UF Men’s Basketball Seeks Big Win Over Top Ranked Kentucky Wildcats

The Florida Gator men’s basketball team will look to bounce back on Saturday when they welcome the top ranked Kentucky Wildcats.  This will be the 11th time the Gators have faced the Wildcats when they were the number one team in the country and they are 0-10 in those previous meetings.

Despite taking all three games from John Calipari’s team last season, the Gators are 17-24 against Kentucky under head coach Billy Donovan and he notes this specific team may be one of the best.

“Obviously they’re a terrific team. They’ve got obviously a great mix of young guys, they’ve got some experienced guys that have been in the program for some years now and they have really good size and length.”

The Gators (12-10, 5-4) come into this game fresh off one of their worst performances of the entire season. The Gators fell to the Vanderbilt Commodores on Tuesday night while riding the momentum of one of their biggest wins of the season against the Arkansas Razorbacks just a few days earlier. Despite a tremendous performance from junior shooting guard Michael Frazier II the Gators shot a very poor 36 percent from the field.

Despite outscoring the Commodores by six points inside the paint, the Gators were dominated in the front court as they were out-rebounded by 16 and the Commodores left Tuesday night’s match up with nine blocks compared to the Gators two.

Things won’t get any easier for the Gators on Saturday night as the Wildcats boast the nation’s second best defense in points allowed per game (51) and second in blocks averaging just over seven per game. With big inside players such as freshman Karl-Anthony Towns and junior Willie Cauley-Stein taking up space inside the paint it will be very difficult for the Gators to get any penetration and Donovan knows his team has a tall task in front of them.

“You know playing Kentucky on Saturday they are going to have clearly a lot more size than what Vanderbilt had so that’s clearly got to be an area of focus for us.”

The Gators currently sit with just two players in double figures with Frazier and redshirt junior Dorian Finney-Smith averaging 13 and 12 points per game respectively. Florida will be looking for other guys to step Saturday night and that guy could be red shirt junior Eli Carter. Carter is averaging just under eight points on the season and sits third on the team in scoring. Against Vanderbilt Carter put up a total of 17 shots, converting just five and Donovan spoke about the improvements his former transfer needs to make.

“I think that he’s got to make much better decisions when he gets in the lane and he has to be a lot sharper and crisper with the ball than he has been. And he’s got to play with a better speed and pace to him.”

With Kentucky showcasing such strength inside the Gators will also need to see better outings from two of their biggest players in senior Jon Horford and sophomore Chris Walker. The two have been very inconsistent this season. Add Walker and Horford to guys like Devin Robinson, Chris Chiozza and Alex Murphy and Donovan will certainly be looking for more of a team effort on Saturday night to have any chance of pulling a massive upset.

The Wildcats (22-0, 9-0) will be entering this game on quite the hot streak having won their last four games by double digits. Despite being put to the test in their first two SEC games of the season, the Wildcats have really turned things on as of late. Coach Calipari’s bunch currently boasts two scorers in double figures in Aaron Harrison and Devin Booker who average 11 and 10 points per game respectively but scoring has come from seemingly every facet of this team. Cauley-Stein, Towns and Andrew Harrison all average over eight points per game and the team is shooting over 46 percent on the season.

Only four teams have been able to keep the final deficit to single digits this season against the Wildcats and Donovan notes that Kentucky’s strength is their ability to beat you in a variety of ways.

“You know they’ve got a lot of answers on the floor and a lot of ways I think to beat you. You know, really good teams can beat you in a variety of ways. They can do it by offensive rebounding, posting up, shooting threes, through their shot blocking, and being stifling on defense. So they have a lot of answers where if one part of their game isn’t going well for them they have a lot of other things to fall back on.”

Florida has just two wins versus the nation’s number one team under Billy Donovan and they will certainly need a lot of help to make it three on Saturday night.

You can hear all the action of Saturday’s game on our sister station Country 103.7 the Gator with coverage starting at 8:25 followed by tip at 9.

To hear the audio of the bites above, click on the links below:

Billy Donovan gives his evaluation on Kentucky

Billy Donovan says UK can beat you in a variety of ways

Billy Donovan talks about Kentucky’s size and length

Billy Donovan talks Eli Carter’s struggles

 

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