The Kentucky Wildcats came out hot and got up to a 10 point lead in the first half before ultimately falling 71-67 to the Florida Gators. The loss ended Kentucky’s three-game winning streak and sends them into the final week desperate for a couple more wins and some time to improve.
Kentucky was led in scoring by Davion Mintz with 21 points, while the Cats also got contributions from BJ Boston (13), Jackson (11) and Jacob Toppin (11). The Wildcats created offensively by picking up the pace and getting into the paint, but could not score enough to account for their turnovers.
The Wildcats now head into the last week of the regular season in preparation of the SEC Tournament. While improvements have certainly been made, there is still room to grow but minimal time to get it done. Here is what you need to know from Saturday’s game against the Gators.
For the majority of the first half, the Kentucky Wildcats seemed to find an offensive flow that worked. They picked up the pace, played fast, and took early shots. For the most part, the shorts were not necessarily bad. That aggressive attitude led to more possessions an ultimately a 10 point lead in the first half.
The Wildcats continued that trend in spurts in the second half, but they certainly did not stay as aggressive as they were in the first half. They hit more scoring lulls that ultimately let the Gators back in the game. Kentucky is finally starting to build something that works, now they need to focus on doing it consistently.
John Calipari said earlier in the week that he has narrowed the rotation down to seven players. Aside from four minutes from Dontaie Allen and Riley Welch’s start, that held true. Keion Brooks and Jacob Toppin got some good minutes off of the bench, but not so much anyone else.
You would hope that John Calipari has made this clear with each player that is not in the rotation. It is players like Lance Ware and Dontaie Allen that could make all the difference in a return next season. So you would hate to lose them due to taking their minutes away down the stretch without having a conversation about them first.
The Kentucky Wildcats continue to shoot free throws well across the board. They were shooting 73.3% from the charity stripe coming into this game, and improved upon that impressive mark by hitting 25 of 29 this afternoon. If Kentucky does get into tight games in the next few weeks that are win or go home situations, hitting their free throws could make all the difference. It was just not enough to make the difference today.
After winning three games in a row, a lot of fans assumed the corner had been turned and that this team was ready for the SEC Tournament. But Saturday’s game highlighted that turnovers are still a problem, the offense is prone to long stretches without points, and once the defense makes adjustments the Wildcats struggle to adapt.
The Wildcats are also vulnerable around the basket defensively when Isaiah Jackson is out of the game. The help rotations have been slow and Sarr does not close the gap like Jackson does. So the defense either needs to get better at keep the ball in front of them, or they have to be quicker to send help.
Either way, this team has a lot of work to do before the SEC Tournament. That may be good in that the ceiling is higher than what we have seen, but the clock is ticking and there is not much time left to make improvements.