Gators fall but still standing in top 25 rankings

The 14th editions of the 2011-12 regular season USA Today/ESPN and Associated Press Top 25 Polls were released on Monday, and the Kentucky Wildcats (23-1, 9-0 SEC) held on to the No. 1 spot in both rankings, receiving the vast majority of votes as the top team in the country.

The Florida Gators fell in the rankings after reentering the top 10 one week ago for the first time since Dec. 26, 2011. Florida dropped to No. 12 and No. 14 in the respective polls on the heels of consecutive losses to Kentucky (78-58) on the road Tuesday evening and Tennessee (75-70) at home on Saturday afternoon. The Gators are one of three/two Southeastern Conference teams listed in the rankings.

WeekGator BaitRecordAP Top 25USA TodayNCAA RPI
Preseason--No. 7 (1,153)No. 7 (568)-
2W 68-45 vs. William & Mary1-0No. 8 (1,127)No. 7 (560)-
3L 69-67 vs. Miami
W(OT) 61-56 vs. ULM
2-1No. 18 (467)No. 16 (303)-
4L(OT) 65-66 vs. Georgetown
W 56-47 vs. UAB
L 64-75 vs. North Carolina
3-3NR (40)No. 24 (60)-

USA TODAY/ESPN COACHES POLL
This Week 1-5: Kentucky (31), Syracuse, Missouri, Duke, Kansas
6-10: Ohio State, North Carolina, Michigan State, Georgetown, Baylor
11-15: UNLV, Florida, Marquette, Murray State, San Diego State
16-20: St. Mary’s, Wisconsin, Louisville, Michigan, Indiana
21-25: Florida State, Virginia, Mississippi State, Gonzaga, Notre Dame

Last Week 1-5: Kentucky (31), Syracuse, Ohio State, Missouri, North Carolina
6-10: Baylor, Florida/Murray State, Duke, Kansas
11-15: Georgetown, Michigan State, St. Mary’s, San Diego State, Creighton
16-20: UNLV, Florida State, Mississippi State, Marquette, Virginia
21-25: Harvard, Wisconsin, Indiana/Louisville, Michigan

ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL
This Week 1-5: Kentucky (63), Syracuse (2), Missouri, Kansas, Duke
6-10: Ohio State, Michigan State, North Carolina, Baylor, Georgetown
11-15: UNLV, Marquette, San Diego State, Florida, Wisconsin
16-20: Murray State, Michigan, Indiana, Louisville, Florida State
21-25: St. Mary’s, Virginia, Notre Dame, Gonzaga/Wichita State

Last Week 1-5: Kentucky (63), Syracuse (2), Ohio State, Missouri, North Carolina
6-10: Baylor, Kansas, Florida, Murray State, Duke
11-15: Michigan State, Georgetown, San Diego State, UNLV, Florida State
16-20: St. Mary’s, Creighton, Marquette, Virginia, Mississippi State
21-25: Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Louisville, Harvard

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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Florida, Alabama to be shorthanded on Tuesday

With both teams looking to rebound from tough losses, the No. 7/8 Florida Gators and Alabama Crimson Tide are set to square off Tuesday night in Tuscaloosa, AL though it appears as if neither team will go into the game at full strength.

Florida announced Sunday evening that sophomore forward Will Yeguete (concussion) and redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario (hip pointer) will both miss Tuesday’s tilt.

Yeguete, who banged his head into the stanchion underneath the basket while going up for a block against Tennessee on Saturday, received 8-10 stitches for a cut above his eye and failed concussion tests in the locker room. He was unconscious on the court and later diagnosed with his second concussion this season (at Ohio State).

Unlike Yeguete, Rosario did not even participate in Saturday’s contest after suffering a hip pointer during practice last week. The Gators were also without redshirt freshman F Cody Larson (illness) against Tennessee, but he will be healthy enough to travel with the team and come off the bench against the Crimson Tide.

Though Yeguete and Rosario are both bench players for Florida, the former has earned spot starts and extensive playing time in the front court while the latter has been a scoring spark for the Gators all season long. Yeguete is averaging 4.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game in 22.0 minutes, while Rosario scores 7.9 points and shooting 38.0 percent from downtown in 16.0 minutes per game on average.

Alabama is even worse off than their upcoming opponent with up to four players set to miss the game due to suspension. Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant suspended starting F Tony Mitchell indefinitely on Monday for “conduct detrimental to the team” that occurred over a period of time.

