Florida gears up for test at No. 1 Kentucky

BY foxsports • February 7, 2012

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- The way No. 8 Florida sees it, all the pressure is on top-ranked Kentucky.

The Wildcats have a 15-game winning streak, have won a nation-best 48 in a row at home and hold the top spot in the Southeastern Conference. They have five players averaging double figures, including freshman phenom Anthony Davis, and have allowed only three opponents to top 65 points all season.

They have one of the most complete rosters in the country.

If the Gators win Tuesday night in Lexington, Ky., it's an upset. If they lose, it's expected.

"There's no pressure on us, going into Rupp, just playing our game," Florida guard Kenny Boynton said. "We've just got to go there with a winning mind-set. Everything else will take care of itself."

Florida has won seven in a row, including beating ranked teams Mississippi State and Vanderbilt, to climb back into the top 10. The key has been defense. The Gators haven't allowed an opponent to shoot higher than 44 percent from the field during their winning streak.

But they haven't faced anyone like Kentucky.

Coach John Calipari has taken three talented freshmen -- Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague -- and gotten them to build instant chemistry alongside sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. Throw in senior Darius Miller, who's given the Gators fits in recent years, and it's easy to see why the Wildcats are the top team in the country.

"They're playing very, very well," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "I think one of the things for them is their team continues to get better. Whether they're ranked No. 1 or No. 5, clearly they're one of the best teams in the country, there's no doubt about that. ... So, there's really nothing with their team when you look at it that appears like a real glaring weakness."

Kentucky's biggest strength is its frontcourt.

The 6-foot-10 Davis leads the team in scoring and rebounding, and tops the nation in blocked shots. His 116 blocks is one more than the conference's previous freshman record set by LSU's Shaquille O'Neal's in 1990.

"He's great at it," Donovan said. "He does it on the ball. He does it off the ball. I think you've got to be smart when you're attacking the basket. Certainly he is very, very long. He alters the game. He adds a different dimension at the basket for their team, so it can't be a situation where we're not going to go to the basket or not post up because he's there. I just think you've got to make good, wise choices because when he does block shots it's certainly ignites them on the fast break and they're a terrific, transition, fast-breaking team."

Florida's strength is its backcourt and 3-point shooting. Boynton and fellow guard Erving Walker have combined for 52 assists and 18 turnovers during the team's winning streak.

And they're a big reason the Gators lead the nation in 3-pointers.

No surprise, the arc is the main area of concern for the Wildcats.

"You just know that they're going to take 30, however you guard it, so my guess would be let's make sure they're guarded," Calipari said. "And if they still make 20, we've had a heck of a start; who do we play next? I mean, they're going to take 30. What if they make 20? They may take 35. What if they make 25?"

In Kentucky's closest games of the season, a one-point win over North Carolina and a one-point loss at Indiana, the Wildcats gave up a combined 20 3-pointers.

"It's an OK way to play," Jones said. "You can live or die by it. We're just going to have to play how we have been playing the last couple of games and we need to build off that."

The Gators haven't shot nearly as well on the road, but that doesn't mean they will be rattled playing at always-packed Rupp Arena. After all, Florida already has played at Ohio State and at Syracuse this season. The Gators lost both of those, and even though they insist the pressure's on Kentucky, they know what a victory would mean.

"A victory would get us a lot of respect," Boynton said. "But at the end of the day, they're just another SEC team to us. They're no different from Tennessee or South Carolina. If we go out there and play the way we've been playing lately, we've got a great chance of winning."