The Florida Gators will get a third chance to take down the nation's top ranked Kentucky Wildcats as they square off in the semifinal round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament at New Orleans Arena.
The Wildcats and Gators closed out their regular seasons with a tussle in Gainesville. Kentucky did not let the home crowd play a factor as it bested Florida, 74-59. Kentucky has been very good against the Gators historically, as it holds a 92-33 edge in the all-time series versus Florida.
No. 4-seed Florida had its hands full on Friday as it barely escaped its quarterfinal round bout with Alabama. The Gators were once thought of as a team capable of a run in March. Florida lost a few believers down the stretch after its three-game losing streak to end the regular season. Coach Billy Donovan certainly has proven his ability to lead teams through tournaments. The Gators are capable of explosive offensive performances and are second in the SEC with a scoring average of 76.4 ppg. The Gators made 10-of-30 of their three-point attempts and only committed five turnovers to survive the Crimson Tide on Friday.
Although it has not been amazing against Kentucky this season, the Gators' backcourt is capable of keeping up with the Wildcats. Freshman guard Bradley Beal went 1-of-10 from the floor to finish with just five points against UK in the team's season finale. He bounced back in the Gators' SEC tourney opener by netting a team-high 16 points which he accompanied with seven rebounds and five assists. Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker join Beal to make a dynamic three-guard attack, which is complemented nicely by frontcourt performers Patric Young and Erik Murphy.
The top ranked Wildcats are unquestionably one of, if not the most talented team in the NCAA. Coach Calipari's squad picked up its 23rd win in a row on Friday as the Cats held off LSU to pick up a 60-51 victory. The young Wildcats were challenged by the Tigers, who played very physical and aggressive defensively. UK was held well under its conference leading 77.2 ppg average as it went 1-of-8 from beyond the arc and committed 18 turnovers. Although they were not dazzling offensively, the Wildcats brought it on the defensive end as they blocked nine shots and held LSU under 30 percent shooting.
Kentucky's usual offensive success comes through its balance, which has left it with five players with scoring averages in double figures and a sixth just under that mark with 9.8 ppg. Anthony Davis, who might need to rent a storage unit to store all of the awards he has earned this season, leads the team with 14.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 4.7 blocks per game. Doron Lamb's pinpoint accuracy on long distance shots has made him the second leading scorer, while Terrence Jones, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Darius Miller get into the mix regularly.