He followed that up by ruling Saturday that three more Alabama players – F JaMychal Green, G Trevor Releford and G Andrew Steele – would also be suspended indefinitely for violations of team rules.

“We are extremely disappointed in the choices and decisions made by these young men that has led to this suspension,” Grant said in a statement released by the school. “Talent is a gift, but character is a choice. The consequences of their choices have negatively impacted them as individuals and the people that love and support them. Our hope is that they will be mature enough to accept responsibility for their actions and place a higher value on their character.”

Greene, the Crimson Tide’s scoring and rebounding leader with 14.1 points and 7.2 boards per game, is the most impactful of the four suspensions though all will undoubtedly affect the team’s ability to perform at a high level going forward.

Florida and Alabama tip off at 7 p.m. on Tuesday live on ESPN.

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2/11: Florida vs. Tennessee post-game notes

The No. 7/8 Florida Gators should expect the numbers in front of their team name to drop significantly on Monday after being outplayed in both of their games this past week. After being routed 78-58 by the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats on Tuesday, Florida was stunned at home by the unranked Tennessee Volunteers, which picked up a 75-70 win Saturday. Gators head coach Billy Donovan had plenty to talk about after the game as he looks to right the ship and finish out the 2011-12 regular season strong.

PUT UP OR SHUT UP TIME FOR THE GATORS

Florida has reached a point now where the team must decide how they want the rest of the season to play out. The Gators can either mature, learn from their mistakes, improve and fight their way to a high postseason ranking or falter like the 2007-08 team.

Like that squad, Donovan does not believe this year’s group has been “hardened” enough to understand what it takes to win game-in and game-out. He feels Florida struggles with some of the more minor things in games (getting fouled, missing shots) and instead should be worried about being consistently productive no matter what is happening around them.

“Our guys are not hardened enough right now. We have not been hardened. In a certain respect, there’s a lot of similarities – as much as I hate to say this – when Chandler Parsons was here as a freshman. There was not that hardening,” he said. “It took Chandler a couple of years. I’m using him [as an example], but I’d throw in Nick Calathes, [Marreese] Speights, that whole group. Those guys were not hardened.

“They followed two national champions and had no idea and no clue of what went into it. I think these guys are great guys, but we haven’t been hardened enough. Because of our limited depth there a little bit, we need to practice better. We need to be more on edge. We need to take everything to a different level, and we haven’t done that.”

Donovan let the Gators know just that after Saturday’s game by writing “NIT” in big letters on the board in the locker room, something he did mostly as a warning.

“My point on mentioning that to them was nothing more than the fact that there have been teams that have been here – Chandler and those guys started off the season 18-3,” he said. “We’re in a tough stretch for our team. I was using [2007-08] as an example. We’re 7-3 in our league after 10 games. We have six games left. There’s home games and the SEC Tournament.

“I don’t feel like we don’t have the opportunity to go to the NCAA Tournament. I was using it as an example of don’t take for granted what you have in front of you. We have a lot of work ahead of us. We can’t come in and lose every game. I was using it as an example of: Have an understanding and a respect level of how good you think you are.”

How much is this Florida team like the 2007-08 group? Here are just a few figures to keep in mind going forward:

As of February 122007-082011-12
Overall Record:19-519-6
Record vs. SEC:6-37-3
National ranking (USA Today/AP):UR/URNo. 7/8
RPI:4425
Losses vs. Top 25:33
Wins vs. Top 25:12
Record vs. Tennessee (season):0-20-2
Seniors:01
Underclassmen:108
Regular season finish:2-5, NITTBD

YEGUETE OUT INDEFINITELY (CONCUSSION)

Gators sophomore forward Will Yeguete went down early in the first half when he hit his head on the corner of the basket stand after going up for a block. Yeguete laid motionless on the floor for a few minutes while trainers came over to check on him. Eventually he sat up and left the court with blood coming from the right side of his face, never returning to action.

After the game, Donovan said Yeguete suffered a “definite concussion” and is “out indefinitely” because he failed concussion tests in the locker room and had 8-10 stitches for the cut above his eye. It is Yeguete’s second concussion this season as he also suffered one early in the year at Ohio State.

“When I got over there he was knocked out. He wasn’t even conscious,” he said. “He wasn’t even awake when I was over there. I was a little bit concerned there. He finally woke up and didn’t know where he was at. And then when he rolled over, he had a lot of blood coming out of his eye.”

