Until Kevin Knox made one with 6:56 left in the second half at South Carolina on Tuesday, it appeared Kentucky’s streak of consecutive games making at least one three-point shot might end at 1,030.
Big deal? Small deal? No deal at all?
UK fans seem to take pride in the nation’s longest streak of games making a three-pointer. But the players seemed to shrug off the streak.
In the postgame news conference, Knox said he was unaware that Kentucky had not made a three. He pointed out that this season UK is not dependent on three-pointers.
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UK players echoed that nonchalance Friday.
“We didn’t even know about the streak until they posted in on Twitter,” PJ Washington said. “We just try to come out and get a win.”
Nick Richards agreed. “It’s not a big deal,” he said of UK’s 1-for-11 shooting from three-point range at South Carolina. “Just one of those days the shots were not going down.”
For those who fret about the three-point streak, the game at South Carolina was the 26th time Kentucky made only one three-point shot since missing the only two attempts against Seton Hall on Nov. 26, 1988. John Pelphrey and Chris Mills did the missing.
The game at South Carolina was the seventh time a John Calipari-coached UK team made only one three-pointer.
It also happened seven times during Tubby Smith’s time as coach, five times during Eddie Sutton’s time, four times when Billy Gillispie was coach and three times under Rick Pitino.
Players who kept the streak alive the most times were Derrick Miller and Jodie Meeks. Each made UK’s only three-pointer three times. Doron Lamb, Tayshaun Prince and Richie Farmer made UK’s only three-pointer in a game twice.
And the 1-for-11 shooting from three-point range at South Carolina is not even close to the worst Kentucky had shot threes during the streak. UK made one of 19 against South Carolina in the 2002 SEC Tournament, and one of 17 against Alaska-Anchorage on Dec. 27, 1999.
Gators shoot threes
By contrast, Florida depends on three-point shooting. The Gators have made 10 or more in nine of their 18 games, and at least eight in all but four games.
When asked if Florida was dependent on threes, point guard Chris Chiozza said, “Oh, yeah. The three-point line is a huge part of our offense. We have a lot of shooters. But we don’t want to rely on that. ... We want to be one of those teams that when we’re not hitting threes, our defense wins us games. We’ve shown we can do that.”
In its last two games, Florida made 23 of 54 three-point shots. The Gators are shooting 44.5 percent from three-point range against Southeastern Conference opponents.
“I feel good about the way we’re shooting the ball right now,” Florida Coach Mike White said. “We’re in a good rhythm. ... I feel like we’re playing with a lot of confidence offensively.”
Florida ranks No. 29 nationally in three-point accuracy (39.7 percent) and No. 35 in three-point baskets (9.8 per game).
Kentucky has defended the three-point shot. The last two opponents made only 11 of 48 shots. The last seven opponents have made only 37 of 161 three-point shots (23 percent).
Quade Green’s return from a back strain would mean:
▪ Relief for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who averaged 35.3 minutes in the three games Green has missed.
▪ Another shot-maker, especially from the perimeter.
▪ The presence of a talkative leader. “He leads,” Calipari said. “He talks. He’s one of the more talkative guys. So it’s affected us.”
Florida has beaten Kentucky in Rupp Arena only three times in the last 19 years. It took a Final Four-bound team to do it each time: 2006, 2007 and 2014.
“Wow,” White said. “Yeah, that’s a pretty good example of how hard it is to win there. How hard it is to beat Kentucky in the first place, but especially to win at Rupp. It’s very difficult. Great environment, of course. It will be very loud in there. We have a tough task ahead of us.”
Florida to UK
During his junior year of high school, UK guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander committed to Florida.
“I figured it was a good situation for me at the time,” Gilgeous-Alexander said in the preseason. “And I loved the coaching staff.”
What led to a change of mind and subsequent commitment to UK?
“I developed as a player a lot faster than I thought ... ,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “I re-evaluated and my goals changed.”
No hard feelings, White said.
“Great relationship, great kid, wonderful kid,” the Florida coach said of Gilgeous-Alexander. “Obviously, (he believed UK was) the best thing for him. Anything he’s doing is not a surprise to any of us. ... He’s a high-level competitor.”
Rupp or Cameron
Florida’s leading scorer, guard Jalen Hudson (16.5 ppg), is a transfer from Virginia Tech. He will be in a position to compare Rupp Arena with Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Of the prospect of playing in Rupp Arena, he said, “It’s a little bit shocking, especially seeing it on TV growing up. ... But I really dreamed of playing inside Kentucky. I’m more of an ACC guy. But I am super excited. I heard it’s one of the best places to play in the country. ...
“Cameron’s loud. Cameron’s super loud. You can’t hear yourself think. So I’m excited for it.”
▪ The prospect of playing in a game linked to ESPN’s “College GameDay” TV show thrilled Nick Richards. “It’s going to be one of the more exciting times of my college career,” he said.
▪ Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas and sideline reporter Maria Taylor will call the game for ESPN.
Florida at No. 18 Kentucky
When: 8:15 p.m.
Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1
Records: Florida 13-5 (5-1 SEC), Kentucky 14-4 (4-2)
Series: UK leads 100-38
Last meeting: Kentucky won 76-66 on Feb. 25, 2017, in Lexington.