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Florida vs. Kentucky, Game Thread: Can Gators bite the stirring Wildcats?

Once again, the Gators are going to get a chance to go work against a wounded Kentucky squad.

NCAA Basketball: Florida at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators last met the Kentucky Wildcats in the home finale of the 2019-20 men’s basketball season. They built a lead that yawned to 18 points. They lost.

It wasn’t great.

But now the Wildcats come to Gainesville (5 p.m., ESPN or WatchESPN) as wounded as they ever were in last year’s game — and the Gators have another chance to beat up on them in the O’Dome.

Calling this 3-6 Kentucky team incomplete would be something of an insult to term papers with 10 pages left to go. Wake Forest transfer Olivier Sarr looks like a finished product on most nights, with Creighton transfer Davion Mintz helping, but the rest of John Calipari’s young ‘Cats show their youth first and foremost and their flaws second. B.J. Boston has been a woeful shooter (5-for-33 from three) but can’t stop shooting; Devin Askew and Terrence Clarke are coughing up the ball on a quarter of their possessions, while 6’10” Isaiah Jackson is still only making about 44 percent of his twos.

Put it all together, and it’s actually easy to see why this team’s results include close wins over Mississippi State and Vanderbilt, close losses to Louisville, Notre Dame, and Kansas, and baffling, less competitive defeats at the hands of North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Richmond: These are ‘Cats who don’t know what they are and don’t have a single star to save them, as a Kevin Knox or Malik Monk might have during the struggles of years past.

Florida doesn’t have its singular star, either, with Keyontae Johnson obviously still out. But the Gators have largely shown a cohesive identity — relentless defense and attacking offense — that has worked for them, with Alabama’s drivers exposing that on Tuesday in a way Kentucky isn’t likely capable of doing this Saturday. And Florida is playing at home with memories of its painful collapse a year ago fresh in the Gators’ minds.

Kentucky has won its last two games, and could come into Gainesville with the sort of resilience and resolve that last year’s Wildcats displayed in that comeback.

There’s a better chance that the Gators rebound from their loss at Alabama and send this Kentucky team back to Lexington reeling from another defeat, though.