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February 15, 2014

Gator Gameday: Florida vs. Kentucky

GAME DAY LINKS: Donovan downplays gap in experience | UF-UK Game Day Thread

No. 3 Florida at No. 14 Kentucky
Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 - 9:00 p.m. EST
TV: ESPN / RADIO: Gator IMG Sports Radio Network, Sirius/XM 91
Kentucky Wildcats (19-5, 9-2 Southeastern Conference)
Streak: Won 4
Last Game: Defeated Auburn 64-56
G James Young (shot 1 of 10 from the field Wednesday against Auburn) Fr. 6-6 215
G Aaron Harrison (leads the Wildcats in free-throw percentage at 79.5) Fr. 6-6 218
G Andrew Harrison (led UK in assists in 14 games) Fr. 6-6 215
F Julius Randle (star looking for his 13th double-double of the season) Fr. 6-9 250
C Dakari Johnson (averaging 15.5 minutes per game in his four games as a starter) Fr. 7-0 265

Nebraska CornhuskersFlorida Gators (22-2, 11-0 SEC)
Streak: Won 16
Last Game: Defeated Tennessee 67-58
G Scottie Wilbekin (scored 56 points to go with 13 assists in his last three games) Sr. 6-2 176
G Michael Frazier II (reached double-figures in scoring in eight of 11 SEC games) So. 6-4 199
F Casey Prather (notched a combined 14 turnovers in his last two games) Sr. 6-6 212
F Will Yeguete (made his fourth 3-pointer of the season -- out of 12 attempts -- against Tennessee) Sr. 6-8 230
C Patric Young (diving play in Knoxville helped make up for a six-point night) Sr. 6-9 240

Account for Randle

Earlier this season, a heckler yelled at Billy Donovan about an upcoming matchup with Kansas' Andrew Wiggins. Donovan turned and responded, "I'm more worried about Julius Randle." His first meeting with the former No. 2 overall prospect is finally here. Donovan is plenty familiar with Randle from his time coach him as part of Team USA. There is no way Florida's coach does not have something drawn up for Randle, likely a mix of double teams to force him to put the ball on others' hands.
Wilbekin's world

No player has been more instrumental to Florida's success the last three games than Wilbekin. The offense has obviously been nice, but the SEC's best on-ball defender has only extended and enhance his reputation as one of the most imposing defensive guards in the country. Most importantly, the Gators have gone as Wilbekin has gone recently. When he is on his game, Florida's offense has run like a Maserati. During the stretches when he has lost touch with what Donovan wants him to run, the Gators have fallen into bad habits of jacking up early 3s and wasting possessions. The biggest battle will be up front, but Florida will need a big night out of Wilbekin to win.
Pressure, pressure, pressure

Yes, Donovan and John Calipari will say Kentucky's youth is an overrated storyline at this point in the season. To some extent they're probably correct, but I'll believe it fully only when I see how the Wildcats handle a Gators defense that has derailed teams mentally all season. Florida lives off stretches in which it uses its three-quarter press and help defense to almost literally run teams off the floor. How those teams respond to those stretches determines whether or not the game will be competitive. Kentucky is loaded with talent, but it's maturity will be tested tonight like never before.

Donovan on tonight's rebounding matchup:

"The two best rebounding teams consistently over 11 games in the SEC have been Kentucky and have been Tennessee. So, it's something where we started out our league and did not do a good job on the backboard. I think there was a period of time maybe after four or five games where I think we had maybe a negative rebounding margin and now we've worked up and we've gotten better. We've rebounded the ball better and we need to continue to do that but this is the ultimate test here tomorrow night"
Young on Randle:

"He's very skilled with his game, very aggressive. Really attacks the boards. I respect the way that he plays. Seems to play and stay very composed for the most part, too. You don't find that in a lot of young guys."

Florida 64-60: Florida hasn't won at Rupp Arena since 2007, a stretch that spans six games. Then again, if there was ever a team during that stretch that can handle everything Rupp throws at an opposing team, it is this one. The Gators are seasoned, even-keeled and have seen road environments in the past few months that will at least in some way replicated what they will see in Lexington. Yes, Kentucky's home arena will account for a few points, but Florida's defensive ability should overshadow that. The Gators are not yet a finished product, which should be scary for the rest of college hoops, but they are closer to self-actualization than the Wildcats are at the moment.

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