BOZICH | Donovan says blizzard of threes won't beat Kentucky
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WDRB) – If you're looking for somebody to say the University of Kentucky basketball team could use another shooter, another blast of defensive quickness at guard or any other nit-picky upgrade, don't take your search inside the Florida locker room.
You'll exit with an empty notebook.
Florida coach Billy Donovan and his players will tell you they believe Kentucky is A) superb in everything the Wildcats do; B) amazingly unselfish; C) nearly flawless around the rim; D) taller and wider than the Golden Gate Bridge and E) choose your own superlative.
That's not surprising. Kentucky (31-0) has already dispatched the Gators twice. Now the Wildcats are positioned to do it a third time Friday at 1 p.m. (EDT) in a Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinal game at Bridgestone Arena. Florida earned this moment by defeating Alabama, 69-61, Thursday.
Will the Gators have to pitch a perfect game to defeat the Wildcats?
“There's isn't much margin for error,” said Jon Horford, Florida's senior center.
Five percent margin?
“Not much margin for error,” Horford said, with a smile.
“Very little margin for error,” said Horford, laughing this time.
Reminder: The Gators has lost one game for all 16 that they won this season.
Donovan understands what is required to win a national championship. He has won two. He beat Kentucky and John Calipari three times last season – and then lost to the Wildcats by seven in Gainesville Feb. 7 and by 17 last Saturday at Rupp Arena.
Donovan follows the game, knows the contenders, enjoys the chase. He has listened to the chatter:
To beat Kentucky, you must make three-point shots. No, the key is transition defense. Wrong again. Actually, what matters is being the aggressor from the first bounce of the ball, coach?
“A lot of things have to go well,” Donovan said. “I've never really been a believer in that against them you have to make 20 three-point shots.
“I think they're so long and so athletic that if you get to a place where you're taking so many threes and they're not going in, (there are) long rebounds, run outs then it puts them in transition.
“I think you've got to be balanced inside and out. But you have to play very, very well. You have to be able to defend them.
“I say this: Generally the best teams in the country have a multitude of ways to win. And Kentucky can do that.
“They can beat your from behind the three-point line. They can beat you by not shooting the ball well and offensive rebounding. They can beat you by getting fouled. They can beat you with their defense, especially with the shot blocking. They can beat you in transition.
“There's a lot of different things they hang their hat on. So you have to be really good in all facets.”
No Florida player has played better against Kentucky than Kasey Hill, the Gators' swift point guard. Size is an issue for Hill. At 6 feet 1, he is five inches shorter than the Harrison twins.
But in Gainesville Hill scored a dozen points with six assists and only one turnover. And last Saturday in Lexington, Hill made seven of 13 shots, scoring 15 points.
Like Donovan, Hill knows what a team must do to be ranked number one in the nation. He averaged 22 minutes per game for the Florida team that was ranked number one and advanced to the Final Four last season.
What Hill likes best about Kentucky is not the Wildcats' length or ability to defend. What Hill likes best about Kentucky is the way the Wildcats share and sacrifice.
“They're really good in transition,” Hill said. “They get real easy baskets.
“They're a team where nobody really cares about the shots. They do it together. I think that's the first thing. The unselfishness. They're very unselfish.”
Is that surprising?
“Not at all,” Hill said.
Not even a little?
“It could be surprising, especially when you've got 10 McDonald's all-Americans,” Hill said.
“A lot of people think just because you're a McDonald's all-American you have a bad ego and you try to make everything about yourself. Those guys do it together and play together.”
And on Friday, Kentucky will go for its three-peat against Florida.
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