Until midway through the second half, it looked like Florida had a chance to knock off unbeaten Kentucky in Rupp Arena.
The Gators had been game all day, had cut Kentucky leads to three points, to two points, to one point. It was 21-17 in Florida's favor at one point, 36-35 Kentucky at the under-16 timeout, 44-41 with 10:30 to go.
When it was all over, and John Calipari had reinserted the three senior walk-ons who started this game and played all of 22 seconds, it was 67-50.
Florida tried. And it wasn't nearly enough.
Kasey Hill tried very hard, and had arguably his finest game as a scorer for the Gators, getting 15 points on seven makes and a free throw and scoring on a variety of drives that had fans wondering where this Kasey Hill had been all year. Dorian Finney-Smith had 12 points, four rebounds, and two blocks; he's always trying. Michael Frazier II, used sparingly off the bench and clearly not 100 percent, pumped in a three in his first game since the last time these two teams met. Eli Carter sank two of them. Jon Horford had seven boards — a team-high, with four of them on the offensive end — against Kentucky's redwoods.
Trying was not the issue today, nor has effort been the issue for the Gators for much of this trying season. Kentucky was just better, capable of giving the ball to Karl-Anthony Towns (13 points, nine rebounds, seven blocks) and Trey Lyles (14 points and six boards) to make up for stagnant offense, capable of leaning on Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein (eight points, seven boards) to make a difference inside. Florida doesn't have a player like any of the three of them, not even one like Dakari Johnson, who can have four points and two blocks in near-silence off the bench for Kentucky. (It didn't hurt that Kentucky was whistled for nine fouls, and Florida awarded just seven free throws, while the 'Cats got 21 free throws from 15 Florida fouls, but that wasn't the primary reason the game went as it did.)
I'd argue that this version of Kentucky is the deepest, most talented team in college basketball since Florida in 2005-06 or 2006-07 — pick whichever season you prefer — but I would hear the arguments for Kentucky in 2013-14 or Kentucky in 2011-12 or Kentucky in 2010-11 ... and you get the point. Calipari has built a juggernaut, one that should be approximately this good year after year, because playing college basketball with seven or so future NBA players in a rotation should be shooting fish in a barrel.
Florida doesn't have that luxury under Billy Donovan — he has to rebuild his program, rather than ordaining NBA-ready blue-chippers as future stars while reloading. Florida's 2013-14 was aberrational; campaigns like Kentucky's 2014-15 should be the norm under Calipari.
Florida lost to the best team in college basketball, which completed an unbeaten regular season in the SEC, on this Saturday, and is likely NIT-bound, if it plays in the postseason at all. That comes one year after beating Kentucky as the best team in college basketball, and completing its own undefeated SEC campaign. And that came a year after Kentucky's Senior Day upset of Florida still couldn't save a similarly talented Wildcats squad from the NIT, or deny Florida the second of three SEC titles in four seasons.
Even last year feels like it happened more 12 months ago.
But that's one of the glories of college basketball: Things change swiftly in this sport.