Florida-Kentucky Preview

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

season.

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

season.

“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

points.

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

prepared for.”

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

turnovers.

“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

Friday.