GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Chandler Parsons scored 17 points, Alex Tyus made two big defensive plays late and Florida beat No. 10 Kentucky 70-68 Saturday night.
The Gators, who have struggled from the free-throw line all season, went 18 of 22 from the stripe and hit some clutch ones late.
Erving Walker hit both ends of two one-and-ones in the closing minutes. His final free throw put Florida (18-5, 7-2 Southeastern Conference) ahead for good. Tyus followed with a baseline hook shot and Parsons added a free throw with 12.7 seconds remaining.
The Wildcats (16-6, 4-4) had a final chance, but Brandon Knight's 3-pointer came up short. Tyus had a hand in Knight's face. Tyus also guarded Terrence Jones tight down the stretch, forcing a miss with about a minute left.
Knight led Kentucky with 24 points. Jones added 18 points and seven rebounds.
The Wildcats lost consecutive games for the first time under coach John Calipari. In fact, it's the first Calipari-coached team to lose two straight since Memphis dropped four in a row in the 2004-05 season.
With the victory, along with Tennessee's loss to Alabama, the Gators opened up a 1½-game lead in the East. Kentucky is two games back at the midway point.
Florida certainly will be ranked again after knocking off No. 23 Vanderbilt earlier this week.
The Gators got this one going with a strong second half. They opened the second half with an 11-4 run that gave coach Billy Donovan's team a little breathing room, 45-36.
Florida built a 13-point lead on Vernon Macklin's dunk, Parsons' 3-pointer and five free throws — yes, the team that has struggled from the stripe all season made five in a row.
But the Wildcats clawed back from the double-digit deficit — most of it thanks to Knight.
The freshman point guard, playing against former AAU teammates Kenny Boynton, got the Wildcats rolling. He started the comeback with a pair of free throws, then hit back-to-back 3s. He dished to Terrence Jones for a 3, hit two more from the stripe and then found Darius Miller all alone on the wing for another 3-pointer.
That put Kentucky up 64-63 with 3:36 left.
But it didn't last.
The Gators got an unexpected boost from Scottie Wilbekin early. The 17-year-old freshman made all three of his shots in the first half, including two from 3-point range. Wilbekin entered the game averaging 2.2 points and shooting just 25 percent from behind the arc.
But he caught fire against Kentucky. He came off the bench and hit a wide-open 3 that tied the game at 10. He hit another a few minutes later, then added a running bank shot that gave him nine points in the game's first 15 minutes.
His teammates were considerably colder from long range. The Gators made just 3 of 9 shots from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes. They were slightly better from the free-throw line, but those two key areas have been the team's Achilles' heel this season.
Kentucky's depth issues were evident again. When Calipari turned to his bench, former Florida player Eloy Vargas responded with a foul and a turnovers in his first few minutes on the court. Fellow sub Jarrod Polson added a turnover, a missed jumper and a blocked layup in the closing minutes.
Daron Lamb and Jon Hood were bright spots off the bench for the Cats. Lamb hit a 3 and had a pair of assists, and Hood swished an 18-footer right before the halftime buzzer.
Jones, Knight and Miller were their usual selves, doing most of Kentucky's scoring.