Kentucky Wildcats at Florida Gators
- Where: Exactech Arena at The Stephen C O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.
- Game Time: 4 pm EST on Feb 2, 2019.
- TV Channel: ESPN
- Announcers: Jason Benetti and Dan Dakich will be on the call.
- Online Stream: You can stream the game online or on a mobile device using WatchESPN, the Watch ESPN app and fuboTV.
- Radio: Tom Leach and Mike Pratt will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM and 98.1 FM in Lexington or online at UKAthletics.com.
- Satellite Radio: Sirius 81 | XM 81 | Internet 81
- Replay: Check local listings on the SEC Network and WatchESPN.
- Rosters: UK | UF
- Odds: The Wildcats opened as a 2.5-point road favorite, but the line has grown to 4.5 as of Saturday morning. KenPom projected them to be an 2.5-point favorite. The Wildcats have covered the spread in five-straight games but haven’t covered the spread vs. Florida since Feb. 25 of 2017. Check out more analysis and betting trends here.
- Prediction: ESPN’s matchup predictor gives Kentucky an 55.7-percent chance of winning. KenPom gives the road team a 56-percent chance of winning and projects a 64-62 win for the Wildcats. Check out our staff predictions for the game.
- Digital Gameday Guide
Good vibes to start the day. pic.twitter.com/sGuVgjqH3F— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 2, 2019
The Wildcats travel to Gainesville looking to duplicate another dominating performance on the road.
Florida, meanwhile, is having down year by their standards at 12-8, but they will be coming off an overtime win over Ole Miss on Wednesday. The Rowdy Reptiles always make for a challenging atmosphere, and Gainesville has typically been a place where UK struggles to execute.
Kentucky has lost the last two games played on Florida’s campus. The last win came in 2016 when Jamal Murray scored 21 points. They were also swept by the Gators last season while losing three of four in the series. The last time Florida won three straight in the series was in the 2013-14 season when the Gators and Wildcats both made the Final Four.
It is unreasonable to think that the Cats will be able to impose their will quite like they did in their last game, but if they come out ready to play, then they should be able to win convincingly.
Kentucky looked scary good in their 87-52 beatdown of the Commodores on the road in Nashville. After beating three ranked teams in a row, there was not ever a sign of a let down while playing against a winless SEC team. UK laid the hammer down in historic fashion, and now people everywhere are becoming believers in their chances at a national title run.
To put it mildly, Kentucky is passing the eye test big time right now. Anyone that knows basketball can see the transformation that this team has taken over the last 2.5 weeks.
Each week is presenting the Cats with a new set of challenges, and they have responded in major way. Saturday will be no different when UK will have to play another desperate team in what should be a hostile environment.
3 Keys to the Game
Let PJ Washington eat
This has without a doubt been the best stretch of PJ Washington’s career as a Wildcat. Over the last three games, Washington is averaging 22.3 points and 10.3 rebounds. Coach John Calipari has praised his spirit and willingness to fight through adversity.
Kentucky is a totally different animal when Washington is playing with the motor that he is right now. He outscored Vanderbilt in the first half of Tuesday night’s game and is starting to flex his lottery pick potential. This type of tenacious play is exactly what Kentucky fans have been waiting to see on a consistent basis from the sophomore forward.
Reid Travis is already going to bring a similar approach to every game and force the defense to respect his touches in the post. When PJ Washington is beating the defense down the floor and attacking the offensive glass, there isn’t a team in college basketball that can combat that.
Washington needs to be established early in the Florida game and specifically get touches on the block. It has been evident that a quick start seems to energize his level of play.
After what Washington was able to do against Vandy, you would have to assume that his confidence is at an all-time high, which could be the recipe for another monster game.
