Some out-of-nowhere hot shooting has led Florida Gators basketball to a 5-1 record in its last six games, including a victory at home over a top-25 opponent. But can the Gators measure up to their Southeastern Conference rivals on the road in one of the most hostile environments in college basketball?
Florida’s surge will be tested Saturday against the No. 19/20 Kentucky Wildcats, which are coming off rare back-to-back losses and still looking to find the right mix of players during another infamous quick rebuild that includes a ton of high-tier freshman talent. The Gators will look to continue their charge as the Wildcats try to get back in the swing of things at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.
Here’s a look ahead at the game: what to know and how to watch Florida-Kentucky.
Location: Rupp Arena – Lexington, Kentucky [Capacity: 23,000]
Time: 4 p.m. ET
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter
Tale of the tape
|Florida Gators||No. 19/20 Kentucky Wildcats|
|Head Coach: Mike White||Head Coach: John Calipari|
|Record: 15-7 (6-3 SEC)||Record: 16-6 (6-3 SEC)|
|Conference: Southeastern||Conference: Southeastern|
Spread: Florida +7.5 | O/U: 143.5
Forget for a minute that Kentucky has won 32-straight at Rupp and has tons of motivation coming off a rare two-game losing streak. Florida simply does not win in Lexington, and this version of the Gators has struggled in true road games and tough environments.
The Wildcats swept Saturday’s visitors in three meetings last season and have historically had the upper hand in the series, too, especially since Calipari took over.
So how exactly does Florida go about pulling off a win? By doing everything right, which is quite unlikely. Redshirt sophomore center John Egbunu would have to stay out of foul trouble and not get frustrated. Redshirt senior forward Dorian Finney-Smirh would have to find a way to remain dominant but also efficient. Perhaps most importantly, the Gators’ backcourt must avoid miscues and help ensure short bursts do not become long runs by the hosts.
Oh, Florida would also have to continue its hot shooting, if not from beyond the arc at least at the charity stripe.
Simply put, that’s a lot to ask for a Gators team still in the process of finding itself. And when Florida doesn’t do things the right way, they often lose handily. Even its one-point defeat at Vanderbilt should’ve been a much wider margin if not for some insanely hot shooting in the final minute.
The line opened at -6 for UK, which is ideal. Asking Kentucky to cover eight is a lot, so try to get it lower or avoid altogether. Ultimately, the Wildcats’ chances of covering are better than not against these two-faced Gators that have not proven they can be trusted. Expect the total to hit – just barely.
ATS picks: 5-2 | O/U picks: 5-2
Injuries and absences
» Out: F Alex Murphy (foot)
» Out: F Alex Poythress (knee)
» Kentucky owns the all-time series against Florida with a 97-37 record over its rival, though the Gators became much more competitive under Billy Donovan with the Wildcats holding a been more competitive under Donovan with the Wildcats holding a 27-17 edge since the start of his tenure.
» UF has not had much success at Rupp Arena with UK going 49-9 all-tie on its home court, 7-1 since March 2008. In fact, every time Florida has beaten Kentucky in Lexington since 1998, the Gators have eventually advanced to the NCAA Final Four.
» The Gators have put forward seven different starting lineups in 22 games this season.
» Florida is 13-2 when scoring 70+ points this season and 5-4 when allowing 70+ points.
» UF is 9-1 when playing on Friday or Saturday this season, 6-6 on all other days (none played on Thursday).
» The Gators are 1-4 against AP Top 25 opponents this season.