UK notes: 'Smash-mouth basketball' the only way to beat the Cats, Donovan says

jtipton@herald-leader.comMarch 4, 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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Although Kentucky came within a Christian Watford three-pointer of an unbeaten regular season, Florida Coach Billy Donovan pondered a way — or more precisely, the kind of team — to beat UK.

"A real, real physical team," Donovan said Sunday after Kentucky beat his Gators 74-59. "There would have to be a presence at the basket constantly in post-ups and duck-ins. Three out (on the perimeter), two in. Straight smash-mouth basketball. ... I don't think a finesse team."

Donovan suggested Vanderbilt and North Carolina possessed the kind of personnel to beat UK.

After his team lost at Kentucky in February, Donovan said he did not see one, simple method to beat the Cats. He elaborated on that notion Saturday by saying an opponent cannot rely solely on muscle to win.

"You've got to be balanced," he said. "We had balance. Not enough shots went down for us."

Sophomore center Patric Young gave Florida an inside threat. He cited physical play as a factor in his 21-point performance, which marked a personal best against a Southeastern Conference opponent.

"When I get the ball in the post, it's really important that I hit him first, so it neutralizes his jumping ability," Young said of his matchup with Anthony Davis.

As for defending Davis, Young said, "You got to try to not let him get the ball because nobody's going up there and blocking his shot."

Three-point defense

Florida made only six of 22 three-point shots, making the Gators 12-for-49 from beyond the arc in two games against Kentucky.

"We tried to switch everything," UK Coach John Calipari said of containing Florida's three-point shooting. "Just so you have high hands on everything. We want you to beat us by coming at us. We don't want you shooting threes."

'Oneness'

Terrence Jones made a fashion statement when appearing to speak with reporters after the game. He wore a T-shirt that read "Blue Magic" over the chest and "Oneness" underneath.

When asked about UK's 16-0 record, Jones said, "It's a great accomplishment because we did it together."

Donovan saluted UK's "real focus."

Said the Florida coach, "They know what they want to do, and what they want to accomplish, and they play that way."

One and done

With UK primed to be the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Calipari figures to be asked about his reliance on so-called one-and-done players. He sounded ready to respond, if not filibuster, when asked about players who stay in college one season.

Calipari again noted his dislike for the rule, again lamented the lack of realistic options (recruit less-talented players?) and volunteered several ideas to encourage players to stay in school:

■ The NCAA and NBA invest in a loan program for parents to pay for insurance against injury.

■ Each college season means one less year off a rookie's entry contract, so such players can get to their second, more lucrative contract.

■ Increase the salary scale for players who stay in school.

"You asked me the question (about one-and-done players)," Calipari said. "Now, you had to hear all that."

'1960s stuff'

Donovan apparently surprised Kentucky by sending a player downcourt before the Gators secured a defensive rebound. This led to back-to-back transition baskets, which narrowed UK's lead to 46-44 and prompted a timeout.

Calipari took responsibility, which fit his stated goal of letting the players take credit for success and assuming the blame for failure.

"Old school, like 1960s stuff," Calipari said of Donovan's strategy. "The point guard must run back to the key. But I didn't tell him."

After a UK timeout, Florida did not score another fast-break basket, and only one basket of any kind in the final nine minutes.

Constructive criticism?

Young offered what sounded like constructive criticism of UK's transition defense.

"I think they need to improve a little bit on their transition defense," he said. "Once we figured out that once we got a stop, they don't run back very well. Overall, there's not too many weaknesses in their team. It probably hurts them a little bit because they don't have as much depth. They really only play six guys. But overall, they're a pretty good team."

Etc.

Florida's leading scorer, Kenny Boynton, did not start. He came late to a recent team meeting. ... Davis' six blocks increased his season total to 146. That moved him into fifth place on the NCAA list for freshmen. Next up: Adonal Foyle of Colgate (147 in 1994-95). Davis moved past Tayshaun Prince (142) and Marquis Estill (143) on UK's career list. Next up: Patrick Patterson (152).

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

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