Everything you need to know about Kentucky vs Florida
Who: Kentucky 17-3 (6-1) vs Florida 12-8 (4-3)
When: Saturday at 4pm
Where: Gainesville, Florida
All-time series: Kentucky is 100-40 all-time against Florida. The Cats have lost their last 2 games at Florida and also lost both games against the Gators last season.
Gators top five players: KeVaughn Allen 6’2 SR averaging 13.2 points, 2.7 assists, 1.6 steals per game. Shoots 37% from 3-pt.
Noah Locke 6’3 FR averaging 11.7 points, 2.3 rebounds per game. Shoots 43% from 3-pt.
Andrew Nembhard 6’5 FR averaging 7.3 points, 6 assists, 2.9 rebounds, 1.3 steals per game.
Kevarrius Hayes 6’9 SR averaging 7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.1 blocks per game.
Keyontae Johnson 6’5 FR averaging 6.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.1 steals per game.
About Florida this season: The Gators have struggled more than expected this year and they are currently projected to miss the NCAA tournament as one of the last teams out. Obviously a win against Kentucky would be a huge boost to their tournament resume. Much of their struggles are due to the shocking decline in production from Jalen Hudson who averaged 16 points last season. He has fallen out of the starting lineup this season and is averaging just 6 points per game. He shot over 40% from 3 last season but is under 25% this season. Much of the pre season predictions for Florida centered around his return as the Gators leading scorer. His play has resulted in some major issues on offense for Florida. The other issue has been the loss of a couple solid post players that have left the Gators extremely thin inside. Despite these issues they have played tremendous defense all season long and it has kept them in the hunt for a tournament bid. When they are knocking down shots from beyond the arc it makes them hard to beat. Unfortunately for them they often go through prolonged scoring droughts that have cost them some games this year. They have the 10th ranked scoring defense in the nation which ranks highest in the SEC. Their lack of size inside has led to a struggle with rebounding the ball. They rank just 213th in the country in rebounding margin, compared to UK which ranks 7th. KeVaughn Allen and Noah Locke are the Gators only consistent scoring threats so limiting their 3-pt looks is a key. Five star freshman point guard Andrew Nembhard is a very good facilitator that excels at creating scoring opportunities for his teammates. If Ashton Hagans can disrupt Nembhard it will be a major problem for the Gators. There should be a very good crowd there and Florida needs this win in a very bad way. They will need to shoot the ball very well and play great defense if they hope to win.
What does Kentucky need to do: The Cats are one of the best rebounding teams in the country and that is a weak spot for Florida. Kentucky must turn that into a huge advantage on the glass if they want to make life a lot easier on Saturday. The lack of size for Florida is similar to Kansas who had no way to defend both Reid Travis and PJ Washington. The Cats should use a similar attack of feeding the duo inside as much as possible. Florida may try to negate the Cats size advantage by packing the paint with a zone on defense. That would create plenty of scoring opportunities from beyond the arc for Kentucky. Tyler Herro has not made a 3 in two straight games but that will end on Saturday. His size is going to be a major problem for the Gators back court who lacks the length to defend him. This just feels like a big Tyler Herro game to me. The team has to come into the game with the exact same intensity that they started the game with at Vanderbilt. Can they string together back to back easy wins on the road?
What will happen: For the last 20 years Florida has been as tough of a place to win at for Kentucky as anywhere in the SEC. The crowd probably won’t be as hyped as it has been for some games in the past but I still expect it to be a very hostile atmosphere. Their defense is the best that Kentucky has faced this season and that should allow them to keep the game fairly close for much of the contest. Eventually the Gators scoring problems will rear it’s head and it will allow the Cats to go on a run. In the end I think the Cats pull away with a 67-59 win. No matter what the margin ends up being the key is to just get out of Gainesville with a win.