Congratulations to the Kentucky Wildcats for winning its 22nd game in a row, its 16th straight SEC game of 2012, and the school's 46th regular season SEC Championship with today's 74-59 win over the home-standing Florida Gators. Despite a terrific effort from Florida's super sophomore Patric Young, who had 21 points and 9 rebounds, the 'Cats simply had too much Anthony Davis, and too much Terrence Jones, while the Gators countered by struggling from beyond the arc.
Although Florida brought a dollop of drama to the game with its transition offense late in the first half and early in the second stanza, Kentucky made the necessary adjustment (read: getting back on defense), essentially forcing the Gators into a half court affair which provided the 'Cats with all manner of match-up advantages. The result: Kentucky, for the third time since 1996, completed the SEC regular season undefeated.
The 'Cats also set a school record for most wins in the regular season with 30, Kentucky's 14th 30 win season, most of any Division I basketball program.
For more superlatives, follow me after the jump.
For Kentucky in the first half it was Terrence Jones, as the UK forward powered his way to 14 points, as he played hyper-aggressively with the ball in his hands (after almost being pulled by Coach Cal for being timid against the physical play of Florida). Jones finished the game with 19 points on 9-of-13 shooting, while he grabbed four rebounds, blocked three shots, and pilfered two steals while committing zero turnovers.
When Jones plays with the intensity he played with today, using his size and strength to get off easy shots, Kentucky is a very hard team to guard, and almost impossible to beat.
Anthony Davis, with his 22 points (on 9-13 shots) and 12 rebounds, recorded his 14th double-double of the season. Offensively, Davis came alive in the second half, leading the Cats with 16 points and seven rebounds, once again altering several shots from spots all over the floor. Davis ended his day with six blocked shots, and turned the ball over only once.
Spiderman scored from all over the floor, displaying unusual versatility for a player possessing his length. Whether it be a beautiful straight-line drive from beyond the elbow, nailing his second 3-pointer of the season, or leading the break, ending with a delicious dish (and after MKG blew the layup, a follow stuff), Davis continues to grow his offensive game, which can only lead opposing coaches to spend sleepless nights trying to game-plan around UK's national Player of the Year candidate.
With Davis and Jones scoring 41 combined points on 18-of-26 combined shooting (69.2%), the 'Cats scored 40 points in the paint, beating the Gators by 12 points down low.
Marquis Teague, continuing his steadily improving point guard play, was the only other Wildcat in double-figures, as he netted 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting accuracy (1-2 from beyond the arc). Most importantly, though, Teague dished out four assists and committed only one turnover, bringing his assist to turnover ratio to 2.3 over the last 13 games (70 assists-30 turnovers).
Teague ran the point with aplomb against Florida, standing up to the pressure brought by a myriad of Gator guards. He penetrated into the lane all day, drawing Florida defenders, allowing him to pass to UK's bigs down low, or find a shooter on the perimeter.
Leading the Cats with four offensive rebounds was Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Mostly defending on the perimeter against the Gators, MKG was a big reason UF made only 6-of-22 long-range shots -- after beginning the game connecting on 4-of-8 from distance -- which ended any chance Florida had of pulling off the upset.
Showing great versatility, MKG dished out four assists, and had two steals, while turning the ball over twice.
Darius Miller played a steady if unspectacular game, perhaps still feeling the effects of an emotional Senior Night performance only three nights ago. UK's sixth man scored six points on 3-of-7 shooting, and snared but a single rebound (but with Davis, MKG, and Jones hitting the boards with a purpose, not many rebounds are left over for Miller).
Doron Lamb was defended well today by Florida, limiting UK's cold-blooded shooter to only three 3-point attempts (he made one). But with UK controlling the game from the inside out, Lamb's 3-point talents weren't needed today as much as they normally are.
Lamb did bring the ball up the floor several times this afternoon, displaying his drastically improved ball handling and decision-making skills, something which will come in handy as the season progresses.
Playing eight minutes was Kyle Wiltjer. Committing zero turnovers, Wiltjer scored three points on 1-of-1 trey accuracy, and grabbed two rebounds while not hurting Kentucky on the defensive end.
Wiltjer played confidently and was strong with the ball. He is clearly playing with confidence, and now gives the 'Cats another legitimate perimeter alternative going into tourney play.
Overall, Kentucky played extremely well, particularly on the defensive perimeter, where lots of switching took place in an effort to close high and strong on the Gator shooters. With no switching to double Young, the Florida forward, as noted above, had a big game (10-of-15 from the floor), but it wasn't nearly enough as UK held his Gator teammates to a combined 11-of-40 shooting (27.5%).
In a stat not often seen, Florida scored a grand total of two points off turnovers, an area they usually thrive in. And finally, with the 'Cats holding UF to 59 points, that brings to eight the number of SEC opponents UK held under 60 points this year.
Potential trouble for the Gators: They are 0-3 since versatile forward Will Yeguete was lost to a broken foot against Auburn on Feb 21.
Thanks for reading and Go 'Cats!