Big Blue Links for Sunday:
▪ Florida hammered Kentucky on the boards and hammered the Cats on the scoreboard for an 88-66 win on Saturday night in the O’Connell Center. Florida crushed UK 54-29 on the glass. The Gators and Cats are now tied for second place in the SEC at 8-2. It was the second-worst loss, by margin, since John Calipari arrived in Lexington eight years ago. No. 1 was the 2013 loss at Tennessee the game after Nerlens Noel injured his knee at Florida.
▪ Calipari says he’s not cracking despite a two-week slide that started with the loss at Tennessee. If not for Malik Monk’s shot that sent last Tuesday’s game with Georgia into overtime, UK would be on a four-game losing streak. Calipari said he knew after the loss in Knoxville that his team had a problem.
▪ If you’re a Kentucky fan, you have to hope that maybe there’s more sickness at Wildcat Lodge than the team is letting on. De’Aaron Fox and Mychal Mulder both returned from illness to play Saturday night, but Sacha Killeya-Jones did not make the trip to Gainesville because of the flu. Fox seemed to shoot down the notion that other players are under the weather.
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▪ The Cats showed Saturday that they have indeed regressed. They also showed a lack of fight. They never led at the O’Connell Center, and in Calipari’s words, they let go of the rope in the second half.
▪ Kentucky has averaged just 77.3 points per game over the past four games after averaging 92.9 points per game in their first 19 games. UK also was credited with just seven assists Saturday night.
▪ The clock is ticking. We’re a little over a month away from the conference tournament. Just eight regular-season games remain.
▪ Plus, UK is fading in bracketology. A No. 1 seed seems a long shot at this point.
▪ Florida, which has now won four straight games by 20 or more points, got its breakthrough win over the No. 8-ranked Cats. Senior point guard Kasey Hill matched his career high with 21 points.
▪ It even crossed the Gators’ minds that they could beat this Kentucky team by 30 points. As it was, the 22-point margin was the largest ever for Florida in the history of the series.
▪ It was a statement game for the Gators. “It’s a big statement,” junior forward Devin Robinson said. “To show people that we can compete with anybody in the country. It’s a stepping stone for us. We’ve got a long ways to go, though. It’s a long season.”
▪ Florida also snapped a five-game losing streak to the Cats. The Gators had not beaten Kentucky since the 2013-14 season, when they beat UK three times and reached the Final Four. Kentucky reached the NCAA title game that year, losing to Connecticut.
▪ Kentucky toppled out of first place in the SEC.
▪ South Carolina held on to beat Georgia 77-75 and thus claim first place in the SEC with a 9-1 record. Justin McKie hit two key free throws for the Gamecocks.
▪ Meanwhile, Georgia has suffered one close loss after another of late. The Bulldogs lost in overtime at both Florida and Kentucky. They lost by one point at Texas A&M. They lost by two points Saturday to the Gamecocks.
▪ LSU lost its ninth straight game, falling to Texas A&M 85-73. One piece of good news for Johnny Jones’ club: It held a lead for the first time in three games. The Tigers visit Rupp Arena on Tuesday night.
▪ That’s because Missouri finally won its first conference game, upsetting visiting Arkansas 83-78. Mizzou snapped a 13-game losing streak and a 14-game conference losing streak. It was a terrible loss for Arkansas, which is (was?) on the NCAA Tourney bubble.
▪ Auburn beat Alabama 82-77 in Tuscaloosa to sweep the series. Bruce Pearl’s Tigers had beaten Bama by 20 in Auburn last month. This time, Auburn made 15 of 27 three-point shots to secure the win.
▪ Mississippi State rallied to beat Tennessee 64-59. The Vols led by as many as 19 points in the first half only to give away the lead and lose for the first time in four games.
▪ Ole Miss rallied to win 81-74 at Vanderbilt. The Rebels shot 56 percent from the floor in the second half, including seven of nine from three.
▪ Kansas blew a 14-point halftime lead and lost to Iowa State in overtime on Saturday. The loss snapped a 51-game home winning streak for the Jayhawks, who lost despite 32 points from Frank Mason.
▪ Louisville is flying high after routing Boston College 90-67. The Cards have won seven of their last eight, including the last four by blowout.
SEC men’s basketball standings