In a marquee matchup in Gainesville this ranked Kentucky Wildcats close out their regular season ranked Florida Gators in SEC action at the O'Connell Center.
John Calipari's Wildcats took all the fun out of a conference race early on by blowing through the competition en route to a perfect 15-0 league ledger at this point. Kentucky, which comes into the season-finale with the nation's longest win streak in tow at 21 games, finished off its third straight perfect season in Lexington with a 79-49 rout of Georgia on Wednesday.
Billy Donovan's Gators still have some work to do. Florida, which has already secured a first-round bye in the upcoming SEC Tournament, is a half game up on both Vanderbilt and Tennessee in the conference standings and can pick up the two-seed with a victory over Kentucky. The Gators however, come into the regular-season finale on a down note, losing back-to-back games at Georgia and Vanderbilt to fall to 10-5 in-conference.
Kentucky holds a sizeable 91-33 advantage in the all-time series with Florida and is seeking the regular-season sweep after blowing out the Gators at Rupp Arena on Feb. 7, 78-58.
The Wildcats displayed their dominance at both ends of the floor in a 30-point romp over Georgia last time out. Kentucky was led in the scoring column by Darius Miller, who certainly made the most of Senior Night, finishing with 17 points, thanks in large part to a 5-of-9 showing from behind the arc. Doron Lamb added 13 points to the cause, while Michael Kidd-Gilchrist chipped in with 12. All-American candidate Anthony Davis had a quiet outing by his standards, playing 22 minutes and finishing with nine points, eight rebounds and two blocks.
The Wildcats lead the nation in field-goal percentage defense (.364) and scoring margin (+19.4), while ranking 14th in scoring defense (58.5 ppg) and 10th in rebounding margin (+7.4). It certainly helps to have a game-changer in the low post and there may not be a better example of that than Kentucky's freshman phenom. The 6-10 Davis, a favorite for National Player of the Year, ranks second nationally in field-goal percentage (.661), first in blocked shots (4.7 bpg) and leads Kentucky in both scoring (14.1 ppg) and rebounding (9.8 rpg). The youth movement continues with sophomores Lamb (13.5 ppg) and Terrence Jones (12.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and freshman Kidd-Gilchrist (12.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg). Miller (10.2 ppg) provides the veteran leadership off the bench, while freshman point guard Marquis Teague (9.7 ppg, 4.7 apg) is charged with making it all work for this potent team.
Florida is one team that can match Kentucky's offensive firepower, albeit in a completely different way. The Gators are at their best when they are spreading the ball around and hitting their long range shots. Florida leads the SEC in assists (14.9 apg) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3) and leads the entire country in three-pointers made (10.0 per game). It all starts with junior guard Kenny Boyton, who is netting 17.1 ppg and ranks third nationally with 3.4 three-pointers per outing. He is fifth in the nation in total three- pointers made (101). The aerial onslaught continues with fellow guards Bradley Beal (14.7 ppg, 47 three-pointers) and Erving Walker (12.6 ppg, 60 three- pointers) and forward Erik Murphy (9.9 ppg, 46 three-pointers). Center Patric Young (10.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, .612 shooting percentage) provides limited balance up front.
The Gators were beaten at their own game on Tuesday, as Vanderbilt drilled 12 three-pointers to top Florida by 10 points in Nashville. Beal paced Florida in the loss with 16 points. Walker poured in 15 and Boyton added 11, but Florida as a whole was just 8-of-24 from behind the arc in the game.