Takeaways from the weekend: Florida Gators baseball drops home series to Kentucky

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

No. 6 Florida Gators baseball (33-12, 13-8 SEC) dropped two games to the Kentucky Wildcats over the weekend, marking the first home series loss of the season for UF as well as a fall from first place in the SEC East.

Florida came up on the short end of a pitchers’ duel in Friday night’s 3-0 loss. A wild, rocky start from sophomore right-handed pitcher Dane Dunning (4-2, 4.29 ERA) put the Gators in a hole they could not overcome, even with a late rally in the 7-6 series clincher for the Wildcats on Saturday. Florida avoided the sweep with a 10-1 thumping of Kentucky in Sunday’s series finale.

Here are five takeaways from the difficult weekend:

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2015 SEC Tournament Fastbreak: No. 1 Kentucky pulls away from Florida 64-49

(8) Florida Gators basketball (16-17) dropped its third game to the (1) Kentucky Wildcats (32-0) this season, this time in the quarterfinals of the 2015 SEC Tournament on Friday afternoon at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

With the loss, Florida finished below .500 entering the non-conference postseason for the first time since head coach Billy Donovan‘s second season with the program in 1997-98. The Gators also lost to their longtime-rival Wildcats thrice in a single season for the fifth time (1995-96, 2002, 2012).

OnlyGators.com breaks down Friday’s action with eight quick-hitters:

It was over when: A 7-0 run, including four free throws, pushed Kentucky ahead by 14 with under five minutes to play. Donovan got a bench warning for complaining about the uneven officiating, and Florida was unable to fight back from a devastating foul disparity built throughout the contest. UK ended the contest with a 14-2 stretch as UF went 5:09 without a field goal.

“I thought we had some moments. I thought we played very, very well. Certainly we got off to a good start, which was positive. … Statistically, if you look at the game, everything was pretty even,” Donovan said. “The difference in the game was the free throw line. Twenty-three attempts to our five was a huge factor in the game. … If you take away the free throw line, it’s pretty consistent all the way through. Just about every stat’s pretty even. But the one huge drastic difference was the free throw line and that was really, ultimately, the margin in the game.”

Significant stretch: Two Florida turnovers helped fuel a 9-0 run for Kentucky, which gave the Cats an 11-point lead with 14 minutes to play. UF redshirt senior center Jon Horford responded with five straight points to cut his team’s deficit to six, but his the Gators never got within fewer than five over the duration of the contest.

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2015 SEC Tournament Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Kentucky Wildcats – Third time a charm?

Location: Bridgestone Arena – Nashville, Tennessee [Capacity: 19,395]
Time: 1:00 p.m. EDT

TV: SEC Network (Brad Nessler, Sean Farnham, Shannon Spake)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: Watch ESPN app

SiriusXM: 93/190 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(8) FLORIDA GATORS (1) KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Calipari
Record: 16-16 (8-10 SEC) Record: 31-0 (18-0 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida +13.5

THIRD TIME MAY NOT BE A CHARM FOR FLORIDA

Florida has already dropped two games to Kentucky this season – both by significant margins – though that is not to say the Gators were not competitive in each contest.

In a seven-point home loss to UK, UF led for nearly the entire first half and were up two on the nation’s top team with 12:17 left in the game. The contest remained close with the Wildcats holding just a two-point lead with 1:05 to play. From there, the visitors outscored the hosts 7-2 with all seven points coming at the line.

Kentucky’s win in Rupp Arena was more decisive. Florida trailed by just three with 10:30 to play, but UK outscored UF 23-9 over the remainder of the contest as the Gators made just three field goals in that span.

In other words, Florida knows exactly what it is going up against on Friday.

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Fastbreak: No. 1 Kentucky pulls away late to rout Florida 67-50 in Lexington

Florida Gators basketball (15-16, 8-10 SEC) gave the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats (31-0, 18-0 SEC) a run for their money on Saturday afternoon at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. But after hanging in for three-quarters of the game, the Gators were eventually run over by the Wildcats 67-50.

UK became the second team in Southeastern Conference history to go 18-0 in league play during the regular season, matching a mark UF set just one year ago. Head coach Billy Donovan‘s team, meanwhile, finished the regular season with a sub-.500 record for the first time since 1996-97.

OnlyGators.com breaks down Saturday’s action with nine quick-hitters:

It was over when: Gators freshman point guard Chris Chiozza telegraphed a pass with less than six minutes to play. Aaron Harrison reached out for the steal, broke ahead for the fastbreak and finished with a layup to put the Wildcats on top 57-45 with 5:41 to play. UK ended the contest by outscoring UF 23-9.

