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Florida vs. Kentucky: Could common opponents tell the tale?

Florida and Kentucky have seen a few of the same teams in the same places this year. And Florida's been better in those games, if only slightly.

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

Florida and Kentucky didn't play any common opponents in their non-conference schedules this year. That's not exactly surprising, as the two teams tend to swim in different circles, with Kentucky tending to traditional rivalries with Indiana (usually) and Louisville, and taking on top-level competition in huge neutral-site games, while Florida has to do its best to get top-level competition to come to Gainesville and has trotted the nation for tougher road trips of late.

But, a little more than halfway through the SEC schedule, Florida and Kentucky have actually both made three road trips to the same schools, and hosted the three same teams.

Is there anything to derive from those six games? Let's look at them.

Arkansas at Bud Walton Arena

Florida 84, Arkansas 82 (OT), January 11
Arkansas 87, Kentucky 85 (OT), January 14

This is probably the best comparison between the two teams, because of the chronological proximity — these were two consecutive games on Arkansas's schedule — and the rigor involved. And the games were similar: Both went to overtime after late charges by the visiting team in regulation; both visiting teams got substantial help from the free throw line (Florida was 25-of-34, Kentucky 26-of-40); both Florida and Kentucky committed 17 turnovers; Florida and Arkansas played 68 possessions, and Kentucky and Arkansas played 70; Florida scored 1.09 points per possession, Kentucky 1.08; Florida ended Arkansas's 25-game home winning streak, and Kentucky almost made it two games long.

And that's where the similarities end, basically. Florida was playing without leading scorer Casey Prather; Kentucky had its full complement of players. Florida got bombed by the Razorbacks (10-of-24 from three); Kentucky held Arkansas to a 42.0 percent Effective Field Goal Percentage. Kentucky fouled Arkansas 31 times, giving the Hogs 41 free throws; Florida fouled just 20 times, conceding 24 free throws. And, most importantly, Florida won with smart overtime play that put the game in its hands early, and Kentucky lost — on a missed box-out that produced the year's most exciting finish.

Arkansas has since lost to Missouri at home, which may make both results look a little less impressive, but if you're worrying about how Florida and Kentucky play down the stretch, look no further than their respective finishes against the Hogs: Florida was able to continue playing well after rallying at the end of regulation, but Kentucky had to claw back against the Razorbacks in overtime after a spurt to close the second half.

Georgia at home

Florida 72, Georgia 50, January 14
Kentucky 79, Georgia 54, January 25

The styles were different, but Florida and Kentucky put on two really similar performances, at least by the numbers, against a thoroughly overmatched Georgia team: Florida limited the Bulldogs to 0.82 PPP, and so did Kentucky (technically, Florida allowed 0.817, Kentucky 0.819), and the Wilcats put up 1.20 PPP, while Florida notched 1.18. (Florida-Georgia was 61 possessions, Kentucky-Georgia 66.)

On offense, Florida got hot late, and made 11 of 26 threes; Kentucky made 24 of its 46 two-pointers, and On defense, Kentucky relied a little more on forcing turnovers (it got 20) and defending inside (Georgia made 12 of 41 two-pointers, and Kentucky had 11 blocks), while Florida limited second shots (allowing 11 offensive rebounds to the 17 Kentucky conceded). The biggest difference between these two dominant performances? Florida embarked on its burying run with 15 minutes left in the first half, while Kentucky waited five more minutes before kicking the Dawgs to the curb.

Tennessee at home

Florida 67, Tennessee 41, January 25
Kentucky 74, Tennessee 66, January 18

This pair of games has the biggest disparity in this list, despite both Florida and Kentucky winning. Florida simply dismantled Tennessee's offense in its win, allowing 0.69 points per possession; Kentucky gave up 1.08 PPP in its victory, but scored 1.20 PPP (Florida scored 1.13 PPP) and pulled away late, making 23 of 24 free throws after starting 16-of-16 from the line.

Both teams struggled with Jarnell Stokes (20 and 15 against Kentucky, 16 and 10 against Florida), but what team doesn't? Andrew Harrison had a career-high 26 points for Kentucky in the 'Cats' win; Jordan McRae mustered a season-low five points in the Gators' win.