Donovan called Yeguete “doubtful” for Tuesday’s game and does not expect him to practice with the team on Sunday or Monday. Should he pass concussion tests mid-week, Florida could potentially have him active for Saturday’s game at Arkansas but could hold him out until next Tuesday’s game vs. Auburn.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on how to “harden” the team: “That’s one of the greatest challenges and dilemmas in coaching there is. Because Joakim Noah and Al Horford, those guys weren’t hardened either. There is a mentality and an understanding of what really goes into a preparation to really go out there and win. I’m spending too much time in practice dealing with stuff I shouldn’t be dealing with instead of dealing with preparation. A lot of it is our maturity level and us growing up and growing through some of those things. […] Some teams have to go through that.”

» Donovan on if senior point guard Erving Walker is “hardened”: “Chandler Parsons was a great outlet for Erving Walker. Because when Erving got into maybe taking some quick, ill-advised shots and over-penetrating, [we could put it] in Chandler’s hands and facilitate offense through him a little bit and get Erv off the ball. It’s hard to do that with Brad there. […] From a verbal leadership standpoint, I’m not so sure that’s Erving’s makeup to kind of take over the team like that. I’ve probably got to help him in that area a little bit. The hardening part, I’m not so sure how hardened Erving is because there was always somebody to kind of help him through. But now a lot of this is kind of falling on his shoulders in terms of running our team. I got to do a better job somehow getting through to these guys about what this is about.”

» Donovan on what is “wrong” with sophomore center Patric Young: “He may have some foot issues. It may be bothering hm. I don’t think it’s bothering him. I think the biggest challenge Patric is dealing with is playing at an intensity level on a continual basis. There was one point there in the first half he played 18 minutes with one rebound. It’s hard for him. He’s a guy right now that’s really trying to figure out how to really play with that intensity level all the time. He’s shown spurts of doing it, but he’s unable to sustain it. Last year we could really do it where you could throw him in for 2-3 minutes. He would come in there, knock some people around, pick up a couple fouls, offensive rebound, dunk and all of a sudden he’d be gassed. Now because he’s playing between 24-28 minutes, you can see the great explosions and you can see the laboring. He’s got to learn how to push through fatigue and deal with the mental duress and those kinds of things. He’s got to grow in that area.”

» Freshman guard Bradley Beal on Donovan not being happy in the locker room: “No, not happy at all. We didn’t compete at all really. Our defensive press was really bad again. We really weren’t focused. We didn’t get any offense at all. We were jacking up shots. Our mentality throughout the whole game, we weren’t focused mentally at all. It started in practice a couple days ago. We really weren’t focused and weren’t playing hard. It showed tonight.”

» Beal on if depth issues can be blamed: “It was difficult, but at the same time it’s not an excuse. We go through situations like this in practice. Guys get hurt in practice and other guys have to step in. everybody has to be ready to play and we just have to work with what we have.”

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Tennessee stuns No. 7/8 Florida 75-70 at home

The Tennessee Volunteers travelled to Gainesville, FL on Saturday looking to win their first road game of the year while sweeping the No. 7/8 Florida Gators in the season series between the two teams for the first time since 2009. Tennessee succeeded in both of those goals, snapping Florida’s 19-game home winning streak at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center with a dominant 75-70 victory and handing UF back-to-back losses for the first time in two seasons.

The Volunteers (13-12, 5-5 SEC) upended the Gators (19-6, 7-3 SEC) with stellar defense and relentless effort on the offensive glass. Tennessee outrebounded Florida 36-30 (12-6 offensively) and also outscored the home team 36-14 in the paint and 17-8 on second chances. The Gators struggled shooting the ball for the second-straight game, connecting on just 42.6 percent of their field goals and 36.7 percent of their attempts from downtown.

Despite donning special Nike Hyper Elite Platinum uniforms and having an excited crowd behind them, Florida got off to an extremely slow start, hitting just four of their first 14 attempts from the field and falling behind 12 points to Tennessee, which used an impressive 15-2 run to jump out to the early lead.

During the Volunteers’ scoring stretch, Gators sophomore forward Will Yeguete went up for a block and fell down onto the court, hitting the top of his head into the stand supporting the basket. After being checked out by trainers, Yeguete left the game and never returned. He had a cut above his right eye, received stitches in the locker room and may have also suffered a concussion.

Yeguete’s injury forced him to become the third Florida player sitting out for the game as redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario (hip pointer) and redshirt freshman F Cody Larson (illness) did not dress for the contest.

