Sidelines with John Clay

Big Blue Links: Florida basketball needs a win as Kentucky comes to town

Florida head coach Mike White directs his players in the first half. The University of Kentucky hosted the University of Florida, Saturday, Feb. 06, 2016 at Rupp Arena in Lexington .
Florida head coach Mike White directs his players in the first half. The University of Kentucky hosted the University of Florida, Saturday, Feb. 06, 2016 at Rupp Arena in Lexington . Lexington Herald-Leader

Big Blue Links for Tuesday:

Florida needs a win, reports Kevin Brockway of the Gainesville Sun. “For as rough a stretch as Florida has encountered in late February, the Gators are clinging to hopes of turning the season around in time to secure an NCAA Tournament bid. That process must begin Tuesday night when Florida hosts No. 22 Kentucky in its home finale. The Gators will honor forwards Dorian Finney-Smith and Alex Murphy before the game on Senior Night, and Florida will look to ride that emotion to a better start. Florida is on a season-long three-game losing streak and has fallen behind by double digits in the first half in all three games.”

Florida hopes to salvage unraveling hopes, reports Edgar Thompson of Orlando Sentinel. “”We just have to buckle down and play defense,” senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith said. “When we don’t get any stops, we can’t rely on us making jump shots on our offense because we’re an up-and-down offensive team. But we can control our defense.”

Calipari hopes tweak will steady team, reports Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. “The tweak is back. And if all goes well for Kentucky, the peak will again follow. Following the example of two seasons ago, UK Coach John Calipari announced Monday that he had “tweaked” his team’s approach. As in 2014, he declined to identify the tweak (or tweaks) and taunted reporters to identify any change in future games, presumably beginning Tuesday night at Florida.”

Storylines for UK-Florida, from Alex Forkner of the Cats Pause. “Kentucky is currently deadlocked with Texas A&M for the Southeastern Conference lead in the final week of the regular season, but John Calipari is more concerned with rounding his team into tournament shape than clinching a 47th regular season title. The challenge his team faces is finding that groove at Florida, where the Gators are 12-3 on the season.”

Calipari re-tweak, writes Kyle Tucker of the Courier-Journal. Calipari implemented a “tweak” before his 2013-14 team entered tournament play. It ended up reaching the NCAA final before losing to Connecticut.

Calipari revives “tweak” talk, reports Keith Taylor of KyForward. ““We tweaked a few things and it’s not a wholesale change from what we do,” Calipari said Tuesday. “What I’m doing is something that’s going to help us whether (Derek Willis is) there or not. It’s something I probably should’ve done a long time ago, but you kind of get blinded. You start winning games and guys are doing certain things and other guys are not so you just leave it alone. But we’ll see.”

Georgia’s Yante Maten has responded after benching, reports Jason Butt of the Macon Telegraph. “Yante Maten has been one of Georgia’s most dependable players all season long. So it was a bit of a wake-up call when head coach Mark Fox decided to sit him for an extended period of time in the first half two games ago against Auburn. Maten finished the first 20 minutes scoreless in the loss, in which he admitted he could have performed much better in. “

Tennessee has been on a road to nowhere, writes Mike Strange of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “Coaches have confessed to a sinking feeling as they stand on the baseline at Vanderbilt’s unique Memorial Gym, watching their team run away from them. By this point Rick Barnes should have a sinking feeling every time he watches his Tennessee team run away from Thompson-Boling Arena. Once outside the doors of their empowering home court, the Vols are in trouble.”

Kentucky at Florida

When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.

Where: O’Connell Center in Gainesville

TV: ESPN with Brad Nessler, Sean Farnham and Shannon Spake

Radio: UK Network with Tom Leach and Mike Pratt

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