After a very impressive performance on the road at Vanderbilt, the Kentucky Wildcats made a trip to Gainesville to face the Florida Gators, a place that has ended in a loss the previous two trips. However, the Cats were able to gut out a 65-54 win.
Kentucky didn’t get off to a very good start as they quickly fell behind 7-2 right out of the gate. Thank goodness for Tyler Herro, as it seemed he was the only Cat that could knock down a shot and keep the Cats in it. However it was Florida with the 17-13 lead at the under 12 timeout.
Kentucky would make a run out of the timeout to take the lead 18-17 off a basket by PJ Washington with 7:24 to play in the half.
However, Florida kept making plays and made a run of their own to grab a 33-26 lead with just over a minute left. A three by Immanuel Quickley to close out the half would make the Cats’ deficit 33-29 at halftime.
The biggest difference in the half was the fact that Kentucky could not buy a basket from deep. The Cats were 3-14 from three-point land as they continued to miss open look after open look. Defensively the Cats were allowing the guards of Florida to get in the lane way too easily.
Kentucky struck first in the second half, but Florida responded by hitting a couple of big shots to extend the lead to 38-31 at the first media timeout. With just under 14 minutes remaining in the game though, the Cats faced their biggest deficit as they trailed 42-31.
The Cats then started their comeback. A huge offensive rebound by EJ Montgomery which led to a tip-in by Keldon Johnson gave the Cats new life. A defensive stop on the other end led to a three by Johnson to cut the lead to 42-37.
Kentucky and Florida would exchange buckets as the Cats cut it to one and then a made basket by Florida would push their lead back to three.
A layup by Herro would cut it to 48-47 and, after a steal, Herro would find Johnson for a three to put the Cats in the lead, 50-48 with 4:55 to play.
From that point on, the Cats would lock up the Gators defensively and execute very well on the offensive end as they out score the Gators 15-6 down the stretch to come away with the 65-54 win.
Thoughts on the Game
PJ Washington is becoming the team’s leader
Although his stretch of 20+ point games may have come to an end, the sophomore still had a big game, finishing with 15 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, and a block. Washington also played solid defense on the interior through the second half and down the stretch as the Cats were closing the Gators out.
Aside from the stats, Washington also showed that he is becoming the leader of this team. With the team down double digits and struggling, Washington rallied his teammates and got them in the right mindset. Not long after that Kentucky started their run.
PJ Washington.— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 2, 2019
Kentucky outscored Florida 34-12 from this point forward. pic.twitter.com/2fWAgsKFZb
Tyler Herro again shines on big stage
The previous two games were not good shooting performances for Herro as he couldn’t get a shot to fall from three-point land.
Against the Gators, however, he shot the ball very well, finishing with 19 points on 6-8 shooting and 3-4 from three as well as 4-4 from the free throw line. Herro also had six rebounds, two assists, and a steal in the victory.
Tyler Herro is a dawg for sure. pic.twitter.com/GSKoy54sHt— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 2, 2019
Herro also did a fantastic job on the defensive end of the floor as he held Florida’s best player, senior guard KeVaughn Allen to 11 points on 5/15 shooting and 1/7 from three.
The Wisconsin native continues to play well on the biggest stages for Kentucky, especially when it’s on the road. He loves silencing the opposing crowd, and that’s exactly what he did with that dagger three late in the game.
Keldon Johnson stepped up late
Johnson was a no show for a lot of this one. But with the game on the line, Johnson stepped up and made a couple of huge plays down the stretch to help the Cats take the lead late in the second half.
Keldon Johnson corner 3 gives Kentucky its first lead of the 2nd half. pic.twitter.com/yY3aNJCvFL— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 2, 2019
Johnson finished with 10 points and eight rebounds and was a huge factor in the final score with his second half performance.
However, for this team to be the best they can be, Keldon must play at a high level from the start and not have to get subbed out before he decides to step up.
Jemarl Baker was huge off the bench
Baker might have only scored two points and was 0-4 from three, but he came up big in other ways. He was the one that took most of Johnson’s minutes in the first half and played excellent defense. Baker also passed the ball well, leading to scoring chances.
Jemarl Baker's defense forcing the turnover. pic.twitter.com/xpywItk1w8— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 2, 2019
Once Baker gets his shot to start falling, he is going to be a very productive player for the Cats with everything else that he brings to the table.
The Cats had another low-turnover game
If there was one thing Kentucky needed to improve on as a team during their recent surge, it was cutting down on the turnovers, and they’ve done just that. After committing 16 in a home win over Mississippi State, the Cats committed just 11 vs. Kansas and seven vs. Vanderbilt.
They came into Saturday still averaging 13.2 per game, which ranked 172nd nationally. In order to win at Florida, Kentucky needed to hold on to the ball and avoid making mistakes against a relentless Florida press, which helped force Kentucky into 30 turnovers in the two games vs. the Gators last season.
The Cats had some shaky moments, but they still managed to play a rather clean game and committed just 11 turnovers. That’s now an average of 9.7 per game over the last three contests.
Overall, a very good win for the Cats
SEC road games are tough and sometimes shots just will not fall. However, the best teams still find a way to come out with the win.
The Cats ability to defend and rally to get a double-digit win shows a lot about this team and how much better they have gotten since the beginning of the year.
This is also the kind of game that could help the Cats get a one seed come Selection Sunday. They have very little room for error the rest of the way to get one, and losing at Gainesville would have severely damaged those hopes. It would have also put Kentucky two games behind the top-ranked Tennessee Volunteers for first place in the SEC.
