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With one game remaining in the SEC regular season, Kentucky, Florida and Arkansas are currently tied for 3 rd place with 10-7 records. The Cats and the Gators close out the season in Gainesville, and Arkansas closes its season at Missouri. If Missouri beats Arkansas, then both Kentucky and Florida will have the precious double byes, but if Arkansas beats Missouri, the Hogs will get the #4 seed and the winner of the Kentucky-Florida war will get the #3 seed.
Since the Cats and Gators tip off at noon, and Arkansas-Missouri does not start until later in the evening, the Cats and Gators must both approach this game on the basis that a win is required and the loser will be playing in the #5 seed position next Thursday. For this reason, post season play effectively begins tomorrow for the Cats because a loss will drop the Cats into a virtual losers bracket in the SEC Tournament. Therefore the #3 seed is the prize for victory tomorrow afternoon.
On Wednesday night, the Cats toyed with Mississippi for about 30 minutes before finally putting the away for a 18 point win in the Cats' last game at Rupp this season. It would have been more reassuring about the Cats' prospects tomorrow at Florida if they had continued their recent highly efficient play, but the team's game efficiency slipped some against Mississippi, and the team also slipped behind Florida as now the 4 th highest ANE in the SEC.
Florida's 19-11, 10-7 record has produced an ANE of 0.201 ppp (#23) by playing a schedule with a strength of 0.1065 ppp (#10). The Cats' 21-9, 10-7 record has produced an ANE of 0.192 ppp (#28) by playing a schedule with a strength of 0.1059 ppp (#12). The ANE analysis gives the edge to Florida by 5 points, 75-70, in a game played at a pace of 73 possessions. Pomeroy has Florida favored by 4, 74-70 with a pace of 68 possessions. Vegas opened today with Florida a 5 point favorite.
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For the fourth consecutive game, Coach Calipari will start Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nick Richards, Kevin Knox, Wenyen Gabriel, and Hamidou Diallo against Florida. PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, Sacha Killeya-Jones, and Quade Green represent the experienced bench tonight.
The Florida controls the opening tip and waste no time getting their first score. After the Cats turn the ball over, the Gators go up 4-0 before the Cats score on a 3 pointer by Kevin Knox. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander makes a jump shot from the baseline to give the Cats their first lead, but the Gators lead by 1, 6-5 at the under 16 media timeout, and after the timeout, the Gators will have 3 free throw attempts. In the second segment, the Gators played from either a lead or tie the entire time, and lead by 3 points, 17-14 at the under 12 media timeout. The Gators have the ball as well. In the third segment, Florida extended their lead to a game high 6 points, 20-14 before Kevin Knox cut the lead in half with a 3 point play. At the under 8 media timeout, the Gators lead by 5, 22-17 and have the ball.
After the break, Florida goes up by 8, 25-17 with a 3 point play. Following a UK turnover, the Gators go up by 11 with a 3 pointer, 28-17 with 6:07 left in the first half. Coach Calipari takes a timeout. In the 4 th segment, the gtrs break the game open by outscoring the Cats 7-5 after Coach Calipari's timeout to lead by 13, 35-22 at the under 4 media timeout. After the timeout, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will have 3 free throws. He missed the first and made the other two.
However, after the Gators push their lead to 17, 45-28, Coach Calipari takes another timeout with 1:34 left on the clock. The Cats find themselves in a huge hole at the half, down by 15 points, 48-33.
The largest lead of the first half was 1 point for the Cats and 17 points for Florida. There were 2 ties and 2 lead changes.
The Cats scored 33 points on 32 possessions, 1.031 points per possession, and FLORIDA managed their 48 points on 33 possessions, 1.456 ppp. The Cats made 44.8% (13-29) of their first half shots, including 4-7 from outside the arc. FLORIDA managed to make 56.3% (18-32) of their first half shots, including 6-13 from outside the arc.
The Cats committed 8 turnovers in the first half while FLORIDA committed 4 turnovers.
The Cats made 3-4 from the line (75.0%) and FLORIDA made 6-8 from the line (75.0%).
On the Boards, the Gators won the rebounding battle 16-15, but the Gators and the Cats each had 6 offensive rebounds. Kentucky won the second chance points 2-1. The Cats secured 37.5% of their misses and allowed FLORIDA to grab 40.0% of their misses as second chance opportunities.
Kentucky opens the second half and score to trim the lead to 13, but Florida's quickness to 50-50 balls led to run out baskets and another 17 point lead, 56-39, forcing Coach Calipari to take another timeout with 17:19 left in the game. After the timeout, the Gators convert an airball by Hamidou Diallo into a 3 pointer and a 20 point lead. A miss by Wenyen Gabriel, and another 3 pointer to make it a 23 point game. Wenyen Gabriel stops the Florida run with a 3 pointer, and the Cats trail by 20, 62-42 at the under 16 media timeout.
After the break, Kevin Knox makes a pair of free throws after being fouled on a shot attempt to trim the lead to 18, and the Cats trim the lead to 16 points at the under 12 media timeout, 48-64. In the third segment, the Cats trimmed the lead to 12, 65-53 and will have the ball after the under 8 media timeout. The Cats managed to get the margin into single digits, 9 points, 65-56, but the Gators get 7 straight on a 3 pointer, a pair of free throws and a dunk forcing Coach Calipari to burn his last timeout with 5:13 left, down 16, 72-56.
Cats lose 80-67.
UK scored its 67 points on 64 possessions (1.047 ppp) for the game, and FLORIDA scored its 80 points on 64 possessions (1.250 ppp).
Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 36-34, and Kentucky controlled the offensive glass 16-12. Kentucky used its 16 second chance possessions to score 9 second chance points, and FLORIDA used its 12 second chance possessions to score 4 second chance points. FLORIDA had an offensive efficiency of 1.188 ppp on its 64 first chance possessions and 0.333 ppp for its 12 second chance possessions. UK had 0.906 ppp on its 64 first chance possessions and 0.562 ppp on its 16 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 42.1% of its misses as offensive rebounds while FLORIDA was able to convert 37.5% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK made 13-22 (59.1%) from the free throw line in this game. FLORIDA made 14-20 [70.0%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 24-58 overall [41.4%] and 6-16 from long range [37.5%]. For Florida, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 18-33[54.5%] and from long range, FLORIDA hit 10-24 [41.7%].
The Cats committed 13 turnovers, one for every 4.9 possessions. The Cats forced 12 FLORIDA turnovers, one for every 6.4 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: This game completes the regular season schedule. The Cats will play next in the SEC Tournament at a time and day to be determined by the end of the Arkansas-Missouri game that starts at 6 pm.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks