GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With strands of net behind their ears, Florida seniors Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete and Patric Young stopped at midcourt and kissed the floor.
They stood up, started walking toward the locker room and then paused at the edge of the court. With their arms draped around each other, they took the last stride in unison. It was the first step toward the next goal — winning it all.
Young scored 18 points in his home finale and No. 1 Florida routed 25th-ranked Kentucky 84-65 on Saturday, becoming the first team in Southeastern Conference history to go 18-0 in league play.
“This is the way to go out,” Young said. “You couldn’t have scripted this one any better. … What else could you want?”
Prather (15) and Wilbekin (13) also reached double figures for the Gators (29-2, 18-0), who have won 23 straight and 32 in a row at home.
Coach Billy Donovan called timeout with 36.9 seconds remaining to get his four seniors another standing ovation. They certainly deserved this one, especially since it was Florida’s largest margin of victory in series history.
“When you invest four years like these guys have invested, it means something to them,” Donovan said. “They’re going to carry this with them for the rest of their lives. They’re going to have their children and they’re going to come back here and they’re going to be remembered for what they’ve done.
“They’ve done something that’s not happened here before.”
Prather, Wilbekin, Young and Yeguete have now won 113 games in four seasons, four shy of tying the school record held by Walter Hodge. They have the SEC tournament and the NCAA tournament to break the mark.
The latest victory seemed a lock early but was in doubt for a while in the second half. That was until — no surprise — the seniors took over. Wilbekin hit a 3, Young made a running hook shot and Prather started making plays at the rim.
“Those guys answered the bell,” Donovan said. “They made some plays.”
Julius Randle, who had his right knee treated during the first half, led the Wildcats (22-9, 12-6) with 16 points and 10 rebounds. James Young added 14 points, and Aaron Harrison chipped in 10.
Kentucky trimmed a 22-point deficit to 53-47 with 12 minutes to play, but couldn’t get any closer and ended up getting blown out.
“They’re that good,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said.
West Virginia 92, No. 8 Kansas 86
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Eron Harris scored 28 points, Juwan Staten added 24 and West Virginia withstood 41 points by Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins.
The Mountaineers (17-14, 9-9 Big 12) led by as many as 25 points early in the second half before watching Kansas tear into the deficit behind Wiggins, who fouled out in the final seconds after setting a season high in scoring.
Devin Williams, WVU’s star freshman, had a season-high 22 points along with 13 rebounds. It marked the first time this season that Kansas had allowed three opposing players to score 20 points.
Perry Ellis added 14 points for Kansas (23-8, 14-4), which clinched its 10th straight regular-season title a week ago and had little riding on the Big 12 regular-season finale.
No. 2 Wichita State 67, Missouri State 42
ST. LOUIS — Cleanthony Early scored 20 points with three 3-pointers and a pair of dunks, and Wichita State improved to 33-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference semifinals.
Tekele Cotton also made three 3-pointers for the top-seeded Shockers (33-0), who matched the start by Larry Bird and Indiana State in 1979 before they lost to Michigan State and Magic Johnson in the NCAA title game. Wichita State will be heavily favored against Indiana State or Southern Illinois to make it 34 in a row, which would match the NCAA-record start by UNLV in 1990-91.
Oregon 64, No. 3 Arizona 57
EUGENE, Ore. — Jason Calliste made the go-ahead jumper and free throw with 4:22 left and finished with 18 points as Oregon won its seventh straight.
Johnathan Loyd added 16 points for the Ducks (22-8, 10-8 Pac-10) who greatly improved their chances of a bid in the NCAA tournament.
Aaron Gordon had 21 points for the Wildcats (28-3, 15-3), who had already clinched the Pac-12 regular-season title heading into next week’s conference tournament in Las Vegas.
The Ducks won 13 straight to start the season and got ranked as high as No. 10, but then they lost five straight to tumble out of the poll.
No. 4 Duke 93, No. 14 North Carolina 81
DURHAM, N.C. — Freshman Jabari Parker had a season-high 30 points with 11 rebounds to lead Duke past North Carolina.
Rodney Hood added 24 points to help the Blue Devils (24-7, 13-5) end the Tar Heels’ 12-game winning streak and clinch the No. 3 seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Duke never trailed, shot 51 percent — 57 percent in the second half — and dominated the ACC’s best team on the glass, outrebounding North Carolina 34-20.
Marcus Paige — who led UNC’s second-half comeback two weeks ago — finished with 24 points, while Brice Johnson had 15 and James Michael McAdoo added 13 for the Tar Heels (23-8, 13-5).
No. 6 Villanova 77, Georgetown 59
PHILADELPHIA — Darrun Hilliard scored 19 points to lead Villanova to a dominating victory, preserving the Wildcats’ hopes of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
JayVaughn Pinkston added 13 points, and James Bell and Ryan Arcidiacono had 11 apiece for the Wildcats (28-3, 16-2), who won their sixth straight game while tying the 2005-06 team for second-most wins in program history. Villanova’s 16 Big East wins are the most in school history.