Significant stretch: Florida saw its deficit cut to one with 15:58 remaining and again down to three with 10:30 to go, but a trey by Devin Booker started a 7-0 Kentucky spurt that allowed the Wildcats to push their advantage to 10 points with eight minutes left. UK increased its lead to a game-high 12 points and held on for what turned out to be a dominant win in a contest that was close for 30 minutes.

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Gameday: Florida Gators at No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats – Unique chance for late signature win

Location: Rupp Arena – Lexington, Kentucky [Capacity: 23,000]
Time: 2:00 p.m. EST

TV: CBS (Ian Eagle, Doug Gottlieb)
Streaming Video: CBSSports.com | Mobile Video: CBS Sports app

SiriusXM: 91/83 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS No. 1 KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Calipari
Record: 15-15 (8-9 SEC) Record: 30-0 (17-0 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida +16

HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS

» Kentucky owns the all-time series against Florida with a 95-37 record over its rival, though the Gators have been more competitive under Donovan with the Wildcats holding just a 25-17 edge.
» UF has not had much success at Rupp Arena with UK going 48-9 all-tie on its home court, 14-4 against Donovan-coached teams.
» Last season, Florida became the first team in SEC history to go 18-0 in league play during the regular season; Kentucky is looking to become the second, ending Saturday’s game at 17-0.
» The Gators are 2-11 all-time against No. 1-ranked opponents, 2-0 in the NCAA Tournament and 0-11 against the Wildcats with all 11 of those meetings coming in the regular season. UF has never beaten a No. 1-ranked team in the regular season.

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Florida Gators guard Michael Frazier II expected to be available Saturday at Kentucky

Junior guard Michael Frazier II, the team’s leading scorer who has missed seven-straight games while recovering from a high-ankle sprain, should be available for the Florida Gators on Saturday in their regular-season finale at the Kentucky Wildcats.

Head coach Billy Donovan announced as much during a media availability on Friday, noting that Frazier has yet to go through a full practice but will nevertheless travel to Lexington, Kentucky, with the team and likely be called on to come off the bench.

“I’m going into the game with him being available,” Donovan said, cautioning that he is not expecting either pre-injury minutes or a pre-injury performance from Frazier. “It’s another body in our backcourt and if he does well [in practice Friday], we’ll see if he can do anything [Saturday].”

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Florida G Michael Frazier II expected out Thursday

Treading water and trying to stay afloat for a postseason berth – the NCAA Tournament is basically out of the picture with the NIT a more likely landing spot – the Florida Gators (12-11, 5-5 SEC) will be forced to overcome another speed bump as their leading scorer, junior guard Michael Frazier II was ruled out for Thursday’s game against Ole Miss.

During his weekly press conference on Monday, head coach Billy Donovan declared Frazier unlikely to play on Thursday due to a high-ankle sprain he suffered on Saturday in the first half of Florida’s 68-61 loss to No. 1 Kentucky.

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The Fastbreak: No. 1 Kentucky sneaks by Florida 68-61 in Gainesville

It was a monumental task for the struggling Florida Gators to potentially upset the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday night. And as it turns out, it was indeed too much to ask Florida (12-11, 5-5 SEC), which fell to 2-5 in its last seven games as Kentucky (23-0, 11-0 SEC) remained undefeated with a 68-61 victory.

The Gators are now 2-11 all-time against top-ranked teams with all 11 losses coming to the Wildcats. Florida has never defeated a team ranked No. 1 in the nation during a regular-season contest.

OnlyGators.com breaks down Saturday’s action with 10 quick-hitters:

It was over when: Redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith drained a big trey and redshirt junior guard Eli Carter completed a driving finger roll, each play cutting Kentucky’s lead to two late in the contest. Redshirt senior center Jon Horford then had an opportunity to tie the game at the charity stripe with 1:41 remaining, but the 89.7 percent free throw shooter missed both attempts. In a similar situation nearly a minute later, Horford was called for a travel under the basket as opposed to him drawing a deserved foul while dribbling (which would have given him a chance to redeem himself). The Wildcats held on for the road victory over the Gators, hitting 21-of-22 free throws.

Significant stretch: Kentucky opened the second half 6-for-8 from the field, but a 6-0 Florida run gave the hosts back a two-point advantage with 12:33 to play. The Wildcats responded with a 5-0 spurt to re-take the lead with 11:41 left, holding it for the duration of the contest. UF actually led longer in the game, 19:36-16:19.

Important injury: Junior G Michael Frazier II, who appeared to be on fire early in the contest, twisted his ankle late in the first half. He tried to test it in the final 20 minutes but sat for the vast majority of the period, leaving the Gators without their leading scorer. Frazier was 3-for-4 from the floor and 2-for-3 from beyond the arc with 10 points at the time of his departure. Later, Frazier was officially diagnosed with an ankle sprain.

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