2021 is supposed to be a year to turn things around. It turns out the Kentucky Wildcats took this to heart.
After starting the 2020-21 season just 1-7, the Cats have now won their first three SEC contests including bringing down the Florida Gators 76-58 on Saturday in Gainesville.
We're 3-0 in 2️⃣0️⃣2️⃣1️⃣ pic.twitter.com/lv4HZJo7RL
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) January 10, 2021
Right out of the gate, the Gators seemed to be having their best game of the year. However, after a long delay to fix a net, all of the power and energy seemed to be drained from the team. And apparently channeled into the Kentucky team. Florida would only hold the lead in the game for only five minutes.
Tre Mann also exited the court in the second half after taking a hard fall and did not return.
It seemed having Keion Brooks Jr. back helped Kentucky find their rhythm. Brooks scored 12 points for the Wildcats and added six rebounds and four assists.
Davion Mintz and Brandon Boston Jr. led a balanced scoring attack for Kentucky with 13 points each. Boston added four rebounds, three assists and four steals while Mintz added three assists and two steals.
The three leading scorers for Florida were three newcomers to the team this year. Anthony Duruji led the way for the Gators with 15 points and three rebounds. Tyree Appleby brought in 10 points and an assist.
And while he only came in for the final minutes of the game, freshman Samson Ruzhentsev scored eight points for the Gators, which was more than the other three starters for Florida.
How it Happened
The first few minutes of the game showcased the Gator junior transfers with Appleby, Duruji and Colin Castleton getting the first three buckets of the game. Another three from Tre Mann put Florida up 10-5 in the early minutes of the game.
After a long break to fix a net, the Wildcats found their rhythm quickly and tied the game up at 10. Brooks also entered the game for Kentucky for the first time this season. The extended timeout to fix the net seemed to be just what Kentucky needed. After the pause, the Cats went on a 10-0 run which included two threes from Dontaie Allen.
The Gators retook the lead 20-19 after Mann’s second three of the game. However, after that, the Gators missed their next five field goals. Florida guard Noah Locke also missed a good part of the second half after taking a hit to the head. Kentucky regained all the momentum and was up 31-24 with just over four minutes left in the first half.
Florida was able to close that gap a little bit by the end of the first half but still went to the locker room down 35-29.
At the half, Duruji seemed to be setting up his best game yet. He put up 11 points and three rebounds at the break.
Duruji came right back out and got started for the Gators again. But after the Cats make two huge shots out of the gate, and Florida was forced to burn a timeout just barely a minute into the second half.
However, that timeout did not seem to do much. Kentucky came right back out and set up a huge dunk from Brooks. Just four minutes into the second half, the Gators already had 10 turnovers to Kentucky’s five.
Meanwhile, everything Kentucky put up seemed to be going in, putting the Gators down by 18. However, Locke found his comfort zone and knocked down a huge corner three, which was followed by a shot clock violation on the Wildcats. But going with the trend of the game, the momentum did not stay with Florida for very long.
The Cats went on another 7-0 run to extend their lead 60-41. And Kentucky continued to plow through Florida and with just four minutes left they were up by 21. Ruzhentsev brought Kentucky’s lead down to 18 after coming in the game for the first time and hitting a three.
Even though Ruzhentsev was not put in until the last three minutes of the game, he quickly had more points than some of the Gator starters. He knocked down another three with just over a minute to play.
With the loss to Kentucky, the Gators fall to 5-3 overall and 2-2 in conference play. Florida will remain at home for their next SEC match up against Ole Miss on January 12. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.