On a night that will live in Kentucky Wildcats lore, the late Mike Pratt was honored in the most fitting way possible. On a night his jersey was raised to the rafters of Rupp Arena, the Wildcats honored him with a 72-67 victory over the rival Florida Gators.
The Wildcats jumped out to an early lead, taking a 24-11 advantage with 6:01 left in the first half. The Gators rallied back to cut the UK lead to four with 2:30 until halftime, but the Wildcats closed out the opening half on a 7-0 run to take a 33-22 lead into halftime.
In the second half, the Gators again chipped away at the Kentucky lead, pulling back within four early in the second half, but Kentucky answered by pushing its lead to a game-high 14 at 59-45 with 8:00 to play. The Gators still would not go away quietly, cutting the Wildcat lead in half at 61-54 after a lay-up from Myreon Jones with 4:31 left and then pulled within five with 3:36 to go after a pair of Colin Castleton free throws. A Jones three cut the Kentucky lead to 70-67 with 38 seconds left, but Kentucky was able to hold on for the win.
Cason Wallace led the Wildcats in scoring with 20 points, while Jacob Toppin added 17 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double. CJ Fredrick, who played without a cast on his shooting hand for the first time since Jan. 10, broke a recent cold stretch by scoring 12 points as he shot 3-for-6 from three-point range. Oscar Tshiebwe grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds for the Wildcats but was held to just four points as he shot a woeful 2-for-14 from the field, committed three turnovers and fouled out in the game’s final minutes.
For the Gators, Castleton led the way with a game-high 25 points, while Kyle Lofton and Will Richard each scored 13.
The victory for Kentucky continued a streak of UK wins during jersey retirement days as the Wildcats have never lost in a game in which it has raised a jersey into the rafters. UK head coach John Calipari was pleased with the win and honored to be part of the ceremony to honor the late Mike Pratt.
UK will remain at home where Tuesday, the Arkansas Razorbacks come to town for a 9:00 p.m. EST tip-off at Rupp Arena. The game will provide a chance for Kentucky to earn a crucial second Quad 1 victory of the season.