UF began cutting down their deficit in the middle of the first half, but a 7-0 run by UT put the visitors ahead 15 points, 33-18 with 5:04 left until the break. Tennessee increased their lead to 17 with less than two minutes to go, but Florida found some offense late, ending the half on an 8-2 run – including a pair of triples by junior G Kenny Boynton – to trail by 11 at the half.

The Gators got within 10 of the Volunteers soon after coming out of the break when senior point guard Erving Walker drained a three that moved him into No. 5 on Florida’s all-time scoring list ahead of Dwayne Schintzius. However, Tennessee continued to pile it on and went back ahead 16 with 6:01 to play, keeping UF at more than an arm’s length for the duration of the contest.

Cutting their deficit to nine twice due in part to a pair of threes by junior F Erik Murphy, the Gators wound up falling by just five despite the Volunteers holding on for victory by hitting their foul shots and playing sound defense until the buzzer.

Tennessee G Trae Golden led all scorers with 17 points due to going 9-of-11 from the charity stripe. F Jeronne Maymon was dominant in the paint for the Vols, scoring 15 points and grabbing a game-high 11 boards.

Boynton and freshman G Bradley Beal, who hit 11-of-13 free throws, each posted 16 points for Florida. The Gators’ starting five accounted for 12 of the team’s 15 turnovers and all but 10 of the team’s points.

Florida will attempt to rebound from a pair of tough losses this past week by taking their game on the road Tuesday against Alabama (7 p.m. on ESPN) and Thursday against Arkansas (6 p.m. ESPN2). The Gators are expected to fall sharply when the new top 25 polls are released on Monday.

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Florida looking for revenge vs. Tennessee

Coming off a tough loss to the consensus No. 1 team in the country, the No. 7/8 Florida Gators are looking to avenge their first Southeastern Conference loss of the season by hosting the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday afternoon. Florida head coach Billy Donovan met with the media late in the week to discuss a number of topics.

HANDLING ADVERSITY DURING GAMES AN ISSUE

Donovan continues to be pleased with how the Gators rebound from tough losses (When we’ve lost, we’ve come back and we’ve tried to get better.”) but is not nearly as happy with the way Florida handled Kentucky’s onslaught during the game on Tuesday. He believes the team did not respond the same way they did in-game against Ohio State and Syracuse, two contests in which they fought back until the final buzzer.

“You’re going to have some games where you don’t shoot the ball well, and we did not shoot the ball well. Some of it had to do with Kentucky’s defense and some of it had to do with we didn’t make shots,” he said. “The plays that hurt us more than the missed shots – because that’s going to be part of the game, you’re always going to have that – were our turnovers or a bad drive or a blocked shot that gapped them out in transition.”

Donovan continued, “There’s got to be better resiliency in those situations. Everything’s a grind and everything’s a struggle. It’s a lot easier playing [defense] when the ball goes in the basket. For those guys, they probably thought they were playing fairly decently for a while but there’s no question there has to be at tough mental fortitude to move past this and find a way collectively as a group to keep ourselves in the game. That was the thing I was most disappointed about in the game.”

He believes that Florida “got away from focusing” on the little things during the game and was completely disconnected as a team, something that the Gators will have to prevent from happening Saturday if they find themselves down against the Volunteers.

“We have a group of guys that really care that are good kids that want to do well. What happens is you can go into a game – and I think this did happen in the Kentucky game – we went into the game with fractured minds,” he explained.

“What I mean by that is nothing to do with adversity or anything else. We went in there where each guy wanted to do his part and to play well. What happens is you’re playing the game as a group of individuals – not with any bad intentions. You have to have, in that kind of environment against a really good team like that, five guys unified mentally in the game about what is going on.”

HISTORY AND STREAKS

» Tennessee leads the all-time series against Florida 70-52 though the teams are an even 16-16 since Donovan took over UF’s program. The Gators had won four-straight games against the Volunteers before falling on the road at Knoxville to open SEC play.
» Florida is 13-0 at the O’Dome this season and trying to continue a 19-game winning streak in the House of Horrors.
» The Gators will be wearing special Nike Hyper Elite Platinum uniforms for Saturday’s game, which you can take a look at by clicking here.
» All five of Florida’s normal starters are averaging double figures in scoring.
» The Gators have made 10+ three-pointers in 16 of 24 games this year, a season-high mark under Donovan.
» Florida has made a three in 675 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» The Gators are 284-37 since 1988-89 when holding opponents under 70 points.
» Florida is one victory away from winning 20+ games for the 14th consecutive season, which is currently the longest active streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally.

