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No. 14 Kentucky played much better than final score indicates

Feb 16, 2014, 12:07 AM EDT


No. 3 Florida went into Rupp Arena and knocked off No. 14 Kentucky on Friday night, 69-59.

Casey Prather finished with 24 points and four steals while Scottie Wilbekin went for 23 points and two assists without a turnover while hitting big shot after big shot in the second half. Simply looking at a box score would lead one to believe that this was a dominating performance from the Gators. That’s generally the case when the road team wins by double-digits.

But what a box score won’t tell you is that Kentucky outplayed Florida for a good 30 minutes, and that after 34 minutes of basketball, the Wildcats were tied with Florida at 53.

Kentucky pounded the ball inside in the first half, riding the low-post game of Julius Randle — and some hot shooting from James Young — to a 31-28 halftime lead. In the second half, Florida started doubling every post touch on the catch, forcing Kentucky’s perimeter to make plays to beat them, and they did. The ball moved around the perimeter and Kentucky hit enough of their open looks to build a lead that grew as big as seven midway through the half.

Perhaps most impressive was the Wildcats defense. The final numbers aren’t all that impressive — Florida shot 44.0% from the floor, got to the line 28 times and only committed five turnovers — but that was a combination of Wilbekin hitting tough shots and Prather getting easy buckets in transition. When Kentucky was able to get their defense set, Florida struggled. The Wildcats gave the Gators a number of different looks (straight man-to-man, switching man-to-man, a 2-3 zone) and, for the most part, it was really effective.

The issue with Kentucky all season long has been their defense, and for 30 minutes on Saturday night, the Wildcats played terrific on that end of the floor.

With 11 minutes left, Kentucky held a 45-38 lead.

Florida would outscore them down the stretch 31-14.

What happened?

  • Patric Young turned into Tim Duncan down the stretch. If he’s hitting running hooks and left-handed jump-hooks from 12 feet out, there’s not much you can do.
  • Kentucky gave up too much penetration, which resulted in Florida camping out at the charity stripe. The Gators were 15-for-17 from the line during that span, with only three of those free throws the result of intentional fouling.
  • Two back-breaking offensive rebounds. One was by Will Yeguete, who found Michael Frazier for a three to put Florida up 60-55 and deflate both the crowd and the Wildcats. The other was by Casey Prather, who skied over everyone on Kentucky to get a Grown Man’s Rebound with just 1:23 left.
  • Poor offensive execution down the stretch. Florida dug in their heels defensively, and Kentucky couldn’t score late.

Florida is a very, very good basketball team.

Kentucky outplayed them for 30 minutes.

It’s weird handing out moral victories to a program like Kentucky in February, but when you’re dealing with a team of freshmen, any sign of growth is a good thing. That’s just how it is for this team right now. Kentucky is getting better. We saw it tonight.

Two defensive rebounds.

Six minutes of execution offensively.

That’s how close they were to beating the best team in the country on Saturday.

That’s a far cry from the team that was smacked around by LSU a couple of weeks back, isn’t it?

  1. cranespy - Feb 16, 2014 at 1:17 AM

    Wow… this a biased article or what? UK lost the game and while they did “outplay” the Gators for 31+ minutes the story was clutch shooting and another instance of Cal being “out coached”. A recruiter he IS… “in game” coach he is NOT. But alas. BBN……all is not lost….you all saw the Cats NEXT Coach in action at Rupp last night…Billy will come riding in to save the day once Cal flames out.

    • dlmzzz - Feb 16, 2014 at 2:17 AM

      Are you delusional? There is no way that Donovan would leave UF to go to UK. If you’re contending for national championships at the school you are at, you have nothing to gain by changing schools. Not to go to ANY school.

      • myopinionisrighterthanyours - Feb 16, 2014 at 10:43 AM

        He had his chance to leave for UK after 2007, and did his ill fated bolt to the NBA for three days before thinking better of it. He didn’t do it then, he won’t do it ever. The OP is confusing him for Urb.

  2. jjohnb5393 - Feb 16, 2014 at 6:08 AM

    I’m a cat fan……UK didn’t play all that bad…..actually held a 7 point lead fairly late in the second half. Florida is good….Kentucky is not that good this year…..we will make NCAA , and likely have a shot at winning two games…..that’s about it.

  3. cranespy - Feb 16, 2014 at 9:33 AM

    Dimzz…..hope you are right and I’m dead wrong BUT it happens with nearly EVERY coach sooner or later, especially one as young as Billy D. He has 2 NCs and is making a strong case for a third at UF. I see UK as the ONLY NCAA job he would leave Gatorland for. It will be very attractive, especially if Cal’s run results in only a single National Championship. If only Cal had a little bit of Coach K, Jim B, Rick P, Billy D, T Izzo, Shaka Smart or Hugs COACHING ability he would be compared to John Wodden now…..unfortunately even the hardcore Cat fan would have to admit Cal has UNDERPERFORMED with the talent pipeline he has created.

  4. jthammerstix - Feb 16, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    40-0 baby!!!!

  5. gogatorsjohn - Feb 16, 2014 at 6:13 PM

    No moral victories for Kentucky. While I still think they can be dangerous during the NCAA tournament, Florida was the better team last night. The experienced seniors out-dueled the young Cats.

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