Julius Mays did not envision Kentucky facing a must-win game on Senior Day.
"I thought I'd be stepping into a powerhouse," he said Friday. "I was thinking the road might be a little easier.
"But nothing is easy in life. I learned that growing up. No matter what you do, there's going to be a lot of bumps in the road."
While saying good-bye to Mays and fellow senior Twany Beckham, Kentucky hopes to beat Florida on Saturday to keep alive its hopes for an NCAA Tournament bid.
Mays, who transferred to UK from Wright State last summer, has been dispensing perspective all season. As a graduate student, he's become a leader of a team largely dependent on freshmen.
"I might cry," freshman Alex Poythress said. "Julius has been a great friend, a great mentor and a great person to be around. ... I might have to give him a hug tomorrow."
Poythress has been on the receiving end of more than a few do-better exchanges with Mays.
"He just gives you little corrections here and there," Poythress said. "He tells you things and helps you. He's been around the block a couple times. He's not going to steer you in a wrong direction."
Mays promised more of the "little corrections" in the game against Florida.
"They can hate me the rest of their lives," he said of possible scoldings. "But I'm leaving it all out there for them."
Injuries prevented Beckham from contributing much this season. He underwent back surgery to repair two herniated disks, and will not play against Florida.
Beckham enjoyed a farewell of sorts in UK's next-to-last home game of the season. He made a cameo appearance on the court against Mississippi State on Feb. 27. He cautioned reporters against seeing something significant in his taking the court against his former team.
"Nothing personal," Beckham said of his lone appearance against a Southeastern Conference team this season. He said UK Coach John Calipari asked him to check in and out against Mississippi State because the Florida game figured to be too important for ceremonial gestures.
While Calipari called again for more competitive fire from players, he dismissed the notion of concern about:
■ UK fans providing an emotional boost."They'll be there," he said. "I'm not worried about our crowd. That's the least of my worries."
Later in the evening, Calipari tweeted a call for fans to give "everything you have." Then he issued a challenge: "At the 8-min timeout in the 2nd half, let's commit to standing up and cheering until the final horn. It won't be easy, but we need you!"
■ Mays' shooting. In the last two games, Mays has made one of 12 shots (one of eight from three-point range).
Calipari suggested that Mays can get good looks at the basket if UK beats Florida's pressure.
"We need him to score to be as good as we can be," he said.
Best in SEC?
Earlier in the week, Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings touted Scottie Wilbekin's on-ball defense.
"He's the best in the league, in my opinion," Stallings said. "I told Billy (Donovan) when (Wilbekin) was a freshman, I thought he was a terrific player. He's just tenacious. He's tough. It's every game. It's every possession. .... It looks to me he just sells out for his team to do what his team needs him to do, and do what he's good at."
Florida has held four opponents to under 40 points and 21 to less than 60 points.
Wilbekin has "played to his identity as much as (any player) I've coached," Donovan said. "And his identity is defending ... he takes pride in it."
Donovan spoke of the need to limit wasted possessions. The Gators lead the SEC in shooting (49.1 percent overall, 39.2 percent from three-point range in league games).
So relatively speaking, good things happen when Florida shoots.
Donovan set a goal of 17 to 23 assists per game. "When moving and sharing it, we're very good offensively," he said. "That requires guys having to make good decisions with the ball."
Florida has been good at finding the open man "when the floor and defense are moving," he said.
■ Calipari lamented the season-high 26 fouls that thwarted UK's hopes to force Georgia to shoot perimeter shots. Instead, the Bulldogs won despite having four fewer baskets. UGA made 27 of 34 free throws (both highs for a UK opponent this season).
■ Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel will call the game for CBS.
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227 Twitter: @JerryTipton Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com