GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Florida may have found the answer to playing without versatile forward Will Yeguete.
Patric Young had 21 points and nine rebounds, his best game in nearly three months, in a 74-59 loss to top-ranked Kentucky on Sunday.
Young's performance wasn't close to being enough to help the Gators beat the Wildcats, who capped a perfect season in Southeastern Conference play, but it gave them hope following a three-game losing streak that they might just be OK in the post.
"Patric Young was a beast," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "Patric Young plays like that they're fine in postseason. They're fine. Just Patric, whatever you had for breakfast this morning, eat it, because he dominated us. You have to understand you don't want to leave their 3-point shooters to try to double him, which is your option. He was really, really good."
Young made 10 of 15 shots and finished with five offensive rebounds, giving the Gators a physical presence in the post.
It's something coach Billy Donovan has been looking for much of the season from his 6-foot-9 sophomore center. Young was at his best in early December against Arizona. He had 25 points and 10 rebounds. But he wasn't the same after sustaining tendinitis in his right ankle a few weeks later.
"It's just a mentality," Young said. "I can do that every day. I just have to come in with the right mind-set to practice, to the game."
The Gators (22-9, 10-6) need more consistency from Young, especially without Yeguete, who broke his left foot last week and is out for the season. Florida is 0-3 without Yeguete, clearly missing his scrappy rebounding and relentless hustle at the top of the press.
Young picked up the slack against Kentucky.
"This has been, I think as a coach, rewarding for me, frustrating for me, scratch my head sometimes, trying to get Patric to understand that he can control his mind-set in getting himself prepared to play," Donovan said. "I think sometimes mentally you can convince yourself of something. You basically deal with it as truth, 'My knee is really bothering me today so we're going to focus on that the whole entire day.'"
Against Kentucky, Young showed more agility that he has in weeks, maybe even months.
It did little, however, to offset Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones.
Davis had 22 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks, and Jones added 19 points as Kentucky (30-1, 16-0) set a school record for regular-season wins, extended its winning streak to 22 games and secured its hold on a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats are the No. 1 seed in next week's SEC tournament.
The Wildcats became just the third team since Alabama in 1956 to go unbeaten in SEC play. The other two? Kentucky. The powerhouse program accomplished the feat in 1996 and 2003.
"To be a part of one of them, it's a great honor," Davis said.
Big Blue faced little resistance in the regular-season finale.
The Wildcats used an 8-0 run in the second half to make it a double-digit lead, and then added a 9-0 run later to put the game out of reach.
"The one thing I would say about them is that if you do break down defensively against them, you're going to pay," Donovan said. "But they also have the ability, when you guard them the way you want to guard them, they can still make a shot. ... I think that's what makes really, really good teams."
Florida cut the lead to 59-55, but the Cats just dialed it up on both ends of the court.
The Gators made just one basket over the final 9:02, a meaningless shot in the closing minute.
Guards Kenny Boynton, Erving Walker and Bradley Beal had forgettable performances for Florida. Going against bigger defenders, the trio combined for 6-of-29 shooting.
Boynton, benched to start the game because he was late to a team meeting, finished with seven points on 2-of-8 shooting. Walker, recognized before his final home game as the team's lone senior, had eight points on 3-of-11 shooting. Beal had five points to go along with seven rebounds and four assists. He left the game with a sprained ankle, but returned late.
Together, they did little to keep Kentucky from perfection.
"Their talent and ability to make a shot or make a difficult shot was much, much better than our ability to do that," Donovan said.