Gators cannot hang on vs. Wildcats, drop home finale

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) The Florida men's basketball team squandered a huge lead in a home game for the second time this season and dropped a gut-wrenching regular season finale to Kentucky, 71-70 on Saturday at the O'Connell Center. The result leaves the Gators 19-12 overall and 11-7 in the SEC.

Scottie Lewis led Florida with 19 points, including 13 in the first half as Florida led 40-30 at the break. Noah Locke added 14 for the Gators, who enjoyed their largest lead at 59-41 with 11:48 to play.

Kentucky stormed back, led by Nick Richards' 19 points. The Wildcats got back into the game with a 20-7 run over 7 minutes, 22 seconds during which Florida made only two field goals.

EJ Montgomery scored the go-ahead bucket for the Wildcats on a tip-in with 11 seconds left. The basket was initially waived off due to basket interference, but counted after further review.

After Florida trailed for the only time in the game, the Gators still had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but Andrew Nembhard's long three-pointer for the win hit the rim twice before spilling out.

It was not the Senior Day send-off Kerry Blackshear, Jr. anticipated. Blackshear injured his wrist in the first half and tried to play through it, but could not continue. Florida's graduate transfer did not score in his final home game.

Florida would have wrapped up the number two seed in the conference tournament with a win. Instead, the Gators are denied a double-bye and will be seeded fifth. Florida's first game in the SEC tournament will be Thursday versus the winner between Georgia and Ole Miss.