A regular season once filled with promise and optimism comes to a close today as the 'Cats take on their bitter rivals, the Florida Gators. The 2:00 EST (CBS) contest will determine the 3rd and 4th place finishers in the SEC East. If UK pulls out the road victory, by virtue of their 3rd place finish, they would meet up with the Arkansas Razorbacks on Thursday in the SEC Tournament. If Kentucky loses today, they most likely would then play Alabama in an opening round SEC Tourney tilt.
My, how the recently and once-mighty, have fallen. UK, losers of three games in a row (and seven of their last 10), and Florida, also losers of three in a row (and six of nine), will not be playing for banners, but rather their NCAA Tournament lives. Both teams, clinging to the slightest of hope ... hope that they won't be slighted on Selection Sunday.
I wrote in my Georgia pre-game that if the 'Cats lost to the Dawgs their NCAA hopes went with the wind, but Bracketology guru Joe Lunardi disagrees, so I won't give up until I fail to hear UK's name called out by Jim Nantz ... but, hey, that's just me.
So, it's on to the Gators.
Nick Calathes: 6'6" 194 lb sophomore guard -- On the season Calathes is averaging 18.2 points (6th in the SEC), 6.4 assists (1st in the SEC), 5.3 rebounds, and 2.0 steals per game (2nd in the SEC). He's shooting 49.6% from the field (8th in the SEC), 41.3% from beyond the arc (64-155), and 71.0% from the free throw line.
In SEC play he's averaging 19.3 points, 6.1 assist, 6.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game. He's shooting 47.7% from the floor, 43.2% from the three-point line (38-88), and 71.3% from the free throw line -- Over his last four games Calathes is averaging 14.3 points per game (versus Miss. St. last game, he scored only 11 points). In that span he's shooting only 40.4% from the field. Over the last eight games he's shooting only 35.7% from the three-point line. Since recording 14 steals in a four game stretch, in his last two games Calathes has zero steals. Calathes is the only player in the country who is averaging at least 15.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game. He also leads the SEC is A/TO ratio at 2.04. Last time out versus UK Calathes scored a season high 33 points on 10-20 shooting (2-7 threes), grabbed seven rebounds, dished out three assists, had two steals and two turnovers. The 20 shots he took represents a season high.
Alex Tyus: 6'8" 220 lb sophomore forward -- On the year Tyus is averaging 12.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game (2.0 off. reb). He's shooting 59.5% from the field (2nd in the SEC), and 65.0% from the free throw line.
In league play he's averaging 11.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game (1.9 off. reb). He's shooting 54.3% from the floor, and 63.4% from the charity stripe -- Tyus has scored in double-digits in eight of his last 10 games. He's made only four of is last 10 free throw attempts. His last double-digit rebound game was January 14 versus Auburn, when he had 14. Tyus has committed zero turnovers his last two games. Against UK on February 10, he scored 14 points on 7-11 shooting, grabbed only two rebounds, but recorded three blocks (season high), two steals and one assist. The two rebounds he nabbed were the fewest he's had in a game this year (along with the Longwood, and Toledo games).
Chandler Parsons: 6'9" 213 lb sophomore forward -- Parsons is averaging 9.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.2 steals per game, on the year. He shoots 47.1% from the floor, 30.3% from the thee-point line (33-109), and 55.7% from the free throw line.
In conference play he's averaging 11.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game. He shooting an even 50.0% from the field, 32.1% from behind the arc (18-56), and 47.1% from the free throw line -- Since making 7-8 threes versus Vandy on January 25, Parsons has made only 7-30 (23.3%) in his last 10 games. He's taken only one free throw in his last three games. Since recording three blocks versus South Carolina on February 3, in the seven games since, he's blocked only one shot. In Florida's last game, versus Mississippi State, Parsons played only 17 minutes. Earlier versus UK, Parsons played 24 minutes, scored two points on 0-4 shooting (0-1 threes), grabbed six rebounds, and dished out one assist.
Erving Walker: 5'8" 161 lb freshman guard -- For the year, Walker is averaging 9.8 points, 2.4 assists and 1.6 rebounds per game. He's making 43.4% of his shots, 41.4% of his three-point attempts (55-133), and 83.1% of his free throws.
