The Kentucky Wildcats traveled to Florida today in hopes of picking up their third straight win, and they left the state of Florida still undefeated in SEC play.
In a surprisingly dominant performance on both ends of the court, Kentucky ran away from Florida to a 74-58 finish, despite entering the game as a 4.5-point underdog.
The Wildcats were led in points by Davion Mintz and Brandon Boston with 13, but it was a very balanced attack as six players had nine points or more. Keion Brooks’ return to Gainesville was a massive success, so much so that they should consider naming a street after him.
Overall the Wildcats looked like a completely different team from what we have seen so far this season. It should be a great confidence boost for this group, and they will need that momentum if they hope to win enough SEC games to get into the NCAA Tournament. Here are five things you really need to know from the game.
Keion Brooks is back
You may read that and say, “it’s good to know he is available.” But I really mean that the guy is back. He came off the bench early in the second half and looked just like the guy that cleaned up in Gainesville in the last game of the 2019-2020 season.
Brooks finished with 12 points, six rebounds, and four assists in 24 minutes. He looked like the guy you would have expected from a sophomore Keion Brooks, and he appears to be 100%. If this is the difference that Brooks will make for this team, watch out SEC.
Lance Ware in the starting lineup
After several games where production was low, Isaiah Jackson did not start the game against the Gators on Saturday. He was replaced in the starting five by Lance Ware, who has seen an increase in minutes from game to game. We have also seen Ware consistently on the floor in late game situations.
The coaching staff at Kentucky has said that Ware is one of the smarter players in their locker room, and his consistent play has also caught their attention. This was his first start for Kentucky. With Keion Brooks being back and looking strong in his first game, it is unclear who will start at that four spot for the Wildcats. But Ware as obviously earned his keep up to this point in the season.
It also seems that Jackson may have taken this personally. He put together a heck of a game on Saturday on both ends of the court with nine points, six rebounds, and four blocks. He was a monster on both ends and really stood out as an important player in the Wildcats’ win.
Dontaie Allen is for real
We are officially a week from “ The Dontaie Allen Game.” It was a sight to see, and it was difficult to imagine him continuing to be as productive. After following up that 23 point performance with a 14 point outing against Vanderbilt, Allen continues to shoot the ball well. He hit two of three three-pointers in Gainesville and finished with six points to go with his two rebounds and block. It looks like he will continue to be a contributor for this Kentucky team, which is a great rallying point for the fanbase.
It is also worth noting that Allen had the tall task of guarding Scottie Lewis for most of his minutes. That seems like an extreme mismatch given Allen’s defensive woes. However, Lewis finished the game with two points and a -11 in the plus/minus category. Allen was not entirely responsible for that, but he played a major role.
During Saturday’s game, Kentucky had a “Unity” patch stitched on their jerseys. They took that statement a step further by kneeling in unity before the tip. This team continues to come together, and they are all using their platform to speak out about what is happening in our country.
The biggest revelation of the day was Kentucky’s offense. The defense has certainly looked good at times, but the offense has struggled mightily in almost every game. At Florida, however, this looked like a completely different team.
The Wildcats 18 assists on 29 made baskets, shooting 66.7% from the floor for the game. The flow looked so much better as well. Some of that could be due to the presence of Keion Brooks, but you also have to give credit to BJ Boston.
After struggling to be efficient in almost every game, Boston came out on Saturday with a pass-first mentality and completely changed the flow of the offense. He only had three assists, but he also did not force as many shots and allowed others to make plays as he drew attention from the defense.
If this is the offense we will see moving forward, Kentucky may just have a chance to make a run at the tournament. Can they repeat this performance on the offensive end? They face perhaps even a bigger challenge on Tuesday against Alabama.