Murray leads No. 20 Kentucky to 80-61 win over Florida
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Jamal Murray put on a show for his very special cheering section.
Murray scored a career-high 35 points, and No. 20 Kentucky beat Florida 80-61 on Saturday.
Murray, a freshman guard from Canada, said having his parents in the stands provided a boost.
“It was good to have them here,” he said. “It’s good to be open-minded and calm. They helped get me here. There was no reason to feel pressure.”
Tyler Ulis had 18 points and 11 assists for the Wildcats (17-6, 7-3 Southeastern Conference), who ended a rare two-game losing streak while improving to 15-0 at home. Derek Willis finished with 12 points.
Murray also made a career-best eight of Kentucky’s season-high 12 3-pointers. He set the tone for the blowout with 20 points in the first half.
Murray’s previous career high was 33 points in a 74-67 loss to Ohio State on Dec. 19 in the CBS Sports Classic.
“This is the way I should have been shooting all season,” Murray said. “Now I just have to keep it going.”
Florida coach Mike White said Murray and Ulis controlled the first half, and the performance by Murray was “unbelievable.”
“He can really shoot it,” White said. “They did a good job of getting him open. He did whatever he wanted to do anytime he wanted to do it.”
Kentucky blew a 21-point lead in an 84-77 loss at Tennessee in its last outing. It got off to another fast start against the Gators, but closed it out with ease this time around.
Dorian Finney-Smith led the Gators (15-8, 6-4) with 24 points. John Egbuno had 12 points.
Murray and Ulis combined for 35 points to help Kentucky to a 50-32 lead at the break. The Wildcats then opened the second half with an 8-0 run, including a 3 for Murray that took a fortunate bounce on the rim.
Florida shot 39.6 percent (21 for 53) from the field. It went 6 for 19 from 3-point range, compared to 12 for 20 for Kentucky.
“It was a great bounceback game,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “We just had two tough games. Going to Kansas and losing how we did and then going to Tennessee and losing a 21-point lead. To do this against this team — this team beat West Virginia by 20 and had won five of six games. This was good for us. This was a good win.”
Kentucky senior Alex Poythress was shelved by a right knee injury. Poythress had 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting in the loss to the Volunteers.
Poythress tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last season and missed the final 29 games. He scored a career-high 25 points in a 77-61 win at Alabama last month.
Calipari said he found out “about five minutes” prior to tip-off that Poythress tweaked his knee and couldn’t play.
Kentucky: The Wildcats have won their last four games against Florida after the Gators earned a season sweep in 2014. ... Murray has made a 3 in his first 23 games, a school record. ... The Wildcats shot 52 percent (30 for 58) from the field.
Florida: The Gators fell to 1-5 this season against teams ranked in the Top 25.
Kentucky hosts Georgia on Tuesday night.
Florida hosts Ole Miss on Tuesday night.