Feb 4, 2017; Gainesville, FL, USA;Florida Gators guard Kasey Hill (0) drives to the basket as Kentucky Wildcats guard Malik Monk (5) defends during the first half at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

No. 24 Florida Men’s Basketball Dominates No.8 Kentucky

The Florida men’s basketball team has had some big wins recently. They defeated Oklahoma 84-52, LSU 106-71, and beat Missouri by more than 30 points but few people expected the Gators to blow out eighth-ranked Kentucky but that’s exactly what happened in an 88-66 home win Saturday night.

Quality Win

It could be argued that this win means a little more than the others, but a win is a win. The Gators haven’t beaten Kentucky since 2014 and had lost five in a row to the Wildcats before Saturday night.  The Florida team to last defeat the Wildcats was the team that made it to the Final Four in the NCAA tournament. This 22 point victory was the largest win in school history over the Wildcats and it was Florida’s first win over a ranked opponent this season.

Hill Comes Up Huge

Senior guard Kasey Hill, who is the only remaining player who was on that Final Four roster, led the Gators in points with 21 while chipping in with six assists and five rebounds.

 “I thought he was fantastic, and the fact that he made some big offensive plays to compliment how hard he’s playing defensively was great,” Florida coach Mike White said of Hill.

Hill even seemed to surprise head Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari with his performance as he described Hill as someone who “is not a jump shooter.” However, Hill says that his success comes from those extra hours outside of practice.  “I’ve just been working on my game, over the summer and even during the season, just staying in the gym,” Hill said.

Hill started off well but had two fouls and was benched in the first half. However, when he got back in, he played very good defense on Kentucky’s Malik Monk, who is the leading scorer in the SEC.

Other top players in this game for Florida included junior forward Devin Robinson. Robinson flirted with a double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds for the Gators while junior guard Chris Chiozza scored two points but went for nine rebounds and nine assists as well. Other players scoring in the double figures were Canyon Barry with 14 points and KeVaughn Allen with 12.

Gators Stifle UK Offense

The Wildcats were ranked first in rebounding in the SEC coming into this game. However, a staggering statistic shows that the Wildcats blasted on the boards by Florida to the tune of a 54-29 advantage.

Kentucky entered the game leading the league shooting 49.1 percent from the floor, but ended the first half shooting just 30 percent.

Florida held UK to a season-low 66 points as the Wildcats shot 37.7 percent from the floor and 33 percent from deep. The Wildcats we led by De’Aaron Fox with 19 points. Malik Monk added 11 points for the Wildcats but was just 4 of 14 from the floor and 3 of 7 from deep. Monk is the leading scorer in the league at 22.4 points per game.

Kentucky is a team that knows how to come back. They overcame a 14 point first half deficit against Georgia on Tuesday and had the same mission against Florida when they went on a 7-0 run to cut Florida’s 34-26 lead at halftime to four points thanks to De’Aaron Fox’s three-point play early in the second half.

Strong Second Half

Canyon Barry stepped in and had back-to-back baskets including a three. Malik Monk then came back with a three as well but the Gators didn’t let that stop their rhythm. Hill scored three of his team’s next four baskets and gave Florida a 51-40 lead. UK then never got closer than nine points.

Hill and Robinson then helped the Gators go on a 13-0 run which included a three from Robinson and  two baskets by Hill. After that run Florida led 75-52 against the Wildcats and the Gators just kept going to get a huge win which will for sure help their NCAA Tournament resume.

White is very pleased with the win but wants his team to get refocused for their next game.

“We can’t celebrate this, but an hour. I’ll go home, hug my kids and have a big pizza with my wife. Then we’re on to Georgia, we have another quick turn,” he said.

The Gators are now tied for second in the SEC with Kentucky with an 8-2 conference mark, trailing 9-1 South Carolina. Now the Gators will prepare to take on the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens on Tuesday.


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