Men's Basketball

Kentucky Hosts Florida on Saturday at Rupp

by Tim Letcher

Kentucky head coach John Calipari has never made a secret out of how important the NCAA Tournament is to him. For Calipari, the season-ending event that crowns the national champion is the focus.

This year is certainly no different in that aspect. Calipari’s Cats may look different than most of his prior teams, because they have a lot of experience, but the goal is still the same – reaching the Final Four and having a chance at winning a national title.

As far as being ready for March, Calipari believes that the Cats’ tough schedule will benefit them down the stretch.

“We have the third-best schedule in the country right now,” Calipari said. “That’s part of this and how we do it. Everything we do it geared toward March. We want to play hard games, we want to play teams that play different. “
 

Kentucky
Kentucky vs. Florida

Sat., Feb. 12 – 4:00 p.m. ET
Rupp Arena
Lexington, Ky.
Game Notes: UK | UF
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Coverage

TV: ESPN
Radio: UK Sports Network
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Live Stats

UK Stats UF
20-4 Record 16-8
9-2 Conference Record 6-5
81.4 PPG 71.1
64.5 Opp PPG 63.9
.492 FG% .428
.402 Opp FG% .433
41.2 RPG 34.3
.355 3PT FG% .307
.293 Opp 3PT FG% .307
17.1 APG 12.9
7.1 SPG 9.0
4.5 BPG 5.7


Playing different types of teams will be beneficial in the NCAA Tournament because teams don’t really know who their next opponent will be too far in advance.

“We’re going to play teams that are going to come out and try to physically manhandle us. Great,” Calipari said. “You’ve got to play every kind of team so in March, nothing surprises you.”

The dilemma that Calipari faces this year is that he has players like Bryce Hopkins and Lance Ware who need to practice hard to be able to improve and help the team. Yet, Calipari wants his squad to be fresh for the postseason.

“Here’s the challenge that I have – we’ve got 23 days left in the regular season,” Calipari said. “We’ve got seven games and seven practices the day before the game. What can you do the day before a game? You going to go four hours? So that’s 14 days, you have three days off, that’s 17 days out of the 23. So. you have five or six real practices. Can we tune things up and go? And can you do it without scrimmaging? That’s the challenge I have.”

Saturday, Kentucky will face Florida at Rupp Arena (4 p.m. ET, ESPN). Kentucky is catching Florida as the Gators are in the midst of a four-game winning streak. That run has coincided with the return of UF big man Colin Castleton, who missed six games due to injury. Castleton leads Florida in scoring (15.4 ppg) and rebounding (8.9 rpg).

As usual, the Cats know they will get the very best of what Florida has to offer.

“Everyone is going to bring their best game against us,” said UK guard Davion Mintz. “So how we fight back to that is really showing our character every night.”

Saturday’s game is another battle that will prepare the Cats for their ultimate goal – a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

Balanced Cats Win at South Carolina

Oscar Tshiebwe posted his sixth straight double-double with 18 points and 14 rebounds and TyTy Washington Jr. scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half as No. 5 Kentucky won at South Carolina 86-76 on Tuesday night.

The Wildcats (20-4, 9-2 Southeastern Conference) reached 20 victories in a season for the 13th time in the past 14 years. But, they had to recover after squandering an 11-point lead to the Gamecocks (13-10, 4-7) early in the final 20 minutes.

Kentucky had lost its previous two games at South Carolina and when Keyshawn Bryant’s bucket tied things at 43-all with 15 minutes left, it appeared the Wildcats might have to sweat out another game at Colonial Life Arena.

Instead, Kentucky went on a 15-2 burst, fueled by Tshiebwe and Washington, both who played limited first-half minutes because of foul trouble.

Washington broke the tie with a bucket, added a foul shot and then a nifty pass to Keion Brooks Jr. for a dunk. The 6-foot-9 Tshiebwe added a couple of inside baskets and when Washington nailed a 3-pointer, the Wildcats were up 58-47 and cruising to their fifth straight victory, fourth in a row in league play.

Brooks had 15 points for the Wildcats. Washington had 12 of his 14 points in the second half while Kellan Grady added 12. In all, Kentucky finished with six players in double-figure scoring.

For as good as Kentucky typically is everywhere else in the SEC, it’s had its troubles at South Carolina. The last visit, it was Jermaine Couisnard’s 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded that lifted the Gamecocks to an 81-78 victory over the then-10th-ranked Wildcats.

Kentucky came out ready to put away South Carolina in the first half and led 39-28 after eight consecutive points by Jacob Toppin. However, it was gone over the next seven minutes as South Carolina put together a 15-4 run.

The Wildcats had 10 turnovers by halftime and were outscored 14-5 off of miscues early on. They tightened up in the second half with only six more turnovers.

Bryant had 18 points and 14 boards while Couisnard added 17 points for South Carolina.

Toppin suffered an ankle injury late in the first half. He did not return to the game.

MORE GAME NOTES
• Kentucky has won five of its last six road games.
• Kentucky limited South Carolina to 37.8% from the field and UK is 11-0 this season when keeping the opponent at 40% or below.
• The win was a credit to Kentucky’s perseverance. UK was outrebounded 41-40 and gave up 22 offensive rebounds to USC. Second in the nation in rebound margin, it is the third game in a row that UK has been outrebounded, yet the Wildcats have won all three. In addition, UK also managed to win despite losing the turnover battle, 16-11, and points off turnovers, 23-13.

 

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