Ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, I give you your undefeated, undisputed SEC regular season champion, the Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky won this game by technical knockout in the third quarter of the game, and wound up with a convincing, if competitive victory.
For the second time this season, the Kentucky Wildcats handled the Florida Gators, much in the same way the Gators took care of Kentucky last year. In a way, this has been a season-long revenge tour against the LSU Tigers, Arkansas Razorbacks and Florida Gators, all of whom had a big old time beating Kentucky last year. This season, not so much.
Florida played very well in this game, and Kentucky played pretty well defensively, but not particularly well offensively. The Gators did a very good job in transition and fought hard to get the final upset of the season. The Gators have had a tough year, but you can tell that this team is getting better and better, certainly not in time for much damage this season, but a harbinger of things to come next year. Nice effort by the Gators.
Kentucky's offensive efficiency was solid today, if not spectacular at 1.10. The Wildcats, though, did not look engaged offensively and missed way too many short shots for my liking.
Free throw shooting was mostly fine. The reason it wasn't better is because the Wildcats all missed their quota of free throws, and the free throws were spread out to everybody. Still, I'll take 71% when the lion's share went to the big guys.
Kentucky did a very good job on the offensive glass. This team has not been the dominant force on the boards that last season's team was, but they have lately been very consistent, and I like to see that.
Kentucky forced 13% steals, and that's outstanding. Florida is known for turning the ball over, but in this game, the Wildcats took it away from them.
The Wildcats had 8 blocks in this game, a great number. Overall, the Kentucky defense was just splendid.
Only six 3-point attempts is just way too few. I like that we kept going inside, that's what we needed to do, but Kentucky has to find more shots than that from the arc. The Wildcats have too many good shooters for that, although the Gators were determined never to leave Devin Booker alone, which was wise.
Kentucky shot the ball really well from 2-point range considering the defense and number of chippies missed. They could've easily shot well over 50% if they had just made layups.
Kentucky continues to take care of the ball, but this was a game of two halves — in the first, the Wildcats turned it over liberally, allowing Florida to be right with Kentucky, and the Gators took good advantage of the turnovers. In the second half, Kentucky just didn't give the ball away, and without the turnovers and subsequent transition baskets, the Gators couldn't keep up.
Kentucky did a good job of getting to the line, and keeping Florida off the line.
Karl-Anthony Towns wins this game ball and it isn't even close. Towns did it all, from scoring to making free throws to rebounding to blocked shots. He even led the team in assists with 3. This was quite possibly Towns' best game as a Wildcat, and even though he missed a couple of layups, he was seemingly involved in every play.
Andrew Harrison had a good, but not great game. I really don't like to see the starting point guard without a single assist, and even though Andrew shot a fine percentage from the field and played excellent defense, I really wanted more out of him in the assist area.
Aaron Harrison continues to shoot well from 2, and poorly from three. He defended well and overall had a solid game, but there is so much more there that I can't help lament not seeing it.
Devin Booker had a quiet game. He was 2-3 from the arc, but otherwise made very little impact on the stat sheet. I thought he defended rather well, though, and he keeps improving in that area.
I loved Tyler Ulis' effort in this game, he worked very hard on defense and ran the team very efficiently. I like the way he is getting into the lane more and finding ways to score or get to the line. He only had a couple of assists himself, but he was a real pest defensively and I thought he did a good job of moving the ball around.
Trey Lyles had a fantastic game and gets an honorable mention for the game ball. Lyles shot a very high percentage, took great shots, rebounded the ball and worked really hard defensively. He's becoming a true player, and has come a very long way since early in the season.
Willie Cauley-Stein had a much better game Saturday than against Georgia. He shot it well, was aggressive offensively and did his usual good defensive job, as well as rebounding the ball well. He also had 2 assists, tied with Ulis for the team high.
Marcus Lee only played a couple of minutes. He did some good things, but had a defensive breakdown that got him sent to the pine where he pretty much stayed.
Kudos to John Calipari for starting and playing the seniors — Brian Long, Sam Malone and Tod Lanter. That was a really nice thing to do, and something I really didn't expect.
Tying it all up
Beating Florida is never a bad way to end the season, and this was particularly satisfying considering that the Gators prevailed over the Wildcats three times last season. Now, if Florida can only make the finals of the SEC Tournament, we can hopefully repay the favor in full.
31-0 is an impressive feat — an undefeated regular season, something that, as good as Kentucky has been, the program has not accomplished in six decades. That fact alone takes this team from outstanding to momentous, eclipsing the 2012 team's 30-1 mark in the best possible way. Yes, the Wildcats were challenged along the way, but they rose to each and every one of them, the mark of a true champion.
Kentucky won this game the way they've won the vast majority of their games, by simply being too much and too many for the opponent. Many have hung in with Kentucky for a half or so, a very few to the bitter end. Most have wound up losing convincingly, and this was yet another in a long line of such victories.
Next, the SEC Tournament, a one-week orgy of basketball that will leave one champion standing. Kentucky hasn't won this tournament since 2010-11, when the Wildcats got hot late in the season and went on a run that ended in the Final Four in Houston against Connecticut. I think that has been quite long enough.