.@PJWashington continued the best stretch of his career with 26 points and 12 rebounds for his second straight double-double— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) January 30, 2019
· He’s the first player with back-to-back 20-10 games since Julius Randle did it three times Nov. 8-12, 2013. pic.twitter.com/xl75wTnuwB
Keep the bench involved
After scoring zero bench points against Kansas, the Cats were able to get some meaningful contribution from a number of bench players in the win against Vanderbilt on Tuesday night. Nick Richards poured in a monster 14 points that included two late alley-oop slams. Quickley and Baker both made some impressive baskets, and even EJ Montgomery added some value in his 11 minutes of play.
Kentucky can’t expect to win big games when it gets zero bench points. One of the Cats best attributes is using their depth to wear down opponents. We have seen time and time this year where UK is able to overcome a slow start by plugging away and using a deep rotation to finish games out. An opponent like Florida will provide a good opportunity for the bench players to step in and add value.
Depth is a great thing in the NCAA Tournament. Quickley, Baker, Montgomery, and Richards all getting time to improve before March is a big piece of the puzzle for Kentucky heading into the back half of SEC play.
Nick Richards is the 4th different Kentucky player in the John Calipari era to have at least 14 points and 4 blocks in a game coming off the bench (Willie Cauley-Stein, Marcus Lee, Derek Willis). Nick is the first in the John Calipari era to do so in a true road game.— Corey Price (@coreyp08) January 30, 2019
Win with Defense
As great as Kentucky has looked on offense, it is their defense that has been most impressive. Vanderbilt couldn’t get any type of quality shot for the entire game. Nick Richards is blocking shots immediately when he enters the game, and that is taking this team to another level defensively.
For the season, Kentucky is now averaging 19 points a game off turnovers. Ashton Hagans continues to be a menace for any opposing backcourt and will no doubt be doing the same on Saturday in Gainesville.
Hagans will be facing another freshman guard, Andrew Nembhard, who has accounted for a team leading 45 turnovers this season. That is really not meant to be a slight at Nembhard because he has tallied 119 assists this year, which is a great ratio for a freshman point guard. But something tells me Hagans will impact his play in this one. This will be a matchup to watch closely.
Florida does make more than nine threes per game, so guarding the perimeter is always a key. The only way the Gators should be able to keep this close is by making shots from the outside. The primary three point shooters are Noah Locke and KeVaughn Allen. I think it would take at least 12 three-pointers for Florida to have a chance at the upset.
Kentucky can set the tone on the defensive end and let that lead to easy offense.
Players to watch
KeVaughn Allen: 13 ppg; 2.7 apg; 1.6 spg; 37.3% on three-pointers
Allen is a really solid player who the Gators need to make shots if they’re to have a chance at upsetting Kentucky. Allen hits almost 38% of his three point shots and is coming off a 21-point performance in the win against Ole Miss. You may see Hagans get this match-up if Allen is having success on offense.
Noah Locke: 11.7 ppg; 43% on three-pointers
Locke is the primary three point shooter for Florida and makes the outside shots at a high percentage. He has made the fourth most threes in the SEC this season with 51. Finding him in transition will be important.
Andrew Nembhard: 7 ppg; 5.5 apg
Nembhard is a really talented freshman guard who looks to get his teammates involved. He is nearly in the top 5 in the SEC for assists per game. Kentucky has done a great job lately causing turnovers and deflecting balls in the passing lanes. Slowing Nembhard down will limit the Gators offensively.
Kevarrius Hayes: 7 ppg; 6.3 rpg; 2.1 bpg
The Gators’ frontline is dangerously thin, but the one consistent big man they do have can cause problems for the Cats. Kevarrius Hayes is a force on the boards with 60 offensive rebounds this season, the most of any SEC player. His 11.4% block percentage is No. 1 in the SEC. His 10.8 defensive box plus/minus is No. 1 in college basketball.
Hayes won’t do a lot of damage offensively, but he’s an absolute game-changer on the defensive end. PJ Washington and Reid Travis will have their work cut out for them against this all-conference caliber big man.