This is the official Open Game Thread for Kentucky at Florida. For those of you who can't get the game on TV, here are some links:
This is a big game. It is a big game for several reasons, not the least of which is the opportunity to break a six-game losing streak against a team who until very recently has not had much success at all against the Kentucky Wildcats. It is a big game because it is an opportunity for us to defeat a Southeastern Conference foe on the road, something that we have not yet done. It is a big game because it would wipe that smug smile off the face of Florida fans, and make them begin to question why exactly they watch basketball when they are a football school.
In short, this is a shot at a bit of redemption, redemption that this program needs, Gillispie needs, the team and the fans all need.
Florida is a very young team. They do have talent, but they are not talented in the sense that Ohio State was last year, or Michigan was back 1991-92. This is a team who's excellent record has largely come at the expense of very weak competition. This team isn't only starting two freshmen, but have only one upperclassman among their top nine players.
The main thing to know about the Gators is that Nick Calathes is their all-everything. Without him, their record would likely have more in common with ours than, say, UCLA's. This Florida team is young, soft and vulnerable, and Kentucky need only exert themselves defensively and play with the kind of toughness Gillispie has asked of them all year, and the tender Gators will fall. Calathes is their weakness as well as their strength. If Kentucky can take him away, the Gators will struggle to score.
Patterson is another important player in this game. The Gators have not shown that they can guard a great big man in the post, and Patterson will be their biggest challenge of the year. If Stevenson can step up his game just a bit, we could wind up with a 1-2 punch inside that will intimidate the young Florida bigs.
Keys to the game:
Ballhandling -- Good ballhandling gives you an opportunity to win the close ones
Calathes -- If we defend him well, the Gators will struggle. Calathes makes the Gators go.
Rebounding -- We must do it better than at MSU. Win the battle of the backboards, and win this game.
Toughness -- The Gators are not that tough. The Cats are older, more experienced, and I hope, tougher and meaner.
Patrick Patterson -- Florida has not faced a player of his quality this year. If Patterson plays well, it bodes well for the team.
Comments! Make your hot, fresh comments here! No liveblog tonight, but I will be in the comments a lot tonight.