Markel Starks scored 20 points for the Hoyas (17-13, 8-10).
No. 10 San Diego State 51, No. 21 New Mexico 48
SAN DIEGO — Xavier Thames and Matt Shrigley each made two free throws in the final 9 seconds to complete San Diego State’s rally from a 16-point second-half deficit for a victory over New Mexico and the outright Mountain West Conference title.
Thames finished with 23 points for SDSU (27-3, 16-2), which clinched the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament in Las Vegas. Josh Davis, SDSU’s other senior, had nine rebounds.
Cameron Bairstow scored 20 points for New Mexico (24-6, 15-3).
No. 11 Louisville 81, No. 19 Connecticut 48
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Montrezl Harrell scored 20 points, Russ Smith recorded a career-high 13 assists and No. 11 Louisville claimed a share of the American Athletic Conference championship.
Harrell added 11 rebounds and several thunderous dunks to help the Cardinals (26-5, 15-3) finish tied with No. 15 Cincinnati atop the upstart league. A coin flip gave Cincinnati the top seed in the AAC tournament and Louisville the second seed.
Louisville’s defense frustrated the Huskies (24-7, 12-6) into season-worst 29.4 percent shooting in completing the sweep.
No. 12 Michigan 84, Indiana 80
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Glenn Robinson scored 20 points, including a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 1:10 to play, and Jordan Morgan had a double-double in his final home game to help Michigan finish off its Big Ten championship season with a victory over Indiana.
Morgan had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Michigan (23-7 15-3), finishing a season in which he had been expected to be a backup until Mitch McGary injured his back. Nik Stauskas added 21, furthering his case for Big Ten Player of the Year.
Will Sheehey led Indiana (17-14, 7-11) with 17 points.
No. 13 Creighton 88, Providence 73
OMAHA, Neb. — Doug McDermott scored a career-high 45 points and became the eighth player in Division I history to go over 3,000 for a career in helping Creighton roll past Providence.
McDermott passed the milestone with a 3-pointer midway through the second half. After the ball went in, he ran backward with his right hand in the air, three fingers raised. At the next timeout Doug and his coach-father, Greg McDermott, shared a long embrace on the court.
McDermott scored 22 points in the first half as the Bluejays (24-6, 14-4 Big East) put away the Friars (20-11, 10-8) quickly.
No. 15 Cincinnati 70, Rutgers 66
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Sean Kilpatrick scored 24 points and No. 15 Cincinnati clinched a share of the American Athletic Conference regular-season title.
Kilpatrick converted a three-point play and drove the lane for a layup in the final 68 seconds as the Bearcats (26-5, 15-3) rallied from a late deficit against the Scarlet Knights (11-20, 5-13).
No. 16 Iowa State 85, Oklahoma State 81, OT
AMES, Iowa — Naz Long forced overtime with a 30-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer, DeAndre Kane scored five of his 27 points in the closing seconds, and Iowa State overcame a 16-point deficit.
Kane hit a layup and a pair of free throws to put Iowa State ahead 82-79 with 11.7 seconds left.
Georges Niang had 22 points for Iowa State (23-7, 11-7 Big 12), which snapped a two-game losing streak and fell behind by as much as 45-29 before rallying.
Marcus Smart had 27 points to lead the Cowboys (20-11, 8-10).
No. 20 Memphis 67, No. 18 SMU 58
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Joe Jackson scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half to lead Memphis.
Jackson hit his first four shots after intermission as the Tigers (23-8, 12-6 American Athletic Conference) shot 59 percent in the second half while building the lead to as many as 14.
Austin Nichols finished with 14 points and nine rebounds for Memphis.
Nic Moore led the Mustangs (23-8, 12-6) with 16 points.
No. 23 Oklahoma 97, TCU 67
FORT WORTH, Texas — Buddy Hield scored 24 points and Oklahoma clinched the No. 2 seed in the Big 12 tournament.
TCU became the league’s first team in 10 years to go through the regular season without winning a conference game.
Isaiah Cousins and Cameron Clark had 18 points each for the Sooners (23-8, 12-6), who have won five of their last six games. Ryan Spangler added 10 points.
Illinois 66, No. 24 Iowa 63
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Jon Ekey hit a 3-pointer in the final second to lift Illinois over Iowa.
Rayvonte Rice scored 15 points to lead the Illini (18-13, 6-12 Big Ten), who notched consecutive road wins against ranked opponents for the first time since 2005.
Iowa’s Roy Devyn Marble — the Big Ten’s leading scorer — was held to eight points on 3-of-11 shooting. The Hawkeyes (20-11, 9-9) have lost five of their last six games.
By wire sources