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Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky get crucial victory over No. 11 Florida

Mar 9, 2013, 2:32 PM EDT

Willie Cauley-Stein AP

In a game that Kentucky badly needed to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive, Willie Cauley-Stein blocked four shots and grabbed eight rebounds in a 61-57 Wildcat win over No. 11 Florida at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.

Kentucky’s work is not yet done, but it can breathe a sigh of relief for now.

This is the final game of the regular season, but it is Kentucky’s first signature win. In a weak SEC, the chance for a win like this does not often come around, and the Wildcats missed out on quality-win opportunities earlier in the year against Duke, Notre Dame, Baylor, Louisville, and Florida. Add that to back-to-back unpalatable losses to Arkansas and Georgia, and this win Saturday becomes even more important.

Kentucky has an RPI of 54 and SOS of 72. Saturday’s win over Florida is its first over a Top 50 RPI opponent after losing its previous four this season. As unimpressive as that may be, it puts it ahead of other SEC bubble teams, namely Alabama and Ole Miss. Alabama is 0-4 against the RPI Top 50 and Kentucky now pulls even with Ole Miss’ one win from that group, which was a win over Missouri.

And that’s where the SEC tournament comes into play. Kentucky needs to separate itself from the other SEC bubble teams by winning a few games to solidify a spot in the NCAAs and avoid the NIT. The win Saturday was a step in the right direction, but there is still work to be done.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

  1. coach1959 - Mar 9, 2013 at 5:37 PM

    This is not Kentucky’s year, but the faithful will enjoy every WIN left in this team. Not to be overlooked is Coach Cal’s decision to put Cauley-Stein back into the game earlier than the “commentators” wanted him to. His presence stopped to Florida run and allowed Ky to opportunity to pull out a win. Coach Cal may have his critics, but he showed super coaching skills today.

  2. florida727 - Mar 9, 2013 at 9:57 PM

    Not to take anything away from Kentucky’s win, they took the game away, but Florida better learn how to win on the road, and fast, or their tournament run will be brief. Up 57-50 with almost 8 minutes left and they don’t score a single point the rest of the way? Sorry, but Kentucky’s defense isn’t that good, not without Noel.

    The Gators gave away games at Arizona and K-State and Missouri and Tennessee. Couple that will a lackluster effort at Arkansas and you’re not looking at a #1 or #2 or maybe even #3 or #4 seed. The defense was solid, but the offense choked. Almost every shot in the closing minutes came up short. That’s a sign of tightness in the shirt collar.

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