WALKER CLIMBING UP ALL-TIME LISTS

Senior point guard Erving Walker is steadily making his way up a number of Florida’s career lists. Below are some of the marks he is about to pass in UF’s record books.

» Assists: Walker (496) can move into No. 1 all-time with eight dimes, passing Ronnie Montgomery (503).
» Minutes: Walker (3,932) can move into No. 2 all-time with 32 minutes on the court, passing Chandler Parsons (3,964).
» Three-pointers made: Walker (264) can move into No. 3 all-time with four treys, passing Anthony Roberson (267).
» Scoring: Walker (1,620) can move into No. 5 all-time with five points, passing Dwayne Schintzius (1,624).
» Free throws made: Walker (400) can move into No. 7 all-time with 12 makes from the charity stripe, passing Dan Cross (411).
» Free throws attempted: Walker (506) can move into No. 9 all-time with nine foul shots, passing David Lee (514).
» Walker is also near the top 10 all-time in games started (four away), field goal attempts (28 away) and steals (six away).

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan said sophomore center Patric Young’s early foul trouble in games is what has prevented him from achieving high rebounding numbers recently.

» He believes the Gators must do a much better job defending the three seeing as opponents have been shooting quite well from long range against UF in SEC play.

» On why redshirt freshman forward Cody Larson is not seeing much time on the court: “Cody keeps getting better. One of the things that’s hard sometimes – unless I can get him in the flow – sometimes I feel like I’m putting him into a situation where I throw him in there and he’s sat for 30 minutes and I might be setting him up for failure a little bit. I got to find him a way to plug him in sooner. When Murphy’s not in foul trouble and he’s on the floor, it adds a different element to us offensively whereas Cody doesn’t bring that element. Cody, I think, probably needs to be backing up Patric some.”

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FOUR BITS: Noah, McDonald, Haden, Andrews

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah has had a star-studded last few days. In addition to being introduced along with the rest of his team by comedian Will Ferrell before Wednesday night’s game (“He’s a Scorpio and a horrible dancer,” Ferrell said of Noah), he was also name-dropped during the latest episode of the sitcom Whitney on NBC. Following a Chicago-Philadelphia game last week, Noah met up with champion eater Takeru Kobayashi, a greeting that was captured by his YouTube channel.

2 » Speaking of Noah, the Bulls’ star center told the Chicago Tribune last month that his rough start to the 2011-12 season was in part due to the pressure he felt after signing a five-year, $60 million contract extension in 2010. “Sometimes you feel like because you’re given so much money you’re expected to do things. That’s not the right mentality to have as a player,” he explained. “I have to play my game. I have to have fun out there. If I don’t, I’m not the same player.” Without an offseason to work on some of the kinks in his game, Noah started exceptionally slow, shooting poorly and turning the ball over more often than he should be. Now back into the swing of things, he has posted double-digit points in eight of his last 10 games (including five-straight double-doubles from Jan 23-30). “I’ve always been a player who reacts well to criticism and doubters,” Noah said. “I feel my teammates were always behind me. But I knew as well as anyone how poorly I was playing. And not only wasn’t I playing well, but I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. I wasn’t playing loose out there. I was playing tight. In the beginning of the year, I was overthinking a lot. I was going through a lot of things personally. I feel a lot more comfortable now. I have to stop overthinking and just play.”

3 » San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald, who was a full-time starter in 2011 for the first time in his career and played exceptionally well throughout the season, was arrested early Wednesday for an outstanding warrant after being pulled over by police for a traffic violation. McDonald had been arrested in 2010 for suspicion of driving under the influence to which he pleaded no contest and was sentenced to probation that included a fine and a requirement to complete a first offender’s DUI class. With no proof of that class having been completed, a warrant was issued on Aug. 9, according to the Sacramento Bee. Police said McDonald was cooperative with authorities upon being pulled over and arrested and was released early the next morning. He is not expected to face any additional discipline from the NFL or his team.

4 » Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden is a unique guy both on and off the field. In addition to being one of the best secondary players in the NFL, he has also found a soft spot for the city of Cleveland and has embraced his fans nationwide through his Twitter account. Below are a few pictures he has tweeted recently (clockwise) of him shooting pool on a table filled with his sneakers, hanging out with Erin Andrews (“We should have done the @TimTebow pose!), “Tebowing” in front of his Rolls-Royce Phantom and showing off his newest draft day tattoo. He did not tweet the final picture, which has been spread online via a variety of sports blogs.

