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Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: What They’re Saying, Cats surge past Gators Edition

Members of the media and the Big Blue Nation weigh in on an exciting Kentucky victory over the Gators Saturday.

NCAA Basketball: Florida at Kentucky
Malik Monk (5) goes up and under against Florida in the second half at Rupp Arena.
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Without starting point guard De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky freshmen Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo stepped up in a major way, as the Wildcats defeated Florida 76-66 Saturday at Rupp Arena.

It was probably Kentucky’s most impressive victory of the season considering the circumstances. Florida had embarrassed Kentucky the last time the two teams met this season in Gainesville, and without yesterday’s win, Kentucky would have a very slim chance at claiming at least a share of the SEC regular season title.

After scoring just three points in the first half, Monk went off for 30 in the second half in one of the greatest performances Rupp Arena has ever seen. Adebayo captured 15 rebounds for the second straight game, to add to his 18 points.

Cats fans were all smiles in Lexington following the game and, being out and about last night, you get the sense that March is just around the corner, and that the Big Blue Nation is starting to get that old Final Four feeling. Too early? Time will tell. Here’s a look at what they’re saying...

This was in reference to Florida’s KeVaughn Allen and Monk being high school rivals in Arkansas, where Allen’s team defeated Monk’s each time the two faced off. Saturday marked the first time Monk’s squad got the best of Allen’s.

Couldn’t have said it any better.

Meme game strong.

I sure hope so. Have to maintain their focus on these last two SEC regular season games and take care of business. I like this team and it appears that they are beginning to peak at the right time.

The rebound margin was the difference in this game.

The North Carolina win was big, but UK needed this game to give them hope at a higher seed in the SEC Tournament. And their starting point guard was out. Massive victory.

Scary good.

Considering all the great players Cal has had, that’s pretty impressive.

What a turnaround. Briscoe pulled down eight boards and Willis had nine.

While Hawkins only had three points, his presence was felt. The senior guard managed to get six rebounds and four assists with only one turnover.

I’ve never seen Cal smile like that before.

Is Malik Monk that good or are his teammates that reliant on him to score? No other Cal player has done what Monk has done because his other teams haven’t necessarily had to rely on one guy for that much scoring.

Good timing.

Pretty open ended statement. Hopefully Bam helps take us where we want to go ;)

Hawkins gives you so much effort and great defense. Always great to see a Kentucky boy play his way into the rotation.

Stay classy, Lexington.

That second half performance had to be one of the best by any player in college basketball this year. Bold?

Better late than never. Hopefully they keep it up.

The Herald-Leader’s Mark Story reported on Florida Coach White’s comments and how Bam stepped it up:

“It could just be Bam Adebayo is three weeks older than he was,” White said.

After having only three double-digit rebounding games in Kentucky’s first 25 contests, Adebayo has three in UK’s last four games — and had eight in the other contest (Georgia).

Adebayo says his improved activity around the glass owes much to his weight loss. UK assistant Kenny Payne has had much to do with creating the shrinking Bam, Adebayo said, due to a regimen of pre-practice conditioning drills.

“KP running us pre-practice, (the weight) just fell off,” Adebayo said. “Then I started eating right, eating healthier. It’s been good for me.”

Monk said Kentucky Coach John Calipari deserves some credit for Adebayo’s surging production on the glass, too.

After pleading with UK’s front court players early in the season to rebound with both hands, Monk said Calipari started having the whole Wildcats team run anytime Adebayo failed to do that in practice.

So, Bam, has peer pressure from teammates not wanting extra running created a more motivated, two-handed rebounder?

“That’s been a good factor for us,” Adebayo said, flashing a big smile. “I might just slip up (and rebound with one hand) ‘accidentally’ to help everybody get in shape.”

The Courier-Journal’s Fletcher Page gave his take on trying to figure this Kentucky team out:

Is Kentucky the team that dominated Tennessee or the team that barely won at Missouri? Is Kentucky the first 13 minutes of the Florida win or the last 13 minutes of the Florida win?

The Gators led by eight before those last 13 minutes, and Kentucky won by 10.

"Wow, if they play that way, they're going to be fine," Calipari said of his team. "Now can we play? Can that be us?"

Crazy, but yeah, Calipari asked himself out loud the same question I just wrote. Fox will return sooner than later and Monk has shown us what he's capable of, scoring 33 points one game after reaching only 11. Adebayo has back-to-back 15-rebound performances and, hey, this sounds like a Final Four contender again.

You start typing out those stats and you forget that Kansas beat Kentucky. UCLA beat Kentucky. Louisville beat Kentucky. Florida beat Kentucky. But there's the North Carolina win and now this Florida performance is the most recent offering of information.

"If we're this team, I like what I'm seeing," Calipari said.

If ...

Cal said it. We're all still trying to figure Kentucky out.

The excitement continues Tuesday for Senior Night at Rupp, when the Cats will face off against a hot Vanderbilt team that absolutely dismantled Mississippi State en route to its fourth consecutive win. Tip off against the Commodores is set for 9 p.m. Eastern.