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Kentucky Wildcats 68, Florida Gators 61: Initial Impressions

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Kentucky got the fight we expected from the Gators, but were equal to the task.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Twenty-three and zero, Big Blue Nation. That’s one beautiful record, and it was devilishly difficult to maintain against a Florida team that absolutely brought their A-game into the O’Connell center tonight. They fought hard and did everything they could, but Kentucky was clearly the superior team. Even having said that, this was a game the Gators absolutely could’ve won, and the loss of Michael Frazier II was a huge downer for them.

Final stats

Observations

  • We’ll let Matt Jones have this one:

  • Kentucky wins. When challenged, they man up, fight like Wildcats, and win.

  • The WCS dunk was … well, that’s going to be #1 on SportsCenter tonight.

  • Turnovers were why this game was close. If Kentucky turns it over 15% instead of 25%, they win this game by double-digits no matter what Frazier’s status is.

  • Kentucky didn’t shoot the ball well from three. Fortunately, they didn’t shoot that many.

  • Kentucky won this game by offensive rebounding, and no mistake. The reason the turnovers did not kill Kentucky is because of the offensive rebounding.

  • 95% from the free throw line. Yeah, that’ll do it. Kentucky outscored Florida at the line 21-7 and made 7 more free throws than the Gators took.

  • At least Kentucky managed a couple of blocks tonight.

This was a tough road win against a motivated team that desperately needed a victory over a top team to have any chance at making the NCAA Tournament. That’s now extremely unlikely unless Florida wins the SEC tournament or goes on a major run.

Kentucky now travels down to Baton Rouge on Tuesday for a tussle with the Bayou Bengals. As hard as this game was, that one just might be harder, and I expect we will still not have Trey Lyles available.

But that’s how the cookie crumbles. I’m very pleased with this win, even if I wasn’t always happy with the play. Kentucky, at crunch time, reminds me of the UK team of last season in the NCAA Tournament. They just go into the corner, hulk up, and play inspired basketball. I love that trait, it’s one that the best teams in Kentucky history have had. This one has it also.