Kentucky-Florida: Tale Of The Tape

John-Wall-dunksBy Paul Gotham

Setting: It’s time for an SEC showdown at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on the University of Florida campus.  John Calipari comes calling with his No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats (16-0/1-0) to take on Billy Donovan and his Florida Gators (11-4/0-1).

Plot: After beginning the season with eight victories, the Gators have limped through a 3-4 stretch with losses to Richmond, South Alabama and most recently at Vanderbilt, 95-87. Six of Kentucky’s victories have been by single digits.

Sub-plot: Florida has shown flashes of brilliance this year. They recovered from a second-half eight-point deficit to draw even with the Syracuse Orange in November. Kentucky deceives its opponents into thinking they can be beaten. SEC rival, Tennessee knocked Kansas from the ranks of the undefeated by going with a zone. Will Billy Donovan follow Bruce Pearl’s lead?

Flashback: Walter Hodge led Florida with 18 points as the Gators closed last year’s SEC regular season play with a 60-53 victory over Kentucky. Alex Tyus added 11, and Erving Walker chipped in 10 off the bench. Kentucky leads the all-time series 86-32, but Florida has won the last five in Gainesville and eight of the last ten meetings between these rivals.

The two schools have combined for 15 NCAA Tournament appearances since 2001. The Wildcats reached the Elite Eight in 2003 and 2005. Florida won back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007.

Foreshadowing: Sixty-seven Wildcats have made their way into the NBA including current players Kelenna Azubuike, Keith Bogans, Chuck Hayes, Jamal Magloire, Jodie Meeks, Nazr Mohammed, Randolph Morris, Tayshaun Prince and Rajon Rondo. Twenty former Gators have made rosters in the Association. Current players include Matt Bonner, Corey Brewer, Udonis Haslem, Al Horford, David Lee, Mike Miller, Joakim Noah, Marreese Speights and Jason Williams.

Tone: Florida needs redemption. Losing four of their last seven has the Gators in a tail spin. Knocking off the number two team in the country could propel Florida into SEC play. Going undefeated is unrealistic in 21st century division one play. Kentucky will lose eventually. Is it tonight?

Conflict: Nine Wildcats average double-figure minutes played per game.

Six Gators log at least 22 minutes per game. Ray Shipman plays just under 15 minutes per contest. Erik Murphy gets 9.8 per game. Which number is closer to reality and which is closer to fiction?

Do all the Wildcats get meaningful minutes, or has Calipari been able to substitute liberally in blowout games?

Five Gators average double figure points per game while three Wildcats score 15 or more.

Kentucky scores at a rate of 82.4 per tilt. Florida holds its opponents to 61.7 per game. Kentucky has a rebound margin of 10.6 while Florida grabs 2.6 more boards than its opponents.

Kentucky hands out 16.6 assists per game. Florida gets eights steal per night.

Which force will succeed?

Figuring out Kentucky out Kentucky becomes an analysis of the cart and horse theory.

Popular opinion suggests rookie sensation John Wall is the horse. Wall leads the Wildcats with 17,  seven assists and two steals.

Would Wall’s effectiveness decrease if he did not have Eric Bledsoe hitting threes. Bledsoe averages 45.2 percent from long range. It is not so much that Bledsoe has hit from behind the arc, but it is THAT he can hit from long range. Bledsoe nailed back-to-back three pointers as the Wildcats took a one-point halftime lead over Indiana and turned the game into a 17-point blowout.

Of course, Bledsoe and Wall benefit from Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins combining for 17.5 boards per game. Cousins grabs almost four offensive rebounds per game.

Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker combine for 26 points and eight and a half assists per game to lead the Gators. The back-court tandem has hit 60 three pointers and 73 free throws.

Vernon Macklin, Alex Tyus, and Dan Werner will have the responsibility for keeping the Wildcats off the boards. The trio combines for 17 rebounds.

Chandler Parson adds 11 points and six and a half rebounds off the bench.

Symbol: Florida prides itself on defensive pressure, but playing an extended man-to-man against Kentucky is a losing proposition. Will Billy Donovan deploy a zone?

Resolution: There is long way to go before the end of the season, but Florida needs this game more than Kentucky.  The Gators can not afford to start out conference play in a two-game hole.

As a team, the Gators shoot 70.4 percent from the free throw line. Kentucky finishes 68.6 percent from the stripe, but the Wildcats have made 118 more attempts (398-280) than their conference rival.

Kentucky is ripe for a loss, and the Gators are prepared to do the picking.

Got any comments on the game? Please post them here.

22 Responses to "Kentucky-Florida: Tale Of The Tape"

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  3. Casey   January 12, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    First timeout: Florida 7 Kentucky )
    Gators go with soft press back into a 2-3. Dribble drive doesn’t work too well against a zone. 🙂 Donovan is crafty. Too bad the Gator offense can not create any separation.

  4. Casey   January 12, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Isn’t that sweet? Urban and wife are sending each other text messages.

  5. Casey   January 12, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    2nd timeout

    9-4 at the 12:13 mark.
    Florida playing soft press back into man – inside the arc. The gators have no offense.

  6. Casey   January 12, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    That didn’t take long – another timeout.

  7. Casey   January 12, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Lay ups = high field goal percentage.

  8. Casey   January 12, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    Florida’s impatience on offense = transition advantages for Kentucky

    10:08 Kentucky up 15-13.

  9. Casey   January 12, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Momentum shift. Calipari gets the timeout. Florida 19-15 at 9:12 mark.

  10. Casey   January 12, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    7:19 And the pendulum swings. Donovan gets the TO. Kentucky up 23-19. Bledsoe has 9 for the wildcats.

  11. Casey   January 12, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    And the next event in this track meet….

  12. Casey   January 12, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    3:41 Kentucky 27 Florida 23 – Watching the Gator offense is like looking at a pond with algae buildup – there is no flow.

  13. Casey   January 12, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    1:57 Kentucky 31-26. Florida has gone back to 2-3 AND getting back on defense.

  14. Casey   January 12, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    The story so far – when bad offense converts into NO defense. Florida can’t wait to shoot and Kentucky is enjoying the subsequent lay ups and free throws.

  15. Casey   January 12, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    Halftime – Kentucky 38-31. Is it Florida’s inability to run offense or Kentucky’s defense?

    Calipari is all smiles for the halftime interview…with Erin Andrews.

    There is nothing Donovan can put on the white board that will solve this problem. He needs to hold up a mirror, so his guys can look at themselves.

  16. Casey   January 12, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    2nd half 15:58 timeout
    Kentucky 48-38 – Florida can not run with Kentucky.

  17. Casey   January 12, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    15:20 – Kentucky 51-40 – Bledsoe has 20.

  18. Casey   January 12, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    11:46 timeout on the floor. Florida showing show life – 61-54.

  19. Casey   January 12, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    7:51 Whoa Nellie! 14-5 run by the Gators. Where did they get this offense? 68-66

  20. Casey   January 12, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    5:12 all even

  21. Wally   January 13, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Yeeeesssssssssss! Go ‘Cats!

  22. Casey   January 13, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Florida beat themselves. They could not wait to shoot. That and Kentucky’s interior defense is SOLID. Oh and Florida has nobody who can score inside with any regularity. They need some ex-lax.

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