clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Florida vs. Kentucky, Game Thread: One more time, or one last gasp?

The Gators need this one.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I wish I could tell you this was the setup for a storybook ending. That Mike White's first season and the last season of the O'Connell Center as we know it were dovetailing for something special on this Tuesday night, that Dorian Finney-Smith will leave the O'Dome as a winner, that Kentucky is ripe for Florida's picking at 7 p.m. on ESPN and WatchESPN.

I can't, of course.

I can't presume that Florida's going to snap out of its skid, or its habit of allowing opponents to race out in front before it can catch its breath and begin the hard work of catching up. Though, really, it would be good for the Gators to bolt from the gates: South Carolina led 9-4 and 21-10, Vanderbilt led 9-2 and 22-12, and LSU led 10-2 and 20-8, but Florida led in the second half at Carolina, and cut Vandy and LSU leads to two in the second half, suggesting that the Gators can play at or above their opponents' levels for at least some period of play.

I can't presume that Doe-Doe can reprise his form from a 24-point, eight-rebound game at Kentucky, because teams have learned how to deny him the ball since then. I can't presume that Florida will be inspired by its last home game in a building that has deserved a "last home game" for years when the Gators haven't been inspired by NCAA Tournament prospects for much of the last two weeks. I can't presume much of anything with this team, as baffling and inconsistent as the last Billy Donovan team — and just as vexing, with both squads standing in the shadow of the steady colossus that was Donovan's penultimate band of brothers.

Florida's last Senior Night at home against Kentucky wasn't a night game, even — it was a matinee — but it felt special, with those Forever Gators playing for immortality and an 18-0 SEC record and each other. Fans expected something remarkable, and those players answered with a remarkable performance.

Now? Fans expect to be let down. I expect the O'Dome to be even more like Rupp South than it often seems when Kentucky swaggers into town, Big Blue Nation sneering down its nose at the upstart program that has a fraction of its history and twice as many national championships this century.

And maybe I'll be wrong. Maybe Florida will solve the insoluble Tyler Ulis and not face a white-hot Jamal Murray; maybe the Gators will do work inside against a Kentucky frontcourt in flux, and benefit from Derek Willis not playing in this game.

I can't presume anything. I can only hope.

Here's hoping the surprises tonight are wonderful ones.