Florida vs. Kentucky, The Differences: 19 takeaways from the Gators' perfect farewell

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing about Florida's seniors is totally perfect. But they combined for a perfect goodbye to the O'Dome.

The Differences is borrowed from Rob Mahoney's feature of nearly same name at The Two-Man Game, and makes a number of points equivalent to the margin of victory about games the Gators just played.

Florida 84, Kentucky 65

Game ThreadRecap

  1. Between the long piece on Florida's seniors, the Game Thread, the recap, and the post with the Senior Day tribute video, I have said most of the things there are to say about this team and this game. So this post is mostly about moments.

  2. The kissing of the floor was the last goodbye, and it is beautiful and perfect. So was the last hello.

    This last pregame huddle — one that happened while all of Kentucky's players were already set at their individual positions for the tip — was a small moment, but it might well be one this team remembers forever. It's definitely one I will carry for a long, long time.

  3. Will Yeguete's family is from France, of course, and they couldn't be in Gainesville for this game. So who was with Will as he walked on the court? A four-year-old who is one of his favorite people on this earth, that four-year-old's mom, and Yeguete's high school coach, Florida Air Academy's Aubin Goporo.

    It was a moment that could have been entirely about him, but Yeguete chose to share it with people who have helped him — people who probably think he's helped them at least as much as they've helped him. There will never, ever, ever be another Will Yeguete.

  4. I was a little worried when Florida was only up 12-8 at the first media timeout. James Young had hit two threes and was getting open looks. Kentucky wasn't allowing offensive rebounds.

    Florida responded with a 5-0 run into the next media timeout — with lineups that included a bit of DeVon and Chris Walker — and took control of the game from that point until halftime.

  5. Kentucky did put together a 7-0 run as soon as Florida went up 20-9, with Young's third three — giving him 11 of Kentucky's 16 points — cutting the Gators' lead to four points at the 9:40 mark of the first half.

    Florida went on an 11-0 run in response, and Young made zero field goals from that point on. He would finish with 14 points.

  6. Florida's final 9:40 of the first half: 1.45 PPP, 0.60 PPP allowed.
  7. And that final 9:40 of the first half was maybe the best basketball I have ever seen in the O'Connell Center.

    Florida scored 29 points over that span; Kentucky scored 12. Florida scored 1.45 PPP over its 20 possessions from that point on, while holding Kentucky to 0.60 PPP. Florida blew a four-point game into a 21-point game — on a team that hadn't faced a deficit larger than 16 points coming in — by playing smart offense and sound defense, getting good shots and forcing bad ones.

  8. It could've been better: The Gators made just ("just") eight shots in that span, missing seven — two of the misses were Frazier threes, and one was a bad alley-oop, one of two Dorian Finney-Smith misses at the rim. Florida committed three turnovers in the stretch, and that missed alley-oop could've been one.

  9. And the guy most responsible for the run wasn't any of Florida's seniors: It was either Michael Frazier II or Kasey Hill.

    Frazier sank three triples in the 29-12 stretch, but all three were assisted set shots, and two assisted by Hill. Hill had four points, four assists, and a steal over that span, and three of the dimes were extraordinary: He dribbled around two Kentucky defenders, dribbled across the lane near the baseline, drew the defenders again, and then hit a cutting Young with a bounce pass across the lane for an easy dunk; he broke a press by simply dribbling around and dusting a potential trap, then dribbled into the lane, drew a defender, and found Frazier for an easy three; he got the ball on a fast break and gave it right back to Frazier while moving away from him and without dribbling for a trailer three.

    Hill has been the subject of criticism in his freshman year, and probably a victim of hype from myself and others that cast him as Billy Donovan's best point guard ever even before his first game as a Gator. But if he's been inconsistent, it's only because he alternates between freshman woes and flashes of greatness. The last 9:40 of that first half was just greatness.

  10. (Rob Foldy)

  11. And Hill sort of had to be great at that moment: Scottie Wilbekin had drawn his second foul just before it. Hill's brilliance made it easy to keep him on the bench in the first half.

  12. On a day full of little moments, none was more heartening to me than to see Young find Hill and give him a quick high-five after that assist for the open dunk. This team is one on which every player appreciates the contributions of every other player, but you sometimes don't see that on the court, focused as these Gators usually are on following great plays with more great plays.

  13. The crowd appreciating this team was fun, too: Virtually every scoring play in the first half drew a roar so loud from the student section (and the crowd in general) that it drowned out the announcement of the play. I have been to dozens of games in the O'Dome since 2007, and that has happened maybe two or three times. Maybe.

  14. Kentucky's 21-point halftime deficit was its largest of 2013-14 — and Florida's brief 22-point lead the largest any team has had on Kentucky this year — but it is not the largest halftime deficit of the John Calipari era at Kentucky, because the Wildcats trailed 50-26 at Tennessee last year.

  15. But Kentucky made its run — without checking, I'm 99.9 percent sure that a 15-0 run is the largest unanswered run any team has made against Florida this season — and the Gators were in "trouble" briefly, their lead cut to six points. If I could have bet on any specific play as a response to that run, I would have bet on a Wilbekin three off the dribble.

    At the 11:54 mark of the second half, Scottie Wilbekin hit a very difficult leaning three off the dribble. Florida's lead wouldn't be cut to fewer than seven points after that moment.

  16. Big Shot Scottie Wilbekin: Great when he most needs to be.
  17. Scottie's the only Florida player who can create his own shot off the dribble in outside-the-arc isolation situations. Casey Prather's handle isn't quite there, and neither is Frazier's; Hill can't shoot well enough to create anything he can make but layups, though he did hit a late jumper in this game. That's a weakness for this team, which sometimes needs Scottie to bail it out, only to have him dribble into traffic and throw up a bad shot; that very thing happened early in the se cond half of this game.

    But it definitely feels like Wilbekin successfully hits a big shot in a crucial moment far more often than he fails to do so. It may not be "clutch," as I'm not sure if "clutch" exists, but Wilbekin is great when he most needs to be.

  18. And, no, it's not lost on me that "Great when he most needs to be" could sum up Scottie Wilbekin's Florida career and senior year.

  19. Billy Donovan doesn't call timeouts to stop runs as a rule, something that is probably as admirable as it is vexing for Florida fans, myself included. He doesn't bail out his players with a pause button, instead usually trusting them to stop the run themselves or answer it with their own play. This has been a habit for years now, but it's especially pronounced with this team, and I think that's because a) runs on 2013-14 Florida are exceedingly rare and b) Donovan has more trust in this team than any of its predecessors, the Oh-Fours included.

    But Donovan did take a timeout when Kentucky stretched that run to 15-0, and substituted no one, so that's probably a bailout timeout.

    Immediately afterward, Wilbekin saw his man react slowly to a screen and pulled up from 24 feet for a three. Could that have happened without a timeout? Probably.

  20. Donovan's next timeout was his last of the game, and came with just 36 seconds remaining. He took out Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete, and Patric Young one last time — and together.

  21. In the final game in the O'Dome of their Florida careers, those four seniors combined to score 51 points, grab 20 rebounds, hand off seven assists, and make 19 of their 29 shots.

    And they gave Florida its biggest win ever over Kentucky, the biggest rival any Gators who play basketball at Florida will ever have.

  22. They're not perfect. Saturday was.

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