It was a very defensive, sluggish game for the most part, save for the Immanuel Quickley three-point barrage in the middle of the second half. But, it was a good game defensively for the Cats, holding Florida to multiple scoring draughts in the second half.
Immanuel Quickley was the player of the game, yet again, for the Cats.
However, it did not come without drama. Florida made a game of it in the final minute and gave Kentucky a run for its money, as the Cats struggled inbounding the ball and had several turnovers that the Gators converted to points and made it a 61-59 game. This came after Kentucky did the same in Tuesday’s win over LSU, so it’s something John Calipari needs to put a lot of emphasis on improving this coming week in practice.
Thankfully, this team knows how to hit their free throws, as Maxey and Quickley both hit game-clinching free throws in the final 12 seconds.
Here are your things to know for the game:
Kentucky controls their own destiny
After Kentucky was able to scrape by the Gators, they now are in control of their own destiny within the SEC. Sitting at 12-2, they firmly have a two game lead on Auburn in the SEC. Kentucky plays at Texas A&M on Tuesday, with the Aggies playing their best ball of the season. The Auburn Tigers then come to Rupp next Saturday for a pivotal SEC showdown.
Ashton Hagans plays
After not knowing whether or not Hagans would even play today for the Wildcats, he checked in to the game after the first TV timeout and seemed to not miss a beat at all. He played with no noticeable limp and looked like normal Hagans on the court. He made a big impact in a game Florida probably wins if he sits out.
Despite the turnovers by Hagans, he did help the game out tremendously in Kentucky’s favor. He’s our point guard.
Kerry Blackshear came to play for the Gators
Kerry Blackshear Jr. seemed ready for this game from the get-go for the Gators. As you all probably know, Kentucky went after Blackshear hard during the off-season to be their main big man for this year. Of course, this was without knowing the type of year that Nick Richards would have.
Blackshear made his presence known early, controlling the paint as well as hitting the three ball to keep Florida close in the first half. Kerry Blackshear was the real deal.
Home shooting struggles continue
In the oddest year ever, Kentucky continues to struggle shooting the ball in Rupp Arena. They’ve already proven that they shoot significantly better on the road, and that’s due to them doing shoot around on the court they’ll be playing on.
Kentucky does not do shoot around at Rupp for home games, so I don’t think it is a coincidence that they struggle at home. Just one game after shooting 7/8 from three in the second half against LSU on Tuesday, they turn around and struggle at home.
Immanuel Quickley could be SEC Player of the Year
Immanuel Quickley was up to his usual antics tonight, even after having a quiet first half, with only 4 points. He exploded for a three point barrage mid-way through the second-half for a personal 9-0 run and sent Rupp into a frenzy after falling behind. Coach Cal challenged him to score 25 in this game. He scored 26.
I think it’s time we start talking about Immanuel Quickley for SEC Player of the Year.
Second half defense
After a subpar first half on defense for the Wildcats, they tightened it up in the second half and took the Gators out of rhythm. This improved defense led to multiple Gators scoreless streaks that lasted as long as 5-6 minutes, and it was a big reason why the Wildcats were able to hold on and pick up the victory.
Despite a late-game come-back attempt by the Gators, Kentucky still played much improved defense in the second half, without the blocking ability of Nick Richards. It was the three-guard lineup the forced the Florida defense to make many mistakes that resulted in Kentucky points.