Kentucky opened SEC tournament play with perhaps a tougher
challenge than it expected, but the conference’s only other ranked
team hasn’t been able to give the Wildcats much of a contest this
No. 22 Florida gets a third chance at the nation’s top-ranked
team in Saturday’s semifinal matchup in New Orleans, also a rematch
of last year’s championship game.
Kentucky (31-1) rolled to a second straight SEC tournament title
with a 70-54 win over the Gators last March, and Florida (23-9) has
provided equally little resistance in this season’s meetings.
The Wildcats – potentially marching toward the No. 1 overall
seed in the NCAA tournament – won twice by an average of 17.5
points, including a 74-59 victory in Gainesville last Sunday to cap
a perfect regular season in SEC play.
“They have really good chemistry, they’re really together,”
Florida big man Patric Young said of Kentucky after that game. “No
one’s out there trying to score for himself. … They have a really
complete team. It will be really tough to beat them.”
SEC player of the year Anthony Davis, who has averaged 19.0
points and 5.0 blocked shots in the two meetings with the Gators
while shooting 17 of 26, is a huge reason why Kentucky is so tough.
The freshman had 12 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks Friday in a
60-51 quarterfinal win over LSU.
John Calipari’s team forced its way into the semifinals by
holding the Tigers to 29.4 percent shooting, but the coach wasn’t
thrilled after Kentucky trailed in the second half and finished
with 18 turnovers – its highest total against an SEC foe this
“I’ll go back and watch the tape and see what adjustments (need
to be made), because people will be watching the tape, saying ‘This
is how you need to play them,'” Calipari said. “And we have been
played every way possible.”
Still, none of the Wildcats’ last 23 opponents have played them
successfully, with Kentucky always finding someone to step up from
its massive stable of talent. Friday’s offensive leader was
freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who scored a game-high 19
Sophomore Terrence Jones added 15 after scoring 19 on 9-of-13
shooting last weekend against the Gators.
“They’re obviously a terrific team,” Florida coach Billy Donovan
said. “There’s probably not a whole bunch that you’re going to be
able to tweak and change. … There’s only so much you can get
Donovan’s team earned another shot at an upset by holding off
Alabama 66-63 on Friday despite squandering a 12-point lead in the
second half. Kenny Boynton scored Florida’s last five points with a
3-pointer and two free throws to help secure the win.
The fourth-seeded Gators delivered a workmanlike effort, winning
even though the Crimson Tide shot much better – 53.3 percent to
Florida’s 38.5 percent. Florida matched a season low with five
“Our team, we’re mature,” Boynton said. “We’ve been through
everything, played the best teams throughout this year, so I think
we’ll come out (Saturday) and be ready to play.”
Young has been the Gators’ best weapon versus Kentucky this
season, averaging 16.5 points while making 15 of 25 from the field,
but Florida’s guards have struggled.
Senior Erving Walker has totaled just eight points on 3-of-18
shooting against the Wildcats, while standout freshman Bradley Beal
hit 1 of 10 shots Sunday. Beal led the Gators with 16 points