It’s senior night for Kentucky, but given that its entire lineup is built of mostly underclassmen, that doesn’t mean much. It also doesn’t help that Reid Travis, the lone senior that plays, is unlikely to play due to injury. His absence gives Florida one more chance to pick up a legit win, something it failed to do on Wednesday, losing in overtime to LSU. The Wildcats still have something to play for with a chance for a 1-seed so there’s no reason they won’t show up in this Game after winning at Florida 65-54 a month ago.
The Scoredoesn’t look like it, but the Gators actually led the majority of the way and even had an 11-point lead early in the second half. The Cats decided to turn things on in the final eight minutes, closing the Game on a 22-6 run, including a 14-0 run at one point. The Gators know they can compete in this Game and the absence of Reid Travis should only help since EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards (Travis replacements) only combined for 15 minutes in that first Game.
It was a defensive battle in that first matchup with Kentucky’s main edge coming on the glass and in the paint as PJ Washington went for 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Tyler Herro led the scoring with 19 points and went 6-for-8 from the field. As for Florida, its offense once again failed to show up as no one had more than 12 points as it shot 22-for-63 as a team, 34.9%. That’s not a good number. But if Travis can’t play, that should give a boost to Kevarrius Hayes in the post, who couldn’t do anything in that first Game with just Four points and five boards.
To have a chance, Hayes needs to double that offensive output, but also be a factor on the glass, similar to the LSU Game when he had 15 rebounds. If that happens, Florida could be in business. This is a team that already won at LSU and blew out teams like Alabama and Vandy, so playing well on the road isn’t new to them. That’s what happens when you win Games via defense.
This time, the Gators could mix things up defensively to limit Washington and Herro, UK’s most consistent scorers. There’s a chance Hayes gets to mark Washington in order to contain him, while throwing someone like Keyontae Johnson on Richards or Montgomery, since neither is much of an offensive threat. Herro and Keldon Johnson are another issue, but those guys are prone to bad outings. Johnson can have huge Games, but he’s also failed to surpass eight points in three of the last five. It’s a similar situation with point guard Ashton Hagans, who simply isn’t scoring much anymore and rarely has more than five assists.
But to win, Florida still has to score. Jalen Hudson has come alive with double-digits in the last five including 33 points against LSU last Game. If that continues for the senior, it’s another step to having a relevant offense for the Gators. Otherwise, it’s a mystery for the offense as leading scorer KeVaughn Allen (12.2 ppg) has just 15 points in the last three Games. To win in this spot, everyone will have to step up and that also includes Noah Locke on the perimeter, the team’s best shooter.
Florida needs a win and there’s a chance it’s competitive, but coming off the brutal overtime loss to LSU on senior night, this won’t be an easy team to bet on. Reid Travis may not play but it’s the last home Game for the Wildcats and it’s hard to see them taking it easy with a 1-seed in their grasp.
Our Pick – Kentucky -10