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FOUR BITS: Lee, women’s tennis, Rivals, Lochte

1 » Former Florida Gators forward/center David Lee posted the second triple-double of his career Tuesday night, scoring 25 points (on 9-of-19 shooting) with 11 rebounds and 10 assists for the Golden State Warriors in a heartbreaking loss to Oklahoma City. Lee’s triple-double and Monta Ellis’s career-high 48 points were simply not enough to propel the Warriors to victory. In 21 games this year with Golden State, Lee is already playing better than he did a year ago, averaging 18.7 points (+2.2) and 10.0 rebounds while shooting 50.8 percent from the field.

2 » No. 1 Florida women’s tennis (4-0) swept the South Florida Bulls (3-2) 7-0 on Tuesday, winning their 98th consecutive home match at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. Junior Allie Will (No. 3), senior Joanna Mather (No. 4) and sophomores Sofie Oyen (No. 34) and Alex Cercone (No. 41) each won their singles matches in straight sets while junior Lauren Embree (No. 25) took three sets to win her singles tilt. The No. 10-ranked team of Oyne/Will and No. 15 duo of Embree/Mather each won their doubles matches handily. The Gators will travel to California over the weekend for back-to-back contests on Friday and Sunday against Pepperdine and Stanford. Florida topped Stanford 4-3 for the 2011 NCAA Championship on May 24.

Check our two more BITS (including a video)…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Lee, women’s tennis, Rivals, Lochte

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No. 7 Florida outclassed by No. 1 Kentucky

Ending a stretch of three games in six days, the No. 7/8 Florida Gators (19-5, 7-2 SEC) fell in their third opportunity to defeat a top-three ranked opponent on the road this season, getting routed 78-58 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY on Tuesday evening by the No. 1/1 Kentucky Wildcats (24-1, 10-0 SEC).

Kentucky extended their home winning streak to 49 games with the blowout of Florida, and the Gators fell to 0-8 all-time against the Wildcats in games when their opponent is ranked as the No. 1 team in the country.

UK outperformed UF on both ends of the court. Kentucky shot 52.7 percent from the field and 60.0 percent from downtown while holding Florida to 34.9 percent on field goals and 22.2 percent on tries from beyond the arc.

Wildcats forwards Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and guard Doron Lamb were dominant throughout the game, scoring 16, 13 and 18 points, respectively. Davis was 8-of-18 from the field with six rebounds, four blocks and two steals, while Kidd-Gilchrist added 13 rebounds and three assists. Lamb dominated the Gators on the perimeter by hitting 4-of-5 of his attempts from beyond the arc.

After three consecutive possessions without a shot being taken by either team, Florida scored six-straight points to open up with an early lead, but Kentucky quickly negated that in part by converting consecutive steals into field goals to even up the score.

The Wildcats started just 3-for-12 from the field but shot much better down the stretch while converting the Gators’ turnovers and miscues into quick points. With the game tied at 17 following a pair of Florida free throws, Kentucky took over and outscored the visitors 21-9 over the final 9:36 of the half to take a 12-point lead into the break thanks in part to a three-pointer by Lamb just before the buzzer.

UK ended the half hitting 12 of their final 17 shots while also going 4-of-8 from downtown compared to just 2-of-9 for UF from beyond the arc.

The Wildcats began the second half in similar fashion, hitting consecutive threes and going on an 11-0 run to pull away from the Gators 49-30 with 15 minutes left.

Florida never recovered from the onslaught, continuing to miss shots and allowing their poor offense to affect their effort and defensive intensity. Kentucky continued making baskets while taking it to the visitors defensively.

Gators junior G Kenny Boynton, who was just 2-for-5 in the first half, finished 6-for-12 (4-of-8 from downtown) with a team-high 18 points. Freshman G Bradley Beal was Florida’s most consistent player throughout the game, but he also struggled hitting just 5-of-15 shots (and 2-of-7 threes) for 14 points with six boards and three dimes.

Senior point guard Erving Walker, though he did his best to hold onto the ball, was irrelevant offensively, going 0-for-7 from the field (0-for-4 from deep) with just one assist and not a single free throw attempted.

The Wildcats registered 18 assists on 29 makes, blocked the Gators six times, scored 38 points in the paint and received 15 points from their bench. Florida only had nine assists on their 22 scores and was also outrebounded 38-31 over the course of the evening.

The Gators will have four days to recover from this difficult loss before hosting one of the four other teams they lost to this season. Florida will take on Tennessee on Saturday at 4 p.m. in a game set to air on SEC Network (check your local listings).

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