UK-Florida notes: Cats to keep it simple on offense

jtipton@herald-leader.comMarch 7, 2014 

Kentucky Coach John Calipari hopes to recharge his team's offense by adopting a less-is-more philosophy.

The Cats made their fewest and second-fewest number of baskets this season in the last two games. The hope is to have the players concentrate on the strongest parts of their offensive games (i.e. not try to do too much).

"We're trying to narrow guys so they can play in a confident way," Calipari said.

Of course, Florida presents a challenge. The Gators rank fifth nationally in points allowed (58.2 per game, on average), and have held 20 opponents to 61 or fewer points.

Kentucky hopes to attack before the Gators' defense settles in.

"I want them to fly up and down the court," Calipari said. "I want them to be aggressive. Create for each other more than us having to run stuff."

Calipari said he expects Florida to crowd the lane and accept, if not invite three-point shots.

"You've got to make jump shots," he said. "This is not a game you can go two-for-22 from three. Not this game."

In the last four games, UK has made only 15 of 65 three-point shots (23.1 percent). In the last three, the Cats have made only 34.7 percent of their two-point shots.

Still, Florida expressed respect for UK's scoring potential.

"They have so much talent at each position," point guard Scottie Wilbekin said. "They're a great team with a lot of individual talent. Each one of their players is capable of going off for 20 points any night. We have to do a great job with help defense, being collective as a defensive unit."

Florida Coach Billy Donovan noted how UK can compensate for poor shooting by getting to the foul line and with offensive rebounds.

"They do a very, very good job in those areas," he said.

Not afraid

After Kentucky beat Alabama on Tuesday, Jarrod Polson welcomed the challenge of playing Florida. He noted how Kentucky played Florida competitively on Feb. 15. The Cats led by seven with less than 11 minutes left before losing 69-59.

"We're not scared of them," Polson said. "But at the same time, we know we have to 'ball' if we want to win."

Good to be young?

You could argue that the innocence of youth might serve Kentucky well at Florida. The Cats don't know enough to be anxious by the Florida atmosphere.

Willie Cauley-Stein scoffed at the notion.

"Nah, it's not a good thing," he said. "If you don't know about it, you're going to get shell-shocked when you get there. I mean, that's not good. That's wasting time once you get there.

"It's better to know what's really about to happen when you get there."

Senior Day

Florida bids farewell to seniors Will Yeguete, Casey Prather, Patric Young and Wilbekin. Those players have been part of 112 victories. Only Walter Hodge (117) experienced more winning for Florida.

The seniors have been on three SEC championship teams in their four seasons. That's historic. Because of Kentucky's dominance of the league, only Alabama (1974, 1975 and 1976) and Mississippi State (1961, 1962 and 1963) have done what Florida has done.

"It definitely brings back some memories of just how long I've been here," Wilbekin said of Senior Day. "But I just want to end it the right way, just playing hard and giving it my all for this last home game."

Yeguete noted the obstacles each senior has overcome.

"Me and my injury," he said. "Casey wasn't playing a lot first few years and now he's having a great year. Pat kind of being up and down a little bit. Scottie being in trouble. I think guys are just staying in the moment, just staying with the process. We fought through a lot of adversity we had and just staying connected. That's pretty much how we'll be remembered."

18-0

Florida downplayed the significance of achieving an 18-0 SEC record, which has not been done.

"I really mean this, it's the same thing as going 1-0 or 2-0," Donovan said of the season finale. "It's the last game on the schedule. It's not about our record right now. It's about us going out there and playing connected, together as a team, doing the things that we've got to do to be successful on the court. The record part of it takes place after the game. It's got nothing to do with what we've got to do for 40 minutes inside the lines. Right now, up to this point in time, our guys have done a good job going ... one game at a time and focus on the next challenge."

Wilbekin echoed the sentiment.

"In order to do that, we've got to do what we've done all year and just focus on the game, try to win the game and that's how we get all those extra things," he said.

UK as foil

Wilbekin on Kentucky standing between Florida and an 18-0 record: "I don't think it makes it any more special because it's them. I think the reasons why we want to win is obviously just our motto of try to come out and win every game and play every game hard, every possession hard. Having an opportunity to go 18-0, this being our last game regardless of who we're playing, we want to play our best."

Etc.

■ Keys for Kentucky are negating Florida's pressure, being aggressive and defending the pick-and-roll, Calipari said.

■ Tom McCarthy and Jim Spanarkel will call the game for CBS.

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

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