The hope of Kentucky actually losing anytime soon remains but it is fading away following a 68-61 win for the Wildcats on the road against Florida, improving to 10-0 in the SEC this season and 23-0 overall led by a terrific performance from Aaron Harrison and Karl-Anthony Towns.
Kentucky were excellent from the line, which made the difference from a complicated, close game to getting past this difficult challenge relatively unscathed. The Wildcats hit 21-of-22 from the line, their second best free throw performance in the Calipari era on a minimum of 20 shots. Aaron Harrison, leading the team with 23 points, was a perfect 8-for-8, and Towns was just behind with a 7-for-7. Florida shot just 50% from the line.
Kentucky did yield more points in the paint, giving up 32 points compared to their own 22, and often their closer wins have come when struggling to gain dominance on both ends of the floor in the paint. But they made up for it in other ways, including outscoring Florida 17-9 when it came to points off turnovers, going 11-2 in the second half as they came back from behind to grab a hold of the lead and never let go of it.
With their 23-0 record, Kentucky are the first SEC team to have such a great start since a different Wildcats team from the 1965-1966 season, a squad that famously lost to Texas Western in the national title game. That Kentucky team lost on their 24th outing, but with LSU being their next game (on the road), it’s getting harder and harder to believe that there’s anyone in this conference good enough to ruin the perfect regular season for the number one team in the nation.
This win wasn’t just another step towards possible immortality. It had a taste and sense of revenge to it. Kentucky lost all three games to Florida last season – two in the regular season and another in the SEC tournament. But Florida don’t recruit as well as Kentucky, not to mention building almost a completely new team for this season. Dropping off from being one of the best in the nation was expected, but it doesn’t mean Calipari and his players weren’t going to take advantage of the situation.
You cannot have fun if the other guy’s punching you in the eye. That is not fun. You have to be ready to punch before he punches you. If you’re getting licks in first, you’ll have a ball. It is fun! But if you come in that ring and all of a sudden your head is moving side to side and your chin, it ain’t fun. They played a lot of the game without Frazier and they still had a chance to beat us. That tells you what kind of game Florida played. They played to win, they fought, they did whatever they had to.
Willie Caulie-Stein with a huge dunk over freshman Devin Robinson stole the show in terms of highlights and something for replay loves to talk about. He finished with 13 points and 5 rebounds. He was one of only four Kentucky players to even score a field goal, as Devin Booker also helped out with 12 points off the bench. The two platoons system was a fine idea, but Calipari knows more about who he can go to war with as this season drags on.