Feb 7, 2012; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) shoots the ball against Florida Gators forward Erik Murphy (33) during the first half at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated Florida 78-58. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-US PRESSWIRE

Basketball Preview: Florida Gators Vs. Kentucky Wildcats - Mar. 4, 2012

The regular season comes down to this. The No. 13/16 Florida Gators host the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats in the regular season finale. Since these teams first faced off nearly one month ago, the Gators have gone 3-3 and seen their play come under question. Today presents an opporunity for Florida to surge forward toward the SEC Tournament and beyond. Or yet another chance for Kentucky to prove their worth as the nation’s best team.

The Facts

Opponent: Kentucky Wildcats
When: Saturday, March 4, 2012 – 12:00 PM
Where: Gainesville, FL
Broadcast: CBS, GatorVision, Sirius/XM 91
Records: Florida: 22-8 (10-5 SEC, 14-1 Home), Kentucky: 29-1 (15-0 SEC, 7-1 Away)
Rankings: Florida: 13/16, Kentucky: 1/1
Current Streak: Florida: L2, Kentucky: W21
Point Spread: Kentucky -5
Over/Under: 139.5
Calculated Score: Kentucky 72-67
Points Scored: Florida: 77.4, Kentucky: 77.8
Points Allowed: Florida: 65.6, Kentucky: 58.5
Last Meeting: Kentucky 78-58 (February 7, 2012)

The Preview

It’s hard to know what to expect from the Gators at this point in the season. One month ago today, Florida beat Vanderbilt for the Gators seventh straight victory. Florida was 19-4 (7-1 SEC) at the time and there was serious talk about a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. A loss to then and always No. 1 Kentucky hurt, but didn’t derail those hopes. After losing to Tennessee for the second time this season, the Gators looked better in wins over Alabama and Arkansas. The win over Auburn was a win, but was far from pretty and then there was the downright embarrassing loss to Georgia. That was followed with a loss to Vanderbilt and suddenly Florida had five conference losses. The SEC and NCAA tournaments are on the horizon as the Gators face the country’s hottest team on Sunday.

Billy Donovan and the Gators will need to focus on a number of things, the first of which is slowing down the Wildcats the best they can. Kentucky can run and when they do, they blow games wide open. They haven’t had a game with a point differential of less than six since January 14 and in that same time frame have won six games by 20 or more. The Gators need to do their best to stay in it for 40 minutes because any Wildcat run will be difficult to come back from.

There’s Erving Walker and his need to be a leader. There’s Kenny Boynton and his need to get hot early from outside. There’s Bradley Beal and his need to find his stroke from the opening tip. There’s Patric Young and his need to be a force down low. And there’s the bench and their need to contribute and not waste valuable minutes. Every single person in orange and blue on Sunday (even the fans) plays an important role in this one. It can be a statement game and one during which the Gators can prove they are worthy of that top-10 ranking they received at various times throughout the season. Play hard for 40 minutes. The tournaments are right around the corner, but Kentucky comes first.

Before or after the game, let us know how far you think the Gators we go in the NCAA Tournament. The poll is located in the bar to the right. Scroll down and you’ll find it.

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Tags: Billy Donovan Bradley Beal Erving Walker Florida Basketball Florida Gators Kenny Boynton Kentucky Wildcats Patric Young

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