UK Men's Basketball

Cats put depth on display at Florida

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Eric Bledsoe took advantage of the opportunity when Florida concentrated — quite sensibly — on containing national player of the year candidate John Wall.

Darnell Dodson, who missed all eight shots he took in the previous two games, hit a clutch three-pointer with the game on the line inside the final five minutes.

Daniel Orton grabbed a career-high nine rebounds (one more than he had in the previous four games combined).

Darius Miller dunked for the first time this season, a wondrous sight that moved Coach John Calipari to raise both hands to his face in a gesture of mock amazement.

In beating Florida 89-77 Tuesday night, Kentucky showed the kind of quality depth that Calipari had said turns aspirations of greatness into reality.

Of course, steady Patrick Patterson provided his routinely busy statistical line: 15 points, seven rebounds and two steals.

And DeMarcus Cousins continued his curious habit of contributing more and more as the game unfolded (10 of his 13 points came in the second half).

With Orton joining the frontcourt production, Kentucky was dominant inside. The Cats outscored Florida 50-28 in the paint.

"Their speed and size and length after a period starts to wear our team down," Florida Coach Billy Donovan said. "Just because of our lack of depth."

The Gators, notably thin up front since the Al Horford-Joakim Noah days, gave up 90 points in the paint the last two games (against UK and Vanderbilt).

Calipari referred to Orton as "probably the difference in the game."

In one telling sequence, Orton blocked three straight shots. That helped the freshman from Oklahoma City equal the career-high four rejections he had against Sam Houston State.

"If he does the things he did today, it's hard to beat us," Calipari said, "because he went in and blocked every ball."

Calipari said he hugged Orton for delivering what the coach has been urging.

"You are the difference in the team," the UK coach said he told Orton. "The other guys are what they are. You are the guy."

In this game, there was a large list of contributing guys.

With Florida concentrating on Wall, UK needed someone such as Bledsoe to emerge.

"What Billy (Donovan) said was, 'We're going to make the game hard for John and make others make plays,' " Calipari said.

For stretches, Bledsoe brought the ball up court. If the opportunity existed — and it did more than once — he drove pretty-as-you-please to a layup.

"Everybody was going to John," Bledsoe said of the defenders. "It left a lane open for me to go to the hole and shoot layups."

After the game, a reporter noted that Bledsoe had big scoring games in UK's two trips to hostile environments. He scored 23 points at Indiana in December, UK's only other game on an opponent's court. To that, he added a career-high 25 at Florida.

"When the television lights come on, it seems that kid steps it up," Calipari said of Bledsoe. "He's a freshman. He has no idea what he's doing, and he goes for 25."

Calipari noted that Bledsoe's grandmother came from Birmingham, Ala., to watch the game.

"We've got to have her travel with us, I guess," the UK coach joked. "She better be at Auburn when we play this weekend."

Donovan acknowledged that Bledsoe's play foiled the idea of concentrating on Wall. The Florida coach noted the difference in scouting via video and seeing Kentucky in the flesh.

"When Wall's coming up the floor 100 mph, Bledsoe's resting," he said. "When Bledsoe's coming up the floor 100 mph, Wall's resting. It's like a two-headed monster when they're continually coming at you off the dribble."

Dodson had made more than one three-point basket only once since the North Carolina game on Dec. 5.

With UK wobbling early, he hit a three-pointer to steady the Cats. Then with a 15-point lead gone and the teams tied at 72 going into the final five minutes, Dodson followed Patterson's go-ahead post-up basket with another three-pointer.

"Darnell going in and making that shot showed me a ton," Calipari said. "That means I can go to him when I see things dying."

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