Now, the Cats have another good win on their resume and are still right in the think of the SEC race.
The Cats will be in action again Tuesday night with a home game against South Carolina. The matchup will tip at 7:00 pm EST on the SEC Network.
Here are the post game notes and milestones from the game, courtesy of UK Athletics:
- Kentucky extended its winning streak to eight in a row and seven straight in league play since losing the opener. The Wildcats are now 18-3 overall and 7-1 in the Southeastern Conference. Florida drops to 12-9, 4-4 in the SEC.
- UK increased its series lead to 101-40 and snapped a two-game skid to the Gators.
- Kentucky improved to 36-26 in Gainesville, Florida.
In the First Half
- Kentucky stuck with its normal starting five, beginning with Ashton Hagans, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, PJ Washington and Reid Travis for the 14th time this season. UK is now 11-3 with that lineup.
- UK started just 6 of 19 from the field but Herro made his first three shots. Outside of him, the Wildcats started 2 for 15. Herro had 10 of UK’s first 16 points, including two 3-pointers.
- He picked up his second foul at the 5:12 mark and went to the bench for the rest of the half.
- Kentucky held Florida without a point for 4:42 of game time (from 11:19 to 6:37) to take the lead on a Washington layup at the 7:22 mark.
- After a 1-for-5 start, Washington picked it up in the latter stages of the first half and finished with eight points, six rebounds and a block in the first stanza.
- An Immanuel Quickley 3 in the corner stopped a 6-0 Florida run to get to the 33-29 halftime score.
- UK made just 3 of 14 from behind the arc in the first half.
In the Second Half
- UK started the second half how it started the game with Hagans, Herro, Johnson, Washington and Travis.
- The Wildcats went scoreless for 6:07 of game time (from 18:59 to 13:32) early in the second half as Florida went on a 9-0 run for a 42-31 lead.
- Washington snapped the scoreless run as the Wildcats went on a 6-0 run of their own over just a 48-second span. After Washington missed the second of two free throws, Johnson tipped in his own miss for a three-point possession. The next time down the floor he sunk a 3 to make it a five-point game.
- UK extended the run to 10-0 overall to cut Florida’s lead to 42-41. The Wildcats held Florida without a point for 5:03 of game time (from 13:59 to 8:56).
- Trailing 48-43, Kentucky took control of the outcome with the game-defining run. UK went on a 14-0 run over 5:12 to turn a five-point deficit into a 57-48 lead.
- Kentucky took its first lead of the second half during the run, an advantage it would not relinquish. Johnson hit a 3-pointer in the corner after Herro picked off a pass on the other end and found Johnson open in the corner for a 50-48 lead.
- UK would not let Florida within seven the rest of the way, as UK went 6 of 6 at the free throw line over the final 43 seconds of play. Hagans, Hero and Quickley all drained a pair to clinch the 65-54 final score.
- Florida scored 54 points. UK is a perfect 70-0 under John Calipari when keeping the opponent to 55 points or less, including 6-0 this season. The Wildcats are also 165-7 when limited the opponent to 63 points or less under Calipari.
- The Gators shot only 34.9 percent from the field. UK is 174-15 under Calipari when keeping the opponent at 40 percent or less, including 9-0 this season.
- UK has held six of its last seven opponents to 40 percent or less.
- During the current eight-game winning streak UK has …
- Held opponents to 59.2 points per game.
- Limited opponents to 37.5 percent from the field.
- Limited opponents to 31.4 percent from 3-point range.
- Kentucky is now 237-40 vs. unranked competition under Calipari.
- UK led by as many as 11 and improved to 251-5 (.980) when leading by 10 at any point in the game under Calipari.
- The Wildcats trailed by as many as 11 and came back for the win. It’s the fourth time this season the Cats have trailed by double figures and rebounded for the victory. Kentucky also trailed by double-digits against Texas A&M, Vanderbilt (Jan. 12) and Kansas.
- Kentucky won the rebounding battle, 46-34.
- UK is 15-1 when out rebounding the opponent.
- Kentucky hauled in 14 double-digit offensive rebounds and has 14 such games this season.
- PJ Washington continued the best stretch of his career with his third straight double-double. He had 15 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
- He’s the first player with three straight double-doubles since Julius Randle did it four times March 21-30, 2014.
- He now has a team-best seven double-doubles.
- He’s averaging 20.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 1.3 assists and 1.0 steals per game over the last four games, all double-digit scoring efforts.
- He’s shooting 51.7 percent from the floor and 46.2 percent from behind the arc.
- Tyler Herro produced a game-high 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including 3 of 4 from behind the arc.
- He has reached double-figures in 16 games this season.
- He’s knocked down three or more 3-pointers in seven games this season, all UK wins.
- He went 4 for 4 from the charity stripe and has made each of his last 28 attempts.
- Keldon Johnson added 10 points and eight rebounds.
- It’s his team-leading 17th double-figure scoring game.
- EJ Montgomery was a difference maker with three rebounds, including two on the offensive end and a blocked shot.
- Jemarl Baker Jr. played 15 minutes, scoring two points and adding two assists.
- Calipari is now 293-67 at UK.
- Calipari has a 738-207 all-time on-court record.
- He is now four wins away from tying Joe B. Hall for the second-most victories by a UK head coach in program history.
- Calipari improved to 16-8 vs. Florida.