Wildcats and Gators collide in matchup of SEC's best
Lexington, KY – The eighth-ranked Florida Gators have a tough ranked Kentucky Wildcats in a battle between the Southeastern Conference's top two squads.
Kentucky is currently in sole possession of first place in the SEC standings with a perfect 9-0 record in league play. Florida trails by just 1.5 games as it enters with a 7-1 mark in SEC action. This will be the 124th meeting in the all-time series. The Wildcats hold a 90-33 edge in the rivalry after winning the last two encounters, including a 70-54 victory in last season's SEC Conference Tournament Championship Game.
Florida won its seventh game in a row on Saturday as it picked up a 73-65 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores to improve to 19-4 overall. Head coach Billy Donovan saw his team play well on both ends of the floor in the victory over Vandy, as it knocked down 11-of-24 from three-point range and forced 17 turnovers to push past the Commodores. The Gators have found success on the offensive end by valuing the possession, as they are leading the SEC in assists (16.3) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5). Florida is averaging 80.1 ppg on the offensive end, which is ninth best in the nation.
Kenny Boynton is the go-to-guy for the Gators this season. The junior guard leads the team with 17.6 ppg and is a big time threat from beyond the arc with an average of 3.3 makes from three-point range per contest. Boynton has been excellent lately, as he has averaged 21 points per game while going 7-of-15 from long range in his past two games. Bradley Beal is second on the team in both scoring (14.3) and rebounding (6.1). Erving Walker is leading the SEC in assists (5.1) while Patric Young is pulling down a team-high 6.5 rebounds per game. Erik Murphy gets into the mix on the offensive end on a consistent basis as well.
Despite their impressive resume and roster, the Gators are facing one of the few teams in the nation they will be slated as underdogs against. Kentucky is ranked number one in the nation, reeling off 15-straight victories to arrive at a 23-1 overall record. This past weekend, Kentucky made light work of South Carolina, 86-52. Kentucky owns the nation's longest homecourt winning streak at 48 games. The Wildcats cruised to an 86-52 victory at South Carolina their last time out as they shot over 50 percent from the floor for the second straight game. Kentucky's just behind the Gators with a scoring average of 78.1 ppg.
UK's success is impressive considering its starting lineup consists of three freshmen and two sophomores. Anthony Davis has been a huge contributor to the Wildcats' success. The freshman center is leading the team in scoring (13.9), rebounding (10.1), and already set the school's single season blocks record with 116, which also leads the nation. The 6-10 youngster was once again unstoppable in the win over South Carolina, finishing with 22 points, eight rebounds and eight blocked shots. While Davis claims ownership of the paint, Terrance Jones, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague thrive around him. Lamb was excellent in the recent win, as he went 6-of-7 from the field and 3-of-3 from three-point range on his way to 18 points.