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Florida's Kerry Blackshear Jr., right, shoots against Connecticut's Josh Carlton during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Preview: Gators men’s basketball host Kentucky for Senior Day

While the students relax on spring break, Florida is preparing for their final game of the regular season. On Saturday, March 7, the Gators men’s basketball team hosts the sixth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats for Senior Day. This game is a rematch of Feb. 22, where the Gators lost to the Wildcats 65-59 in the Rupp.

With a win, the Gators clinch the second seed in the upcoming SEC tournament and a 20-win season. With a loss, Florida could seed anywhere between two and five in the SEC tournament depending on the results of other SEC games.

Game notes

Previously, the Gators allowed Kentucky’s Immanuel Quickley to dominate from range. On Feb. 22, Quickley scored 26 points on 4-6 shooting from three-point range. He also shoots over 40% from range on the season.

According to Florida head coach Mike White, Quickley deserves to be SEC player of the year.

“I think Quickley is deserving to be the conference player of the year. He’s had a fantastic season. Offensively, (he) lets it come to him, he can drive you, draws fouls, converts at what, like 90 percent? (He) takes great shots, makes great shots, really moves without the basketball.” -Mike White on Immanuel Quickley

The Gators are equally as impressive from range. Florida ranks first in the SEC in three-point percentage and field goal percentage. Much of that is due to sophomore Noah Locke, who is shooting an incredible 49% from three in conference play. Against Kentucky on Feb. 22, Locke went 0-5 from three. One of the major keys to this game is getting his shots to fall early and often.

Against Georgia, Locke caught fire from range, hitting three three-point shots in the second half. What does not appear in the stat-sheet is Keyontae Johnson’s impressive screening for Locke that gave the sophomore guard wide-open looks from beyond the arc.

Senior Day

For Florida, Saturday marks the last regular-season game for the team’s seniors. Before tip-off, Kerry Blackshear Jr and Chris Sutherland will be recognized and celebrated. For a team made up of mostly freshmen and sophomores, the few seniors on the roster play an even more crucial role.

According to coach White, his team would be in, “a world of hurt” if Blackshear Jr. was not on the roster.

On the season, Blackshear Jr. averages 13.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. For much of the season, he led the team in scoring average. As of late, Johnson has made a push and now leads the team with 14.1 points per game.

Blackshear Jr’s presence inside and ability to draw fouls in the paint is something the Gators have leaned on heavily this season. Often, guards would find open shots outside after Blackshear Jr. kicked the ball out to the perimeter.

Sutherland was a former manager for the Gators and now holds a roster spot. According to Keyontae Johnson, he and Sutherland have made a connection.

The senior from Queens, New York recorded his first point as a Gator on Feb. 15 against Vanderbilt. The point came from the free-throw line in the late minutes of the game when coach White subbed Sutherland in. Coach White has nothing but positive things to say about his team’s lesser-known senior. According to White, Sutherland brings energy to the team that is unmatched.

“What a great story. Infectious energy. If you come to the gym… immediately you’d hear him. You want guys like that in your program.” -Mike White on Chris Sutherland

Coverage

Tip-off of the Gators men’s basketball Senior Day against Kentucky is at 1 pm on Saturday, March 7. Senior Day festivities start at 12:45 pm.

Television coverage is at 1 pm on CBS.

About Steven Walker

Steven Walker is a beat writer for ESPN Gainesville and is currently studying Journalism & Sports Media at the University of Florida.

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