Two teams in desperate need of a win to bolster any hope that they have of making the NCAA Tournament will meet on Saturday as Kentucky travels to Florida. The Wildcats are coming off a dreadful home loss to Georgia this week, while Florida fell at Mississippi State. Both teams are riding three-game losing streaks.
Kentucky 19-11, 8-7, 4-5 (away), RPI No. 79
Florida 21-9, 8-7, 15-1 (home), RPI No. 53
Florida has won seven of the last 10.
Florida has won the last four at the O'Connell Center.
Last Meeting - Kentucky 68 Florida 65
The Wildcats used a late rally led by Jodie Meeks to overcome the Gators by three. Meeks hit a desperation three with the shot clock winding down in the final minute of the game to give the Wildcats the lead.
But only three missed free throws from Florida's Nick Calathes prevented the Gators from sending it into overtime. Florida was held to 41 percent shooting. Kentucky forward Patrick Patterson injured his ankle and was held to just 7 points. The Wildcats turned the ball over 19 times in the win, but dominated the boards 39 to 26.
What Florida Must Do To Win:
1. Shoot Well
The Gators are an undersized team that does not get many second chance opportunities. Florida has only shot above their season average of 48 percent twice in their nine losses.
2. Slow Down Patrick Patterson
Patterson will have a clear size advantage against Florida and did not play the entire game a few weeks ago. The Gators allowed 19 points from Wayne Chism last Sunday and 18 from his front court mate Tyler Smith. Patterson is as good as or better than those two I think.
What Kentucky Must Do To Win:
1. Play Great Defense
So, that sounds pretty generic, but it could have saved Kentucky against lowly Georgia on Wednesday. UK allowed the Bulldogs to shoot 50 percent from the floor and 69 percent from three point range.
The Gators are a good shooting team as well, averaging 47 percent shooting in SEC games. Remember, last time Kentucky held Florida to 41 percent in their win.
2. Take Care of the Basketball
Kentucky is not going to win with 19 turnovers on the road. The Wildcats are the 19th worst in Division I with turnovers at 16 per game. UK is average with offensive efficiency with 1.04 points per possession in SEC games.
So, unless they are going to dominate the boards, they have to get the most out of their offensive possessions because Florida is near the top of Division I at 1.11 points per possession.
The motivation factor will be high for both teams, knowing their NCAA Tournament lives are at stake, so I expect a hard fought game for 40 minutes. But the Gators are 15-1 at home this year and should be not ashamed of their close losses as of late with two coming against division leaders.
I think Florida is able to shoot well enough and play good enough defense on Meeks and Patterson to take this one.
Florida wins by 4-9 points
Season: 22-22 SU through 3/6
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