By David J. Cohen
The 7th ranked Florida Gators defeated the Kentucky Wildcats 95-80 Saturday night. Florida dictated the style of play from the tip and dominated Kentucky in the second half. It was an impressive victory for the team that should turn some critics into believers of the “orange and blue.”While the Kentucky trio of G Patrick Sparks, G Rajon Rondo and C Randolph Morris were highly discussed going into the game, it was a trio of Gators who stole the show. G Taurean Green, F/C Joakim Noah and G Corey Brewer combined to score 71 points, just 9 points shy of the entire Kentucky squad. Green set the pace early and was the key player throughout the game, scoring a career-high 29 points. Green also had 9 assists. His precision passing was instrumental to the success of Noah inside. Noah also had a career night, netting 26 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. It was Green and Noah that fueled an 18-1 run early in the second half, sending Kentucky reeling for the rest of the game. Brewer was significant afterwards in maintaining the lead, scoring 12 of his 16 points after the run.
The Gators used their athleticism to create an up-tempo style of play and used the full-court press to create turnovers while keeping the Kentucky offense out of sync. The Wildcats were never able to establish the “grind it out” half-court game in which they thrive.
The Gators were also able to continue their incredible efficiency on the offensive end of the floor. They were #1 in the country entering the game in FG percentage, shooting 52.2% from the field. They continued scorching the nets Saturday night, shooting 57.7%. They were also able to capitalize on free-throws, something the Gators have failed to do for most of the season. As a team, the Gators went 30-37 from the stripe, shooting 10% better then their season average.
Despite having a lineup in which the top contributors (Green, Noah, Brewer, and F Al Hortford) are sophomores, the Gators are displaying a maturity and poise beyond their years of experience. In the national spotlight the Gators rose to the challenge and proved to the entire country that they are a legitimate top-10 team. They will be a dangerous team in the “field of 65” and should break the trend of recent Gator basketball teams by making a deep run in the big dance.
-For UK v UF stats
-For national stats