LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Florida point guard Scottie Wilbekin had 18 second-half points, dissecting a Kentucky defense in the process that was perhaps at its best this season in the first half, and the No. 3 Gators topped the No. 14 Wildcats 69-59 on Saturday night.
Wilbekin finished with 23 points and was 11 of 12 from the free-throw line. He also had two assists and was more active than that number reflects in opening up the Wildcats' half-court defense and exposing holes that were not there in the first 20 minutes.
Florida (23-2, 12-0 Southeastern Conference) has won 17 games in a row. Its last loss was Dec. 2 to Connecticut.
Kentucky (19-6, 9-3) was hot early in the second half. An 11-2 run gave the Wildcats a 45-38 lead with 11:11 to play. Kentucky point guard Andrew Harrison had just connected from the field, and given that he and shooting guard Aaron Harrison had been 1 of 12 from the field at that point, getting production from either of their two starting guards could have ignited a bigger run.
But Florida forward Patric Young scored on consecutive possessions in the post and Wilbekin fed him again for a three-point play to give the Gators a 47-46 lead with 8:37 to play.
ESPN's College GameDay pregame show was in town Saturday to rally Kentucky's fans, and the capacity crowd was the loudest it has been in Rupp Arena in recent memory from the opening tip. The crowd reached perhaps its loudest a minute into the game when forward James Young hit a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats a 5-0 lead.
But Florida quickly responded and took a 10-7 with 14:15 to go. It would be the Gators' largest lead of the first half.
They could not shake the resilient Wildcats despite Kentucky's lack of an offensive rebound in the first 13 minutes and Florida forward Casey Prather's play before the half. He had 12 points and three steals in the first 20 minutes, making all four shots from the floor.
Before Florida scored the final four points of the half, Kentucky had gone on a 10-1 run for a 31-24 lead, its largest of the game.
The Wildcats' half-court defense in the first half forced Florida into 10-of-30 shooting from the field.
NOTES: Florida coach Billy Donovan now has four wins in his last 18 trips to Rupp Arena. ... Kentucky had won 22 games in a row at home and is now 81-3 at Rupp Arena under John Calipari. ... With Calipari's next win, he will have 20 victories in 20 consecutive seasons as a head coach at Massachusetts, Memphis and Kentucky.