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Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: Looking Back At The Florida Win

Kentucky did more good than bad versus Florida, but they still have a lot of growing to do.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday’s Kentucky 76-66 victory over Florida was fascinating for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was the fact both teams played below average overall. The way it turned out, Florida simply couldn’t make anything inside the arc, and Kentucky couldn’t help but give the Gators more chances.

It has been four games since Kentucky played a game I would consider a up to their ability on both sides of the floor, that being the game versus Tennessee a couple of weeks ago. This one was very much in the same vein as the recent games against Georgia, Missouri, Alabama and LSU, albeit against a much higher-quality opponent.


The good and great

  • Kentucky’s interior defense, and overall effort, was good from the beginning. They had a size advantage and did a fair job exploiting it.

  • 54% assists is the continuation of a trend of high assist rates, no matter who is running the point. This is an understated reason why Kentucky has been able to win close, ugly games.

  • Kentucky shot the ball very well in this game, overall. 46% from inside the arc is a little weak, but 43% from three is a nice number, even though the Wildcats only took 14 shots from outside.

  • Free throw shooting was excellent at 81%, but most of that was Malik Monk’s 10-11. That shows the value of not just getting to the line, but getting the right people to the line.

  • Speaking of Monk, his game was a tale of two halves — a listless first half followed by a 30-point second-half explosion where he looked in full North Carolina form. His repeated slashes to the rim and dead-eye shooting from everywhere were the biggest reason Kentucky was able to win, and Calipari was loving him some Malik in the second half. Game ball.

  • Bam Adebayo will be overlooked in this game, but he was great for the third game in a row.

  • Defensive rebounding was solid at 77%, and offensive rebounding was very good at 39%.

  • For the third game in a row, the seniors, particularly Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis, were major factors — mostly rebounding this time.

  • Only five times this season has Florida been held to under 1 point/possession, and Kentucky managed that at 0.96. In fact, that’s the third lowest for the Gators all season.

  • Winning without Fox in the game was impressive. Fox normally makes Kentucky’s offense much easier.

The not-so-good and bad

  • Turnovers. UK turned the ball over 23% of possessions. That’s bad, period. Offensive rebounding offset this somewhat, but Kentucky’s turnover rate has been over 20% in the last two games.

  • Cold shooting early. Kentucky is consistently getting into holes early in the game due to poor shot selection and cold shooting. They need to start the game in the post, or with attacking drives more often.

  • Isaiah Briscoe continues to shoot the ball poorly, pick up charges, and turn the ball over. He still is a major contributor to the good, but much less so than earlier this year, and I consider him still in a bit of a funk.

  • Kentucky is doing a poor job defending 3-point shooters, and if Florida had been hotter, the Wildcats might’ve dropped this game. Florida missed a number of open looks they often make.

  • Pick and roll defense was marginally better this game, but still has a long way to go. Bam Adebayo got lost less often, but I still consider it a net negative.

  • Kentucky should be able to force more than six turnovers.

The biggest takeaway, for me, from this game is how good Kentucky can be when Malik Monk gets to the basket. We all know he can shoot, but what we need him to do is attack the rim and get to the line. Monk nearly fouled out the entire Gator squad — four Florida players had four fouls and two others three, and many of those fouls were drawn by Monk attacking the Florida defense in the second half.

We can quibble about the ugliness of the victory, but it was a much-needed top 15 win for UK. A loss in this game would’ve put their top 4 seed very much in doubt, as this represents only the second win inside the current top 20 for UK all season.

The final word: It sure was fun watching Malik Monk do his World B. Free impression in the second half. That was worth the price of admission, for sure.