Texas A&M at home

Florida 69, Texas A&M 36, February 1
Kentucky 68, Texas A&M 51, January 21

Kentucky did its typical inside dominance, outside shakiness, and only put up 1.03 PPP on the Aggies in Rupp, but limited second chances, allowing just six offensive rebounds (of a possible 36) and held A&M to 0.77 PP.

Florida did that, but better, allowing five (of a possible 45) offensive rebounds, shooting worse from three than the Wildcats did, and holding the Aggies under 30 points into the final five minutes of the game before a late run against reserves brought A&M's PPP up to ... 0.56. This was Florida's second-most lopsided win of the year, trailing the 42-point pasting of Savannah State in December, and the Gators only scored 1.08 PPP in it.

Boy, Texas A&M is bad.

Mississippi State at Humphrey Coliseum

Florida 62, Mississippi State 51, January 30
Kentucky 69, Mississippi State 59, February 8

Mississippi State is surprisingly scrappy at home, and hung with both of these teams much longer than one might have guessed possible looking only at records. Kentucky held a nine-point lead at halftime, and basically maintained it for the rest of the game — but never really pulled away, and led by double digits rather briefly. Florida took longer to fully gain the upper hand, going cold at the end of the first half and squandering a chance to blow the game open, then never leading by more than 13 points.

But, well, Florida's win is a skosh more impressive: Patric Young played just 22 minutes after earlier foul trouble, and Mississippi State shot the ball better against the Gators (46.3 percent eFG%, versus the 39.4 percent MSU posted against Kentucky), but Florida scored 1.05 PPP and limited the Bulldogs to 0.87 PPP, while Kentucky scored 1.06 PPP and permitted 0.91 PPP. And Kentucky gave the Bulldogs 28 free throws on 21 fouls; Florida handed them just six free throws on 12 fouls ... five of which Starkville's finest missed anyway.

Auburn at Auburn Arena

Florida 68, Auburn 61, January 18
Kentucky 64, Auburn 56, February 12

But if you really want to look at how different two road wins by seven and eight points at the same team can look, check out what the Gators and Wildcats did against Auburn.

Auburn shot the lights out to stay close with a very hot Florida team early, making its first six threes to reel the Gators back in after a 23-10 start. For the day, Auburn made seven of 13 threes, putting on the second-best shooting display from distance (by percentage) against Florida this year. Florida hammered the Tigers inside, making 18 of 30 two-pointers, and endured three significant scoring droughts in the game before pulling away via a Scottie Wilbekin heroball special and some clutch free throws in the final minute.

Kentucky, meanwhile, didn't have to deal with a hot Auburn team: Both schools were ice cold on Wednesday when they met in Auburn, and posted their lowest Effective Field Goal Percentages (Kentucky at 35.5 percent, Auburn at 34.5 percent) of the season. The Tigers made just two of 16 threes, and Kentucky made just 12 of its 43 two-pointers despite getting more than half of the available offensive rebounds. Neither team made a field goal in the final 4:19 of the first half, and Kentucky built a six-point edge with free throws despite Alex Poythress going 1-for-2 on three consecutive trips to the line.

Then came the second half, in which the teams combined for just 18 field goals, and just one in the final three minutes of play, and Kentucky pulling away for its eight-point win by sinking some of the 40 free throws it would take on the day.

One significant difference between the two games? Florida never trailed in the second half, despite Auburn's peskiness, while the Tigers held a one-point lead with under eight minutes to go against Kentucky. Another? Kentucky was at full strength, while Florida was playing with Prather coming off the bench in his return from an ankle injury and Michael Frazier II essentially benched (he played 19 minutes and took two shots) for poor play early.


Of the six pairs of games, I would say Florida obviously played better against Tennessee (blowout vs. good win) and Texas A&M (huge blowout vs. blowout), and arguably played better against Auburn (close game against hot team vs. close game against cold team) and Arkansas (win without Prather vs. loss at full strength), while both teams played similarly well against Arkansas, Mississippi State, and Georgia.

And that has me feeling like Florida has only a slight edge, if one exists at all, on Saturday night.