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March 8, 2014

Gator Gameday: Florida vs. Kentucky

GAME DAY LINKS: Gators look to cap perfect SEC season | UF-UK Game Day Thread

No. 25 Kentucky at No. 1 Florida
Saturday, March 8, 2014 - 12:00 p.m. EST
TV: CBS / RADIO: Gator IMG Sports Radio Network, Sirius/XM 91
Kentucky Wildcats (22-8, 12-5 Southeastern Conference)
Streak: Won 1
Last Game: Defeated Alabama 55-48
G Aaron Harrison (Shooting 22.2 percent - 8 of 36 - in last three games) Fr. 6-6 218
G Andrew Harrison (led Wildcats with 20 points, four assists in last game against Florida) Fr. 6-6 215
F/G James Young (had nine turnovers in UK's losses to Arkansas and South Carolina) Fr. 6-6 215
F Julius Randle (attempted seven shots in Feb. loss to Florida) Fr. 6-9 250
C Dakari Johnson (has not reached double figures in scoring since becoming a starter Feb. 1) Fr. 7-0 265

Nebraska CornhuskersFlorida Gators (28-2, 17-0 SEC)
Streak: Won 22
Last Game: Defeated South Carolina 72-46
G Scottie Wilbekin (sixth-most active player in SEC at 33.9 minutes per game) Sr. 6-2 176
G Michael Frazier II (37 points against South Carolina was tied for highest total under Billy Donovan) So. 6-4 199
F Casey Prather (fallen shy of double figures in three of last four games) Sr. 6-6 212
F Will Yeguete (went 4 for 4 from free-throw line against USC) Sr. 6-8 230
C Patric Young (10 points, five rebounds in last meeting with Kentucky) Sr. 6-9 240

Force the issue offensively

There is a strong chance today's game will be decided at the free-throw line. Florida made 22 free throws in its last meeting with Kentucky, and the Wildcats have attempted 110 more free throws than any other SEC team. The Gators have settled too often recently, putting up 109 shots from 3-point range in their last four games. Florida needs to attack the basket and force Kentucky's young players to make quick defensive decisions.
Limit Julius Randle ... again

Kentucky's star freshman is rarely the kind of player that can be entirely shut out of a game. But for the majority of the first meeting between these two teams, the Gators came pretty close. Utilizing help defense, Florida held Randle to his second-lowest shot total of the season. He came away with 13 points, but four came at the free-throw line. How the Gators are able to manage Randle will again have a major impact on today's game.
Set a tone with the press

The O'Dome finale for the 2013-2014 season would be a perfect time to create an early defensive-fueled run and use an amped-up crowd to derail a young team still learning to play together. Ask Kansas how that goes in a building that has created an enormous advantage for the Gators all season. Kentucky has struggled at times with its lack of a true point guard and a consistent offensive identity. That rarely bodes well playing Florida in Gainesville.

Billy Donovan on the uniqueness of his senior class:

"What inevitably happens is when you're experiencing the same thing you get a chance to share things and inevitably you grow closer. Everything that these guys have gone through whether as a player or as a student, they've kind of gone through together, and I think it's brought them very, very close and it's allowed them to build a very close relationship not only on the court but off the court as well."
Yeguete on rarity of a four-man senior class:

"It is nowadays with one and done, two and done, stuff like that. But I think here, Coach D has done a really good job keeping us here, just making sure we're improving every single year, and we know there's more out there as players and men. I don't regret staying here and I think this year we have a really good group and the experience we've had really helped us."

Florida 70-55: Whenever there has been a point to prove during the 2013-2014 season, the Gators have made it. This game is just that. A victory makes Florida the first team in SEC history to complete a conference slate at 18-0. Whether the Gators admit it or not -- they won't -- doing so against Kentucky is a big deal not just because of the rivalry but as a regular season swan song for a veteran-laden squad going against a team that represents the entire one-and-done culture of college basketball. Expect Florida to be sharp and to accomplish another impressive task.

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