Kentucky vs. Florida has annually been one of the SEC's best matchups, and even though neither team has been lighting it up this season, this was expected to be a hard-fought game that came down to the wire.
Facing the threat of a three-game skid for the first time under John Calipari, Kentucky was desperate for a win after blowing two games they should have won at Kansas and at Tennessee. Playing in the friendly confines of Rupp Arena proved to be a much-needed boost as the Cats came out guns blazing and had Rupp rocking early on.
Florida missed 11 of their first 14 shots and had five early turnovers while UK hit seven of their first nine shots and built a quick 19-point lead. The lead would grow to as big as 24 points before the Cats took a 50-31 lead into halftime and cruised to an 80-61 win.
Here's a look at our quick takeaways from the game.
Bug Plague Continues
This has been easily one of the worst seasons in terms of injuries that Kentucky has endured in quite some time. I'm not even sure Bill Gillispie could break a team down the way this year's Cats have been, and the worst part is most of the injuries UK has suffered have been very flukey.
The latest came as Alex Poythress suffered a knee injury at some point before the game that caused him to miss it entirely. The good news it isn't serious and shouldn't keep him out too long, not to mention it was not his surgically-repaired knee that was hurt.
Still, these injuries have really plagued UK this season, and if they don't cease sooner rather than later, it's only a matter of time before one of them knocks a key Cat out for a significant period of time.
Murray was On FIRE
Jamal Murray was on another level to open this game, scoring 13 points in the first six minutes and as UK raced out to a double-digit lead. He was locked in from deep, hitting his first six treys to go with a couple of nifty shots in the lane.
Even this went down:
You know it's your day when you're getting bounces like this. #BBN @UKAthletics https://t.co/e9exD6iktD— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 6, 2016
https://t.co/Xdvy8bRbWu @MrsTylerKSR— Dave Scott (@Finna_Go_HAM) February 6, 2016
Jamal Murray is just being silly at this point. #BBN https://t.co/sLoCXKJMhm— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 6, 2016
At the 17:26 mark in the second half, Murray alone (27 points) was keeping pace with Florida (34) and kept UK comfortably ahead. He would finish with a career-high 35 points and tied Eric Bledsoe's mark as the last Wildcat to hit eight threes in a game. His point total also tied Terrence Jones' freshman single-game record of 35.
Murray came up big for the Cats and helped them get a much-needed win that hopefully gets their season back on track.
Rebounding and Fouling Continues to be Issues
With Alex out for this game, UK desperately needed to keep its bigs out of foul trouble against a Gators team that does a lot of damage on the boards. Even with Isaac Humphries coming on and giving the Cats good minutes, their bigs could not keep from fouling and leaving UK with no size as the first half wore on.
That allowed Florida to cut a 24-point lead down to 13 in a matter of three minutes. Ulis and Murray did enough to keep the Cats on top and pull off the win, but this is still a major problem for UK that's already cost them several games this season.
Humphries Shined in Limited Minutes
With Poythress out and Skal continuing to struggle, Isaac Humphries got big minutes for the first time since the UCLA game. He's made appearances in blowouts since then, but this was the first time Humphries played significant minutes when a game was still in doubt in months, and he did his best to make sure more playing time keeps coming.
Humphries didn't light up the box score, but he did all of the little things UK bigs haven't done enough of this season. He boxed out, batted missed shots back out to teammates, blocked some shots and affected several others while simply holding his ground in the paint.
Sir Isaac Humphries with the rejection. #BBN @UKAthletics https://t.co/czXqlNcQOz— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 6, 2016
Hump finished the game with four points six boards and two blocks. The way he played, he deserves to at least get significant minutes against Georgia on Tuesday, especially if Poythress is still out.
Ulis is Poetry in Motion
Watching Tyler Ulis play has truly become a privilege. Even during UK's biggest struggles this season, Ulis has been a joy to watch and someone who gives this team hope, even in their darkest moments.
Against Florida, Ulis hit his first seven shots and was dropping dimes left and right while turning difficult passes into easy shots for the Cats.
Ulis being so smooth. #BBN https://t.co/FbLucMl6Qt— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 6, 2016
Ulis drives baseline and finds a cutting Matthews. #BBN https://t.co/E6ScQjJ2F4— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 6, 2016
Ulis with the no look bullet pass to Humphries. #BBN https://t.co/VlchnDNy9I— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 6, 2016
Marcus Lee with the Go-Go Gadget arms to throw this alley oop down. #BBN https://t.co/T5PBuT06SW— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 6, 2016
Ulis finished the game with a career-high 11 assists to go with 18 points, his eighth straight game of at least 17 points.