Fastbreak: Florida sweeps Kentucky with complete effort on Senior Day

By Adam Silverstein
March 3, 2018
Fastbreak: Florida sweeps Kentucky with complete effort on Senior Day

Image Credit: ESPN Images

Florida Gators basketball (20-11, 11-7 SEC) continued its torrid end to the 2017-18 season with a dominant 80-67 win over the rival No. 23 Kentucky Wildcats (21-10, 10-8 SEC) on Saturday afternoon at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

With the victory, the Gators clinched the No. 3 seed and a double bye in the 2018 SEC Tournament and locked up a bid for the 2018 NCAA Tournament with their 10th Quadrant 1 victory of the season.

Let’s take a look at Saturday’s decisive victory in Fastbreak:

It was over when … Florida opened the second half by making six straight field goals, using a 10-0 run to take a game-high 23-point lead with 16 minutes to play. Graduate transfer guard Egor Koulechov hit consecutive treys as part of the scoring stretch and also fueled a tremendous fastbreak alley-oop by saving a ball out of bounds. However, the Gators toned down their tempo and allowed the Wildcats to climb back in. UF missed 10 straight shots and did not score a field goal over 8:21 as UK rattled off a 17-3 run to cut its deficit to nine points. Florida ultimately answered by scoring seven straight points in just over a minute, retaking a 16-point lead and gaining enough cushion for the duration of the game.

First half focus: Florida took control of the opening period with a 14-3 run that put it up double digits, but the Gators only pushed forward from there. UF made seven straight baskets and finished 8-of-9 from the floor to close out the half, leading by as many as 17 before taking a 15-point advantage into the locker rooms after junior guard Kevaughn Allen launched another three just before the halftime buzzer. It was the most first-half points scored by Florida in 13 games dating back to Jan. 17 vs. Arkansas. The deficit was Kentucky’s largest after 20 minutes this season.

Exceptional efforts: Redshirt junior G Jalen Hudson did most of his work in the first half but was a massive part of Florida’s success on Saturday. Hudson drained 3-of-6 triples on the way to a game-high 22-point performance; he also made all three of his free throws. Hudson left the game late in the second half with an ankle injury, though it did not appear to be anything more than a sprain. Koulechov was also tremendous with 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting, and Allen was fantastic as a distributor with a career-high seven assists to go along with nine points and seven rebounds.

History is made:

With four dimes on the afternoon, senior point guard Chris Chiozza became Florida’s career leader in assists with 551, passing Erving Walker (547), with a minimum of two games remaining. Chiozza’s record-breaking dime came on a tremendous pass midway through the first half (see below). He also posted nine points and made 5-of-6 free throws, including his final two before walking off the court to a rousing O’Dome ovation.

Odds and ends: UF and UK matched up evenly inside, but Florida distributed way better than Kentucky with 15 assists on 28 made baskets compared to six on 24 for the visitors … the Gators went on an absurd shooting streak by making 13-of-14 baskets spanning halftime … Florida held Kentucky without a single fastbreak point … the Gators held the lead for 37:56 of the 40-minute game and never saw their advantage dip below nine points in the second half … Florida shot 41.7 percent from beyond the arc against a tremendous perimeter defensive team … redshirt senior center John Egbunu walked on Senior Day, but it is unknown whether he will seek a sixth year of eligibility after sitting out the entire 2017-18 season

What it means: After an extremely difficult-to-watch middle portion of its SEC schedule, Florida has rattled off three straight impressive, dominant victories to end the regular season with two wins over ranked opponents at home (UF took just one of its prior four SEC games in the O’Dome). In doing so, the Gators finally clinched an NCAA Tournament bid and proved that head coach Mike White has finally connected with his team from a defensive standpoint late int he season. Florida has not allowed an opponent to score 70+ points over its last four games.

Up next: The Gators will skip the first two rounds of the SEC Tournament before beginning action in the quarterfinals on Friday, March 9 against a yet-to-be-determined opponent. The semifinals will be contested on Saturday afternoon with the finals coming Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.


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