How Florida's offense (and Casey Prather) befuddled Kentucky's defense

ESPN

It was more than a spin cycle. And Kentucky's in serious trouble with Nerlens Noel lost for the season.

One of the magic things about GIFs: They can help us see and understand things better. Like, say, one way in which Casey Prather helped Florida beat Kentucky.

This one comes from late in the game, after Nerlens Noel's horrific injury, and Kentucky really misses him on this play.

We pick things up midway through the possession, which comes after a Prather block of Willie Cauley-Stein at the other end. Scottie Wilbekin immediately fed Prather on the wing, but Kentucky had everyone back, making it difficult to drive. Florida ran two baseline screens for Kenny Boynton, but he was well-covered when he caught it on the wing, and so the ball got worked back out to Prather. A subsequent move by Erik Murphy to get in post position switches Wiltjer onto Murphy and Willie Cauley-Stein onto Prather.

Prather immediately kicks the ball to the right wing, where Mike Rosario holds it. As the shot clock ticks under 10 seconds, Murphy flashes to the wing, seemingly to screen for Rosario, but two things happen at once: first, Rosario begins dribbling to the top of the arc before Murphy even gets there, and two, Murphy pivots and cuts back inside and to the basket instead of actually setting the screen.

This is problematic for Kentucky, because three players are responding to those two things, and only one of them is doing it correctly. Alex Poythress, Rosario's man, follows him, but so does Kyle Wiltjer, drawn out by Murphy, and Wiltjer was already a step slow on following Murphy before the cut. Cauley-Stein, who inexplicably cheated out to nearly the three-point line on Prather when he first got the ball at the top of the key, is still wandering around above the foul line, and is very slow to recognize Murphy cutting to the hoop.

Rosario's first quick dribble was followed by a hesitation dribble, however, and that and the inadvertent double team make it impossible for him to hit Murphy, even after he leaps to try it; he's forced to make a mid-air pass to Prather, who has faded to the left wing.

No one is within about eight feet of Prather when he catches and sets, with Julius Mays staying on Boynton closer to the corner, Wiltjer still over-recovering to compensate for missing Murphy the first time, and Cauley-Stein also trying to follow Murphy. Kentucky is in the middle of a terrible defensive possession, and it's about to get worse.

With seven seconds on the shot clock, Prather thinks about shooting, with a quick ball-fake that gets Wiltjer to react — and gets many Rowdy Reptiles throwing their arms up in the "for THREEEEEE!" three-pointer stance. Prather's taken six threes on thse year, though, and even if that's just one line on Kentucky's Florida scouting reports, it's one Wiltjer hasn't read, as he takes two steps out, only to find Prather has already started his dribble and is about to eat him alive.

Prather uses a half-spin to push Wiltjer back into the lane, then does a half-spin out of it to get to great position past Wiltjer near the baseline. From there, he takes another step, elevates, and lays in the ball over a flat-footed Wiltjer and a slow-recovering Cauley-Stein.

Kentucky's going to be in serious trouble in its stretch run if Cauley-Stein, an average defender without superior lateral quickness, and Wiltjer, an awful defender, are asked to man the middle in Noel's absence: This play isn't the only one I can point to for evidence of that. But Prather was not always a guy who could make other teams pay for terrible defense like this, and the ease with which he slices through the Wildcats on this play is testament to his improved decision-making and confidence off the bounce.

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