The Kentucky Wildcats arrived in the O’Dome looking to stake a claim for the SEC lead but Patric Young and Erik Murphy rejected their application. Coming in it was the Kentucky frontline led by Nerlens Noel that got all the attention for their shot-blocking prowess, but tonight it was the Florida Gators frontline doing the rejecting finishing with 9 blocks, four by center Patric Young and three by forward Erik Murphy.
Patric Young had a monster game with a double-double finishing with 12 points, 11 rebounds, and 1 steal to go along with his 4 blocks. He also appeared to be the most energetic guy on the court, continually fighting for loose balls and even getting out ahead of the Kentucky defense on the break for a huge slam dunk while continually flashing his huge smile for the fans and the cameras. Gators head coach Billy Donovan was certainly satisfied with Young’s performance and had high praise for him.
“He gave us a very, very good game with his effort,” head coach Billy Donovan said. I think when he gives incredible effort and plays with a really good motor he’s capable of getting double-doubles every night. He did a very good job tonight. He rebounded, he made great effort plays, he kept balls alive, offensive rebounds in the second half. He did a really good job.”
Kentucky head coach John Calipari was impressed with Young and the entire Gator team for that matter.
“They are very physical,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. “We couldn’t get near the basket on Young. He just physically took away the rim.”
Scottie Wilbekin led a balanced scoring effort with 14 points one of five Gator players in double figures. He also had 8 assists and 2 steals. Once again, however, it was Wilbekin’s defense that stood out leading another dominating Gators defensive effort as they held the nation’s 29 ranked scoring offense to only 51 points.
“I like his toughness,” Calipari said of Wilbekin. “Whoever’s the best player they want to take out of the game, that’s who they put him on.”
“I thought he played really, really well,” Donovan added. “I thought his defense on Goodwin was terrific. And then he got in the lane, he made much better decisions. I thought he played an all around very, very good game.”
Casey Prather also had a good game filling in for the injured Will Yeguete finishing with 12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. Mike Rosario chipped in 12 points and Erik Murphy added 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 1 assist to go along with his 3 block shots. Kenny Boynton was the only Gator starter not in double figures finishing the game with 9.
For the game the Gators shot 49.1% ( 26-53) from the field and 42.9% (6-14) from three point range while holding the Wildcats to 42% ( 21-50) from the field and 33.3% ( 4-12) from beyond the arc. The Wildcats came into the game giving up only 37.8% field goal percentage to opponents.
The motto for the Gators in the first half was “make it rain’ as they went 5-7 from three point range jumping out to a 38-25 halftime lead. Their perimeter shooting cooled considerably in the second half, but their suffocating defense kept Kentucky from making any attempt at a run. The closest the Wildcats got in the second half was 12 points pushing it to as much as 19 points at one point.
The toughest break for the Wildcats came when Nerlens Noel hustled down the court to block a Mike Rosario fast break attempt after a Gator steal. He landed awkwardly and went to the floor with an apparent knee injury. He was carried off the court by his teammates as it was obvious he couldn’t put pressure on the knee and was seen leaving the O’Dome in a wheelchair with a brace on the knee after the game.
This game was certainly a statement game for the Gators. While the Gators have been largely dominant all season throughout their pre-conference and conference schedules, there were perhaps still some doubts about them nationally. Those doubts were certainly removed tonight as the Gators pulled out early and never allowed Kentucky to get into the game.
“This was a game that exposed us a little bit physically,” Calipari said. “They did a good job of it.”
“Let me tell you this, my basketball team is OK,” Calipari said. “This basketball team (Florida) is really good.”
High praise from a coach who won it all last season with a freshman dominated lineup.
So Kentucky goes home scratching their head wondering what, if anything, they could have done differently to change the outcome, while the Gators prepare for a road trip to 9-14 Auburn on Saturday.
The Gators improved to 20-3, 10-1 in the SEC, their fifteenth consecutive 20 win season 3rd longest active streak in the nation while the Wildcats drop to 17-7 and 8-3 in the conference.