Florida no match for UK

jtipton@herald-leader.comFebruary 7, 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

Having guided three teams to the Final Four and won NCAA Tournaments in 2006 and 2007, Florida Coach Billy Donovan knows a national-championship contender.

He saw one beat his Gators 78-58 Tuesday night in Rupp Arena.

"There's a certain disposition you have to have," Donovan said after No. 1 Kentucky overwhelmed Florida. "... A focus level on what really goes into winning."

Surely, smothering defense is a key part of the championship formula. Florida, which boasted the nation's most prolific three-point attack, made only two of its first 17 shots from beyond the arc and shot a season-low 34.9 percent.

"Make them drive to our 'bigs,' " said Doron Lamb, who led a balanced UK attack with 18 points.

Not only did Kentucky take away the three-pointer. UK took Florida's will.

"We did not play our hardest as we should have," said Kenny Boynton, who led Florida with 18 points.

Freshman Bradley Beal spoke of "guys down (emotionally), pouting."

Senior Erving Walker missed all seven of his shots and went scoreless for the first time since his freshman season (Dec. 30, 2008).

Kentucky (24-1, 10-0 Southeastern Conference) blew open the game late in the first half and, perhaps, blew a hole in any semblance of a league race.

When asked whether Kentucky had separated itself from the rest of the SEC, Boynton said, "Yeah, you could say that. They've proven it."

Florida, which had a seven-game winning streak bent, folded and mutilated, fell to 19-5 overall and 7-2 in the SEC.

"In terms of star power, talent one-through-six-or-seven, they have the most," Donovan said of the Cats. "... Kentucky clearly has six guys as first-round draft picks. I don't think anybody in our league has the level of talent they have."

Having lost at Ohio State and Syracuse by a combined 11 points earlier this season, Florida was in position to rate Kentucky on a national level.

Donovan noted Ohio State as a "three-headed monster:" Jared Sullinger, William Buford and Aaron Craft. "Incredible depth" marks Syracuse.

But, the Florida coach added, "I don't know if Syracuse has six draft picks."

Before the game, college basketball Pied Piper Dick Vitale said Florida had to make at least 10 three-pointers to have a chance. The Gators made a season-low six. Donovan lamented how his team did not attack Kentucky's defense "with a high level of intelligence."

Conversely, UK made nine of 15. Two by Lamb inside the final minute of the first half gave Kentucky a 38-26 halftime lead.

Kentucky's defense trumped Florida's offense in the first half. The 26 points marked the Gators' smallest offensive output in a half this season. The previous ebb tide was 27 points at Syracuse.

The 12-point deficit marked the steepest hill Florida faced this season. The previous mark was a 38-28 deficit at Mississippi. Florida pulled out a 64-60 victory.

Florida, which made only 10 of 30 first-half shots, began well. The Gators scored the first six points, a mini-streak that prompted a Kentucky timeout with 17:34 left.

Florida's first three-pointer — by Erik Murphy at the 11:25 mark — put UK behind for the last time: 15-13.

Fittingly, transition offense got Kentucky going. The Cats outscored Florida 16-6 in fast-break points.

Florida scored only three baskets in the final 11:24 of the first half. Kentucky matched that total in the final 94 seconds. A trio of three-pointers (two by Lamb, one by Marquis Teague) established a 12-point margin.

The opening minutes of the second half made another Florida comeback plausible. The Gators sandwiched baskets around a charge by Anthony Davis — UK's fourth charge — to close within eight, 38-30.

Whatever UK Coach John Calipari said in a timeout at the 19:02 mark worked. Kentucky scored the next 11 points to build a 49-30 lead.

Teague, who had made five of 14 three-point shots in league play, hit his second trey of the game to start the mini-run.

Florida did not exceed Teague's total until hitting one with 10:51 left. That took only a small bite out of a 20-point Kentucky lead.

Hard to believe, but a 20-point rout of No. 8 Florida marked Kentucky's smallest margin of victory in the last two weeks.

When asked how his team might respond to such abundant success going to Vanderbilt on Saturday, Calipari noted how everything about this season is a new experience for his freshman-oriented team.

"I have no idea," he said. "That's why you want to go and find out."

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Email: jtipton@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service