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No. 6 Kentucky rallied from an 11-point first-half deficit on the road to beat Florida 87-85 Saturday in the SEC opener for both teams behind clutch contributions from a group of freshmen playing in their first hostile environment of the season. Freshman center Aaron Bradshaw hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:27 remaining to give the Wildcats their first lead since early in the second half.

From there, fellow freshman Reed Sheppard made 6-of-6 free throws over the final 20 seconds to help the Wildcats cement the victory. 

Kentucky (11-2, 1-0 SEC) entered ranked No. 2 nationally in 3-point shooting percentage at 41.6% but made just 1 of 10 looks from beyond the arc in the first half while falling behind 45-37 at the break. 

But it was Florida (10-4, 0-1) that went cold in the second half as the Gators made just 1 of 11 attempts from beyond the arc while the Wildcats battled back. Kentucky technically played a true road game against Louisville on Dec. 21, but there was a large amount of Wildcat fans in the arena that night as UK easily beat its in-state rival 95-76. 

Saturday brought a new type of test, mirroring the challenges Kentucky will be required navigate over the next two months as it battles for SEC supremacy.

While the productivity of UK's six freshmen stood out, its veterans were once again a steadying force in the face of adversity. Senior guard Antonio Reeves led with the Wildcats with 19 points while senior forward Tre Mitchell added 12 points and 10 rebounds.

UK freshman lead second-half surge

Kentucky's five primary freshman combined to go 5 of 16 from the floor for 13 points in the first half. With Florida building a lead behind a barrage of 3-pointers, UK relied on the veteran duo of Reeves and Mitchell, who combined for 21 of the team's 37 points while UF commanded most of the action. 

But the diaper dandies turned it around in the second half. Kentucky's five primary freshmen made 11 of 18 shots from the field and 12 of 17 free throws while combining for 37 of Kentucky's 50 points after the break.

The late 3-pointer from Bradshaw was a particularly encouraging sign, both for the Wildcats and for Bradshaw's NBA Draft prospects. There is little doubt of the 7-footer's defensive upside and potential as a lob threat. But in a relatively weak draft class, the consistent display of a 3-point shot could help Bradshaw surge toward the top of the board. He is now 3 for 5 from beyond the arc in six games, which will only help the Wildcats as they continue to play a more modern, up-tempo pace predicated on floor spacing and perimeter shooting.

Florida remains a mystery

Florida entered 0-3 in Quad 1 games and 10-0 in all other contests. The Gators certainly appear improved under second-year coach Todd Golden, but are still seeking firm validation of that improvement in the form of a marquee victory. Losses against Virginia, Baylor and Kentucky have come by a combed nine points.

That Gators play at Ole Miss on Wednesday and host Arkansas next Saturday before getting another crack at a top-10 opponent on Jan. 16 at Tennessee. A win over the Volunteers was Florida's biggest victory last season as UF went 9-9 league play and 16-17 overall with a first-round NIT loss to UCF. Sights are set higher in Golden's second season, and for stretches of Saturday's game, the Gators looked menacing.

WIth transfer guards Walter Clayton and Zyon Pullin providing added offensive punch and a trio of bigs making the Gators a ruthless shot-blocking and rebounding team, Golden has the ingredients of an NCAA Tournament team. But Florida entered the day's action as one of the "Last 4 in" the projected field, according to CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm. Nothing is going to come easy in the SEC this season, and the Gators have a lot of work to do over the next two months if they are going to make the Big Dance.