UK-Florida notes: Gators already have plenty of experience vs. highly ranked opponents

jtipton@herald-leader.comFebruary 6, 2012 

  • Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday
    Where: LP Field in Nashville
    TV: ESPNews
    Radio: WBUL-FM 98.1; WLAP-AM 630; WWRW-FM 105.5

Playing on a highly ranked opponent's homecourt will be nothing new for Florida. Earlier this season, the Gators played at then No. 3 Ohio State and No. 4 Syracuse.

"They're not going to be awed," Kentucky Coach John Calipari said of the Gators. "They're not worried about anything but beating us."

Kenny Boynton, Florida's leading scorer (17.6 ppg), noted the experience gained in the losses at Ohio State (81-74) and Syracuse (72-68).

"Tight games," he said. "The main thing for up there is to stay focused. We know both teams are going to go on runs. It's just how one another responds after the runs."

Florida Coach Billy Donovan noted the likelihood of adversity.

"Once the game starts, there's going to be some form of adversity that's going to go through the course of a 40-minute game," he said. "Whether it's the crowd getting loud or foul trouble or missed shots or someone going on a run, you're going to have to deal with and function (despite) all that stuff."

After losing its first four games on the opponents' court (Ohio State, Syracuse, Rutgers and Tennessee), Florida has won its last two: at South Carolina and at Mississippi.

"I think we came together as a team," Boynton said. "We focused on the small things: rebounding, taking charges. We've been pressuring them on defense."

Long rebounds

With Florida likely to shoot more than a few three-point shots, Calipari noted the importance of guards grabbing long rebounds.

"One of our issues has been our guard rebounding," he said before mentioning Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb. "We have to rebound better."

With one of Florida's better rebounders being freshman guard/wing Bradley Beal, Calipari stressed the importance of UK guards getting into position at the elbow-portion of the court.

As Terrence Jones noted, "the elbow, that's the guards' responsibility."

Florida had been outrebounded in SEC play, 31.9-33.2.

That's partly due to getting crushed 41-23 on the boards at Ole Miss.

"Every game rebounding is going to be a priority," Donovan said.

Overdue recognition?

Calipari welcomed the news that Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were included in a 20-player Midseason Watch List for the United States Basketball Writers Association Player of the Year Award.

The UK coach noted how each player can impact a game without shooting a lot. Calipari suggested that modest scoring averages (13.9 for Davis, 12.6 for Kidd-Gilchrist) can obscure stellar play.

"Not talking about kids shooting 25 times a game," Calipari said. "You're talking about 11 shots. They're finally getting their due."

Ranking, schmanking

Donovan dismissed the importance of Kentucky's No. 1 ranking.

"You try to get your guys prepared for the things that are the realities of the game," the Florida coach said. "Dealing with Davis and (Kidd-) Gilchrist and Jones across the front line."

After adding the concerns represented by Darius Miller, Marquis Teague and Kyle Wiltjer, Donovan said, "Whether they're ranked No. 1, No. 5, No. 25, you're still dealing with their personnel, and they've got phenomenal personnel."

Donovan is 2-0 against No. 1 teams. Both victories came in the NCAA Tournament: against Ohio State in 2007 and against Duke in 2000.

5 minutes

When Calipari mentions that Kentucky concentrates on its own play rather than an opponent, he's apparently not kidding.

A reporter asked Jones how much time UK wanted the players to spend watching tape of an opponent. Said Jones: "Five minutes."

This led to a follow-up question about more time devoted to watching a particular opponent.

"I couldn't handle that," Jones said. "I might go to sleep. Keep it real short. Stay active in practice."

'Unibrow'

Opposing fans have used Davis' eyebrows as a source of ridicule. More than once, they've referred to him as "Unibrow," a suggestion of one brow over both eyes and connected at the top of his nose.

"I really don't care," Davis said. "... I just go out there and play basketball."

Etc.

In Calipari's three seasons as UK coach, eight opponents have made 10 or more three-point shots. The Cats won six of those games. ... Calipari suggested Florida would shoot 30 three-point shots. The Gators average 26 three-point attempts (23.19 in SEC play). ... Brad Nessler, Dick Vitale and sideline reporter Shannon Spake will call the game for ESPN.

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