LEXINGTON, Ky. – Darius Miller scored a career-high 24 points and Brandon Knight added 16 points and six assists as No. 22 Kentucky surged past No. 13 Florida 76-68 on Saturday.
The Wildcats (20-8, 8-6 Southeastern Conference) won their 33rd straight home game and gave coach John Calipari his 500th career victory in bouncing back from a difficult overtime loss to Arkansas on Wednesday.
Miller topped the career high of 22 set last week against South Carolina with the kind of dynamic, aggressive play Calipari has been searching for all season.
Kenny Boynton led Florida (22-6, 11-3) with 21 points and Chandler Parsons added 15 points and eight rebounds. But the Gators, who clinched a share of the SEC East title with a win over Georgia on Thursday night, couldn't keep up with the Wildcats in the second half.
Fighting for loose balls, crashing the offensive boards and trying to keep Parsons in check, Miller kept Kentucky perfect at home under Calipari and gave the Wildcats a much-needed confidence boost following another meltdown on the road against the Razorbacks.
Kentucky took control of a tight game with a 10-2 burst midway through the second half to get some breathing room at 58-49.
The Gators answered with a 3-pointer in the corner by Parsons and drew within 61-56 on a layup by Parsons, who appeared to be just fine in his second game back from a painful thigh bruise.
The Wildcats responded, as they always seem to do at home. DeAndre Liggins, who engaged in a spirited back-and-forth with Calipari in the first half, hit a 3-pointer and Doron Lamb added a runner to push Kentucky's lead to 66-56.
Kentucky's offense, however, stalled over the next 2 minutes as the Gators stayed close.
Enter Miller, who has been a puzzle at times during his up-and-down career but finally seems to be finding himself. He chased down a 3-point miss by Lamb shortly after checking back in with 4:51 to go. Kentucky reset and Miller moved to the top of the key. The Wildcats went inside to Terrence Jones, who kicked it back out to Miller. He calmly drilled the 3-pointer and stuck his tongue out briefly while hustling back on defense.
Calipari had chastised his team for being too passive, saying his players appeared to be content to watch and let others do the work.
It wasn't an issue on Saturday. Kentucky held a slight edge on the backboards and outscored Florida 11-1 on second-chance points.
Miller added five rebounds, three assists and three blocks and senior Josh Harrellson had six points and 12 boards in his penultimate home game.
Kentucky has been unbeatable at Rupp Arena under Calipari, but the Gators — who ended Xavier's 30-game home winning streak on New Year's Eve — hardly looked intimidated.
The Wildcats needed 13 points from Miller and 11 from Knight to take a 34-33 halftime lead as Jones battled foul trouble and the rest of Kentucky's six-man rotation proved ineffective.
Florida showcased its depth by getting contributions from whomever coach Billy Donovan threw out on the court.
There were seven ties and 10 lead changes in the half, but the Wildcats finally gathered themselves early in the second to breathe some much-needed life into their season.
The win also made Calipari the second coach in NCAA history to win 500 games in his first 19 seasons, joining North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who won 524 games in his first 19 seasons.
Calipari is 500-151 in 19 seasons at Massachusetts, Memphis and Kentucky.