening, beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern. Kentucky, as a No. 2 seed, earned a double bye in the SEC tourney.

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Two hours before the tipoff, it was announced PJ Washington has added another honor to his growing list of recognition with a selection to the John R. Wooden Award’s 2018-19 National Ballot. He is one of 15 players selected by the Wooden Award National Advisory Board, who are candidates for the Wooden Award All American Team and the Wooden Award Trophy, which is given to the season’s most outstanding college basketball player.

Voting for the award will begin on March 18 and conclude on March 25. Voters consist of nearly 1,000 members of the media as well as the fans. Fans may vote at

Washington, by the way, may have made his last appearance at Rupp Arena as he will likely move on to the NBA. He said coach John Calipari has told the team to enjoy the Big Blue experience, including the Senior Day festivities.

“Yeah, this was my dream school growing up, and to come here and develop in my two years has just been special," he said.

Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. He is the editor and founder of magazine and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on Twitter @KySportsStyle or reach him via e-mail at

Photo by Jamie H. Vaught


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