In SEC play he's averaging 10.9 points, 2.4 assists and 1.6 rebounds per game. He's shooting 43.2% from the field, 43.2% from beyond the arc (32-74), and 82.9% from the free throw line -- Wednesday versus Mississippi State Walker made only 1-6 threes. In the Brooklyn natives four previous games he made 13-27 trey attempts (48.1). He's recorded only one steal in his last five games. Since committing five turnovers versus South Carolina on January 21, he's averaged only 1.0 turnovers in his last 11 games. He made 4-8 three-point attempts last Saturday against Tennessee. Versus UK last time out Walker played 27 minutes, scored seven points on 2-6 shooting (1-2 threes), two rebounds, one assist one steal and two turnovers.
Dan Werner: 6'8" 230 lb junior forward -- Werner is averaging 8.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. He's shooting 43.9% from the floor, 36.0% from the three-point line (40-111), and 76.3% from the free throw line.
In league play he's averaging 7.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. Werner is shooting 36.9% from the floor, 37.5% from behind the arc, and 86.7% from the free throw line -- Werner hasn't taken a free throw in seven games. He's made 10 of his last 21 three-point attempts. He's recorded zero steals in his last three games. He's averaging 6.7 rebounds over his last three games. In the earlier game versus UK, he scored four points, and had three rebounds, steals and turnovers.
Walter Hodge: 6'0" 170 lb senior guard -- Hodge is averaging 8.7 points, 2.3 assists, and 1.5 rebounds per game. He's shooting 45.3% from the floor, 39.2% from the three-point line (51-130), and 80.6% from the charity stripe.
In SEC play he's averaging 9.8 points, 2.3 assists, 1.4 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game. He's shooting 45.2% from the field, 36.6% from the three-point line (26-71), and 81.0% from the free throw line -- Since making only one of nine threes versus Alabama on February 18, Hodge has made 10-24 in his last four games (41.7%). He is averaging 13.8 points per game over his last six. In that span he's made 31-60 field goal attempts (51.7%). The diminutive guard has grabbed nine offensive rebounds in his last six games (the previous eight games he had zero). After recording only one steal in his previous five games, versus Mississippi State on Wednesday he had three steals. He committed four turnovers versus Vandy, in the three games since he has zero miscues. Earlier versus UK, Hodge played 20 minutes, scored two points on 1-5 shooting (0-1 threes), he also had three assists, two steals and two turnovers.
Kenny Kadji: 6'10" 245 lb freshman F/C -- Kadji is averaging 4.7 points, and 2.8 rebounds per game. He's shooting 48.7% from the field, and 51.2% from the free throw line (22-43).
In conference play he's averaging 4.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, and .9 blocks per game. He's making 48.2% of his shots, and 59.1% of his free throws. Kadji had eight rebounds in only 14 minutes versus Alabama on February 18. He recorded four blocks versus Vanderbilt on February 21. He hasn't scored in double-figures since netting 10 points versus Arkansas back in January (which was also the most minutes he's played all year, 23). He's made only 1-5 shots in his last three games, after making 9-18 in the three previous contests. Versus UK last time out he played 12 minutes and scored one point, grabbed three rebounds, and had one block and one turnover.
Ray Shipman: 6'5" 212 lb freshman G/F -- Shipman is averaging 3.8 points, and 2.2 rebounds per game. He's shooting 50.0% from the floor, 18.8% from beyond the arc (3-16), and 67.6% from the charity stripe.
In league play he averages 2.9 points and 1.4 rebounds per game. He's making 57.1% of his shots, 40.0% of his threes (2-5), and 71.4% of his free throws -- Versus Mississippi State Wednesday night, he played a season high 24 minutes. He hasn't recorded an offensive rebound since January 31 (an eight game span). He's made 7-11 field goal attempts over his last four games. Versus UK last time out he played 16 minutes, scored two points (1-1 FG's) and grabbed two rebounds.
