As you all know, the Gators beat the Kentucky Wildcats 64-61 on Saturday night, winning their 5th straight over the all-time winningest program in college basketball history. It hadn't been since 1977 that this feat occurred, and it was only the second time that the Gators had won in Rupp Arena since the 1997-1998 season.
It was well known that the historic roles of these two teams had been reversed coming into this game -- the Wildcats were the underdogs on their home floor, trying to prove that they could compete with the Gators, who came in on a role and trying to remain unbeaten in Southeastern Conference play.
The Gators 3-point win is one that has produced mix reactions from both fanbases. Due to foul trouble the Gators were not able to get their everyday lineup in rythym long enough to make a difference, while the Wildcats were not able to take advantage of this because of poor shooting, both at the free throw line and from beyond the arc. It's hard to put together any real conclusions from this game, because it was a lot of what-ifs.
What if Joakim Noah and Al Horford didn't get into foul trouble? Would it have remained a domination? What if Kentucky hit just one more three on their miserable shooting night? What if it was simply good Gators defense and rushed shots that forced bad Wildcats' shooting?
Here are a few tidbits from this game:
First off, I'll discuss the foul trouble issue, because this is what turned the game into what it was when it was all said and done. Joakim Noah fouled out and Al Horford had 4 fouls, results that forced the two big-men, two of the nation's best, to only play 42 minutes combined in the game (21 apiece). They only scored a combined 15 points and pulled down 13 rebounds. This alone gave Kentucky a HUGE advantage in this game -- yet they still were never able to grab the lead.
My problem with this, and I'm not complaining about the refs being one-sided, was the way in which Noah and Horford (along with all the other players) were getting fouls on Saturday night. There were just too many ticky-tack calls in this one. In my opinion, the referees on Saturday night were trying to take the game into their own hands, and that is something you don't do when there is so much on the line. Quit trying to show these kids up, and let them play.
Some people may say that it was Kentucky's gameplan that forced these fouls on the Gators big men. The anwer: No. Kentucky's gameplan didn't force off the ball fouls and calls that were results of two men going up for rebounds. It all goes back to how the ref should avoid making these kind of calls that totally change the landscape of the game.
With Noah and Horford out of the game, the Wildcats were able to establish Randolph Morris, along with others, in the paint. This was due to the fact that two of the best defenders in the conference were not in the game, instead being replaced by Chris Richard and Dan Werner. No offense to Chris and Dan, but they just can't do the same type of things on the defensive side of the ball as Noah and Horford. I don't think any duo in the country can.
The Gators also couldn't rebound with the absence of Noah and Horford, losing the rebound battle 40-33 against the Cats. Kentucky was able to grab 13 offensive rebounds, while the Gators couldn't do much on their offensive glass. Pomeroy had their OR% at 16.7%, their lowest of the season thus far.
Yet, with Morris inside and good rebounding opportunities, they still weren't able to produce an inside-outside game that resulted in 3 pointers being made. And yet again, they were never able to gain the lead in this game.
While the Wildcats were throwing up bricks in this one from beyond the arc, the Gators were following suit. The Gators ended up shooting 5-17 from beyond the arc, a number that is well below their season 3pt% of 44 coming into the game. Lee Humphrey, who shot 68% in conference play coming in, shot 1-6 from beyond the arc. Corey Brewer, Dan Werner and Walter Hodge shot a combined 1-6. It was just a bad shooting night for the Gators, evidenced by them missing wide-open shots.
It was a bad shooting night from beyond the arc for both teams. It was just worse for Kentucky on this one.
Or maybe good defense by both sides were forcing bad shots.
Corey Brewer is the MVP in this one, followed closely by Taurean Green. Corey turned out to be the difference in the second half of this game with his ability to drive the ball inside and either score points or draw fouls underneath. He scored 16 points, grabbed 7 boards and had 2 steals in the game.
Green was the only Gator who consistently shot the ball well on Saturday night, going 3-5 from the 3-point line and scoring 13 points overall.
Both of these guys came up pretty big in the absence of Noah and Horford out there.
Kudos to Chris Richard on a game well-played. He got 25 minutes due to the foul trouble of the starters, and took advantage of it, scoring 11 points (season high), grabbing 5 rebounds and going a perfect 3-3 from the free throw line.
I've always felt that bench players are some of the most important players in the country because of the way they can sneak up on teams and make a huge difference. An example would be Adrian Moss and his exceptional first half in the Championship game last year.
Here's hoping Chris continues to play well coming off the bench. We will need it when it's all said and done.
Florida led the entire game in this one, and even the final score is a little misleading. Kentucky scored 6 points in the span of about 3 seconds in the final 20 seconds of the game, and that will usually tilt the final outcome somewhat.
Never losing the lead is a really good thing.
In fact, over the last 98 minutes and 19 seconds of basketball time against Florida, Kentucky has led for a total of 1:36. Great news.
Really, the lead had a lot to do with the way the starting 5 took over the game at the beginning. They devastated Kentucky in every aspect of the game for the first 10 minutes or so, taking a huge lead at 30-14. At that point I thought this was going to be a major statement game, and I still think it could have if Noah and Horford weren't forced to the bench. Such is basketball.
Really, it could have been a statement game for Kentucky if they would have hit 3s.
Pomeroy still has the Gators listed as the top team in terms of offensive efficiency at 120.2. They rank 7th currently in defensive efficiency at 88.2.
Kentucky held the Gators to the lowest OE of the season at 94.8, while the Gators had their lowest point total of the season at 64.
Just an ugly offensive showing, despite the fact that they still shot 47% in this one. (Un)Fortunately we're used to 50+% shooting performances.
The Gators remain undefeated in the conference at 10-0, and will face Alabama in Gainesville on Wednesday night. Kentucky, on the other hand, will travel to Knoxville to take on a Vols team that recently got the services of Chris Lofton back. It should be an interesting one.