On the night of the State of the Union Address, the Florida Gators' basketball team gave their own state of the SEC with a resounding defeat of the Kentucky Wildcats 69-52, before a sellout crowd at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville.
The Gators, who snapped a five-game losing streak to Kentucky, established a two-game lead in the SEC with the victory. Of bigger concern for Kentucky is the status of their freshman center Nerlens Noel, who suffered an injury with 8:03 left in the second half and the Gators up by 12 points. Noel, the NCAA leader in blocked shots, suffered the injury after blocking a layup attempt by Florida guard Mike Rosario.
For No. 7 Florida (20-3,10-1), it was another night of balanced scoring and torrid defense. Four of the five starters scored in double figures, led by guard Scottie Wilbekin with 14, followed by Rosario and center Patric Young with 12 points each. Young added 11 rebounds and four blocked shots.
The Gators got a huge lift from forward Casey Prather, who added 12 points including a spectacular dunk in the first half. Prather, gave Florida a valuable and productive 23 minutes off the bench and minimized the Gators' loss of forward Will Yeguete who underwent arthroscopic surgery last week and is out for the regular season.
But again, it was the Gators' defense that ruled the night. Kentucky (17-7, 8-3) shot 42 percent from the field and had 17 turnovers. The Gators also blocked nine shots.
The victory assured head coach Billy Donovan of his 15th straight 20-win season with the Gators.
For No. 25 Kentucky, it was their biggest loss of the season and ended a five-game win streak. The Gators, who are undefeated at home (12-0), travel to Auburn on Saturday while Kentucky visits Tennessee.