Florida Team Stats -- Overall (SEC rank in parenthesis)
Points Per Game -- 78.8 (2) 68.7 (5)
Field Goal% -- 48.4 (t1) 44.8 (12)
Free Throw% -- 68.5 (7) 62.4 (1)
3-Point% -- 37.3 (2) 36.5 (11)
Rebound Margin -- +.4 (9)
Off. Rebounds Per Game -- 11.1 (9) 11.0 (2)
Off. Rebound% -- 32.6 (10) 32.0 (7)
Def. Rebound% -- 68.0 (7) 67.4 (10)
Assists Per Game -- 17.0 (1) 13.3 (8)
Steals Per Game -- 8.2 (3) 6.2 (4)
Turnovers Per Game -- 12.0 (1) 15.2 (8)
Blocks Per Game -- 2.8 (12) 3.4 (5)
Florida Team Stats -- Conference Games Only (SEC rank in parenthesis)
Points Per Game -- 77.9 (1) 73.6 (7)
Field Goal% -- 46.8 (1) 47.0 (11)
Free Throw% -- 69.4 (5) 59.8 (1)
3-Point% -- 38.9 (1) 37.7 (11)
Rebound Margin -- - 2.3
Off. Reb. Per Game -- 9.6 (12) 10.6 (2)
Off. Reb.% -- 27.6 (12) 30.8 (3)
Def. Reb.% -- 69.2 (3) 72.4 (12)
Assists Per Game -- 15.8 (1) 13.3 (6)
Steals Per Game -- 6.9 (7) 6.5 (3)
Turnovers Per Game -- 11.3 (12) 13.5 (5)
Blocks Per Game -- 2.6 (11) 3.8 (5)
UK 68, UF 65
In the February 10 contest, Jodie Meeks was the big 'Cat of the day. With only five seconds remaining the Kentucky junior drilled a three-pointer putting UK up by two. Nick Calathes was then fouled by Kevin Galloway on his three-point try, with less than a second remaining. Calathes missed his first two free throws, and intentionally missed his third, but to no avail.
Meeks led the way for UK with 23 points, Perry Stevenson scored 10. They were the only two Wildcats in double figures. Patrick Patterson, who played 30 minutes, but had to sit the last nine minutes of the game because of a severely sprained ankle, scored only 7. Michael Porter pitched in by making 3-4 trey attempts. As a team UK made seven of 17 three-pointers (41.2%), but only 9-16 free throws (56.3%). Kentucky also committed 19 turnovers; Stevenson led the way with six.
Nick Calathes led Florida with a season high 33 points, and Alex Tyus scored 14. Calathes was 10-20 from the floor, while the rest of the Gators could only muster 12-34 shooting (35.3%). Florida only corralled six offensive boards, for an 18.8% conversion rate. As a team the Gators made only 4-14 three-point tries (28.6%).
Florida guard Walter Hodge missed the final 16 minutes of the game, due to a dead-ball flagrant foul call against him.
For a complete boxscore go here.
In Florida's three game losing streak they are giving up 80.0 points per game ... Over the last three games Florida is giving up 50.9% field goal shooting ... Over the last three games the Gators are giving up 48.3% three-point shooting ... Florida lost to Georgia, in Athens, 88-86 ... Florida has given up 18 offensive rebounds to Mississippi, 17 to South Carolina, and 15 to Alabama ... The Gators have made over 40.0% of their three-point attempts in 12 games this year ... Gator opponents have shot over 40.0% from beyond the arc a total of 10 times ... Six Gator opponents have made over 50.0% of their three attempts ... Florida has made over 50.0% of their field goal attempts 12 times this season ... In their last three games (all losses) the Gators have made an average of only seven free throws per game, while shooting 55.3% from the line ... Eight of Florida's last nine opponents have shot at least 47.3% from the field ... At home, Florida averages 82.6 points per game in the SEC ... In their last three games the Gators have forced only 25 turnovers (8.3 per game) ... Florida made 13-28 (46.2%) trey attempts versus Tennessee last Saturday, but still lost the game, 79-75 ... They made 15-25 threes (60.0%) versus Vandy on February 17.
Florida and UK are similar in at least one area -- They are both struggling defensively. Both teams give up too many points, and both teams are allergic to guarding the perimeter. The team that amps up their defensive effort will probably win this game.
UK's best chance at that is to bottle-up Calathes, because if he's let loose as he was in Lexington, UK will be staring at a season-ending four game losing streak. I expect to see a rotation of Galloway, Porter, DeAndre Liggins (if he plays), Meeks and maybe a little Ramon Harris attempting to put the kibosh on the Gator's great guard.
But this game boils down to which team perimeter-pass denies the best, mans-up on the shooter, and makes the most three-pointers. UK has lost every game this year in which they are out-scored from the three-point line. I expect that trend to continue.
How much do the 'Cats want it? They've been blasted and questioned, berated and belittled over the last few weeks ... it's time they got mad, and played like a team that wants to win.
There is still pride waiting to be salvaged.
I want to wish my sister-in-law, and U of L grad, a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats!