On a day when the Big Blue Nation arguably said goodbye to almost half their 2010 basketball team in a pre-game ceremony that seemed to lack some of the emotion that it has generated in some past years, the Kentucky Wildcats withstood a furious Florida Gator second-half comeback to finish the 2009-10 campaign undefeated at home, and with 29 regular-season victories against only 2 losses.
The Gators came out discombobulated in the first half and looked very much like a deer in the headlights as they went down by 18 points at one juncture, and were down 10 at halftime. But despite that deficit, Florida dug down deep and came almost all the way back -- to within 2 points -- but finally bowed to the home team. Florida's efforts, particularly on the offensive glass in the second half, were very impressive and they nearly undid the Wildcats' perfect home season and sent them into the SEC tournament losing two out of their last three. Great effort by the Gators, but the Wildcats, once again, proved that while coming back on them is certainly possible, coming all the way back and getting the win is hard.
I think most UK fans would have preferred a convincing victory over the Gators, but even if this season sweep of Florida will not be remembered for UK dominance, it is nonetheless a pleasant change from the debacle that was 2005-2008. Florida has played Kentucky tough many times in the past, and since Billy Donovan came to Florida, the Gators have enjoyed 12 out of their total of 32 victories over Kentucky since 1927, including a stretch of seven straight wins.
More after the jump
Due to the lateness of me getting around to this, I'll be able to look at the stats. Here are my observations:
- Kentucky held Florida to 44% eFG while shooting 55% themselves. That advantage was negated by a 46-38% OR advantage by Florida.
- John Wall had a terrific game, except from the line -- 11 points, 8 assists and only 3 turnovers.
- Darnell Dodson had arguably his best game as a Wildcat -- 100% shooting from everywhere, 10 points, 4 boards, a steal and a turnover. When he has games like this, the 'Cats can be awesome. But he sure didn't get much time in the second half.
Eric Bledsoe also had an excellent game, and he did some nice defensive work against Erving Walker. The only criticism I can level at him is only 1 assist, but since he plays the off guard in this offense, that's not a horrible stat. I did think he made some mistakes that were head-scratchers, though, particularly the back-to-back charging fouls.
- Daniel Orton also provided some very impressive minutes. 4 blocks out of UK's total of 8.
- Patrick Patterson had a good game, but a lot of it came in the second half. He shot OK in the first half, but he didn't do much else. He wound up with 13 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks.
- Darius Miller really did play well. He made shots, blocked shots, and made assists. As a result, he wound up with 26 minutes.
- DeMarcus Cousins has played better offensively, but he still found a way tot do damage. 5 of his 9 rebounds were offensive, and he had two nifty blocks to go along with it.
- Perry Stevenson gave 8 very nice minutes.
- When UK shoots 40+ from three, they are practically unbeatable. Today, they shot 44%. Hopefully, that continues.
- This is the second game in a row UK was out-rebounded on the offensive glass.
- Daniel Orton really is going to be good. Defensively, he is already better than Cousins, in my opinion. He tried a couple of very nice moves today, and seems to be getting more confident offensively.
- I think Eric Bledsoe likes playing against the Gators.
- This is the most balanced scoring I can remember from the 'Cats in a while -- 5 players in double figures.
This win gives us some momentum coming into the SEC Tournament. It would be really great to have 32 wins heading into the NCAA tournament. I think a one seed is virtually assured at this point, although you can never really say for sure.
Enjoy this win, Big Blue Nation, and this season. It has been better so far than most of us hoped, and it can get better still.