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Victory in the SEC Opener for John Calipari’s Team

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In a day when everything seemed to favor the Florida team, Kentucky managed to secure a win.

Freshman sensation Aaron Bradshaw’s successful 3-point shot with 1:21 left granted the No. 6 Wildcats a 79-76 lead. The visitors then defended against the late efforts of the Gators, emerging with an 87-85 victory in the SEC opener for both teams at the O’Connell Center.

“We emerged victorious. We could have been defeated, and I would be standing here saying, ‘We will learn from it and move forward,'” expressed Kentucky coach John Calipari. “But that’s not what happened. We did not come here to dominate them.”

The Wildcats (11-2, 1-0 SEC) were concerned about their rebounding coming into Saturday. In their previous match, a 96-70 home win against Illinois State last week, they secured 24 offensive rebounds and outperformed their opponents on the boards by five (45-40). The Gators (10-4, 0-1) posed a tougher challenge, boasting the top rebounding team in Division I, with an average of over 45 per game. Despite this, the Wildcats managed to hold their ground, trailing by just three rebounds (43-40) compared to the hosts.

Kentucky's Justin Edwards drives to the basket while being defended by Florida's Zyon Pullin during the first half.

“That’s surpassing them in rebounds,” smirked Calipari.

Despite all the attention on Florida’s rebounding strength, the hosts did not overpower Kentucky in the paint on Saturday; in fact, the Wildcats scored more points in the paint (40-36).

The Gators found success from beyond the arc. Florida had been averaging 7.6 3-pointers per game in their first 13 matches in 2023-24. They surpassed that number by halftime, sinking eight, including Zyon Pullin’s long-range shot and another attempt that banked in off the backboard.  

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