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Kentucky holds lead over Gators

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 1, 2001


LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Jason Parker went into Kentucky's game against Auburn with a knot in his stomach.

Coming off the worst game of his young career, a one-point, four-rebound performance at Arkansas, the 6-foot-8, 255-pound freshman wanted badly to punish someone.

The Tigers bore the brunt of Parker's foul mood as he scored a career-high 19 on a variety of nifty moves and thundering dunks to lead the 15th-ranked Wildcats to a 90-78 victory Wednesday night.

Parker owned the paint, shooting 9-of-12 from the field and grabbing six rebounds as Kentucky clinched a share of its 41st SEC championship and the top seed in next week's conference tournament.

"I wanted to come out and dominate, and I did," Parker said. "Coming off the Arkansas game, I was already mad."

The Wildcats won for the ninth time in their past 10 games. Kentucky, which leads Florida by a game in the Eastern Division, can claim the championship outright with a victory at Florida on Sunday.

"It's certainly a good feeling that we at least tied for the SEC championship," said Kentucky coach Tubby Smith, whose team has won 16 of 19 since opening 3-5.

"At the beginning of the year, that seemed like an unattainable goal. I'm proud of this team. I think we've shown a lot of heart throughout the season to recover from a tough start."

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