Florida Over Kentucky – Real Kings of the SEC

Casey Prather

The hype machine that makes Kentucky show up higher than it should in most rankings can’t play basketball for them; that’s where John Calipari and his Freshmen fall a little bit short despite the immense talent on the team, because Florida, like other rivals they might meet this season on, are better coached and play great together.

Julius Randlehad 13 points and 13 rebounds, but Florida did a great job of keeping him out of his comfort zone, holding him to 0 field goals in the second half. The Gators defense and rebounding did a great job in keeping Kentucky out of the paint, limiting the Wildcats to only 8 second-chance points, even though they’re the best team among major conferences, averaging 17 points per game on second-chance opportunities.

Florida came away with a 69-59 win, winning in Rupp Arena for the first time since 2007, as Casey Prather led the way, not just winning the battle of the big men and keeping Randle silent throughout the second half, but also scoring more than anyone on the court with 24 points on 8-of-9 from the field, including 14 points in the paint.

It was just one of those games where you have to kind of stay the course. We were just trying to stay in the moment. We knew that they were going to throw punches and we were going to do the same thing. There was a lot of time left in the game. Our main focus was to stay with our principles and stay together.

Kentucky have now lost for only the third time since John Calipari took over as head coach in a home game. In a battle between the team with the best paint points per game, second-chance points per game and field goal percentage numbers in the SEC and the team with the interior defense and defensive efficiency in the conference, Florida came out as the big winners, improving to 12-0 this season in conference play and winning for a 17th consecutive time, their last loss coming in early December against Connecticut.

It wasn’t just Prather and his dominance in the paint that led to the win. Scottie Wilbekin scored 23 points, including 11-of-12 from the line, in a very smart and patient game from the Gators. They turned the ball over only 5 times throughout the game, making it very difficult for Kentucky to run, while Patric Young and Prather did an excellent job of making it very hard for Kentucky to fell comfortable under the basket.

Calipari slightly complained about a technical foul he was given, which allowed Wilbekin to score crucial points from the line he might not have had the chance to if it wasn’t for that official decision. Andrew Harrison was very hard to stop with 20 points but his twin brother Aaron was only 1-of-7 from the field. James Young had 19 points but also turned the ball over five times, while the bench got Kentucky only 2 points.

Basing your basketball philosophy purely on talent and hoping they’ll learn to play as a team during the season isn’t bad, especially when you attract more talent than anyone in the nation, but classes like the one Calipari had in 2011-2012 don’t come around every year, and his deficiencies as a coach, and the holes in his philosophy, become exposed when playing again an elite, organized and smart program like the one Billy Donovan is running in Florida.

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