CRAWFORD | Seven quick takeaways from Kentucky's 68-61 win at Florida
Kentucky trailed early against an inspired Florida team, but the Wildcats, even without forward Trey Lyles, had too much for the Gators in the end, running their record to 22-0 with a 68-61 win.
Saturday, February 7th 2015, 11:23 pm EST by
Sunday, February 8th 2015, 12:51 am EST
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — It's been a forgettable season for the University of Florida basketball team, which began the season with Top 10 expectations but found itself with 10 losses heading into Saturday night's matchup with No. 1-ranked Kentucky.
Coach Billy Donovan had all the motivational switches at his disposal. ESPN held its College GameDay program in Gainesville. Donovan could tell his team it could erase some of this season's disappointment with a win to end Kentucky's unbeaten run. None that was enough. Kentucky was too strong, and pulled away to a 68-61 win after a 9-2 run to end the game. The Wildcats are now 23-0.
The Gators came out playing inspired basketball. They made 8 of 11 shots after they missed their first two, and grabbed a nine-point lead midway through the first half.
But Kentucky kept grinding on defense, and in the second half, pounded the ball down to Karl-Anthony Towns, who was brilliant, and to Willie Cauley-Stein, who came to life midway through the second half.
The Wildcats also got great offense from Aaron Harrison, who made half his field goals, half his threes and all eight of his free throws to finish with 23 points.
"He was unbelievable. He made every big play that we needed him to make," Calipari told ESPN's SportsCenter right after the game. "That's Aaron that everybody talked about player of the year in the beginning of the season. That was Aaron today."
A few takeaways:
1. THE OFFENSE? GO TO TOWNS.
The more he plays, the more Towns shows he can do. He can make shots in the post. But he became a major facilitator at times Saturday, dishing to Cauley-Stein down low and to Aaron Harrison for threes. He grabbed a huge offensive rebound with 3:18 left, dishing to Cauley-Stein for a shot that resulted in him getting fouled and heading to the line for free throws. “He's been the best player on the floor,” ESPN's Jay Bilas said at that point. He was right. Towns finished with 19 points, shot 6-10 from the field and was 7 of 7 from the free-throw line. He also had three assists.
2. CATS CAN TAKE A PUNCH.
Not that they haven't proved it before, but the Wildcats once again took a direct hit from a rival, this time to start a game, but did not panic. They kept defending, kept running offense, found its hot hands and weathered the storm.
3. THAT CAULEY-STEIN DUNK.
Whoa. Best dunk by a UK player since James Young's slam against Connecticut in last season's NCAA championship game.
4. FREE THROWS MAJOR.
The Wildcats did one of the fundamental things you have to do to win a tough game on the road. They made free throws. In fact, they almost made all of them. They made 21 of 22, while Florida made just 7 of 14. "Under the gun, now, too," Calipari said on ESPN's SportsCenter right after the game. "It's not just standing there shooting H-O-R-S-E. It's like, a big game on the road, and we're trying to keep a run going, and you're playing against everybody in the state of Florida and you go up there and nail them."
5. FLORIDA FLIRTED WITH 50 PERCENT.
No team has shot 50 percent against the Wildcats all season — but Florida came close. The Gators made 24 of 49 for 49 percent.
6. KENTUCKY EFFICIENT OFF TURNOVERS.
One aspect of the Wildcats' game that perhaps doesn't get enough credit is how efficient they are scoring off turnovers. Florida actually forced more turnovers than UK did in the game, finishing just just 11 turnovers to UK's 15. But the Wildcats turned Florida's 11 turnovers into 17 points, while Florida finished with just nine points off turnovers.
7. NEXT UP.
UK has a quick turnaround after a 9 p.m. Saturday tipoff on the road. The Wildcats traveled home by charter Saturday night, and will face LSU at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night in Baton Rouge. WDRB will be at the game for coverage.
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