Following another SEC road loss, the Wildcats get another test, this time in Gainesville, and they catch the Gators at a time when they are probably playing their best basketball of the season.
In non-conference play, Florida recorded losses to lower echelon Florida schools in Marcus Jordan’s Central Florida squad and Jacksonville. But, they are 6-2 in conference play and have recorded victories over three of the better teams in the SEC in Tennessee, Georgia and Vanderbilt. Their SEC losses have come at home against South Carolina and on the road at Mississippi State.
Billy Donovan’s squad is led by their guard tandem in junior Erving Walker (5-8, 171) and sophomore Kenny Boynton (6-2, 183). Walker leads the team in scoring with 14.5 points-per-game and Boynton is right there behind him with 13.0. You have to play up on both of these guys because they are both threats from deep. Walker has knocked down a team-high 46 threes, while shooting 38-percent, and Boyton has 42 and shoots 30-percent.
Don’t get me wrong, both Walker and Boynton are really good players. But, I have some beef. They are both pretty much the same exact player and neither one of them does enough to get Florida into their offensive sets. They are both shoot-first guards that are quick off the bounce and have the ability to knock it down from anywhere on the court. Both guards have the ability to kill opposing defenses at anytime, but they also have the ability to kill Florida. They are streaky shooters, but even if their shots aren’t falling they will continue to pull.
I gaurantee at some point on Saturday that you see either Walker or Boynton go four or five trips looking like they couldn’t throw a rock in the ocean and then they take some shot with 28 seconds on the shot clock from 24 feet and it goes down. It happens every game.
Because their offense doesn’t go through their guard tandem, it is forced to go through someone else and that is senior Chandler Parsons (6-10, 218). Early in the year I got sick and tired of watching Florida and seeing Parsons on the supposive “Star Watch”. He isn’t a star, but he is their glue guy.
At 6-10, Parsons is a very versatile player. For his size he lacks a real inside presence, but he does have the ability to rebound it, shoot it and distribute it. He leads the team in both assists (3.5) and rebounds (7.5) and is fourth on the team in scoring with 10.7 points. He is also another threat from behind the arc for the Gators as he has knocked down 23 threes while shooting 38-percent.
When this Florida team plays it’s best basketball they get their post guys involved. When they don’t, they lose. Like I mentioned earlier, Walker and Boynton are good players, but when they try to do it all by themselves Florida is not a very good team.
They have some talent underneath and their best big is senior Vernon Macklin (6-10, 245). The transfer from Georgetown is good and needs the rock. He’s long and he has a multitude of post moves at the rim.
UK has struggled defending underneath against the likes of Georgia’s Trey Thompkins and Alabama’s Jamychal Green. Macklin is not as versatile as Thompkins or as strong as Green, but he may be the best pure post scorer of the bunch.
He is third on the team in scoring with 11.1 points-per-game and is second in rebounding at 6.3. But, the most impressive stat is the fact that he is shooting 57-percent from the floor.
When the Gators get him the ball in the post, good things happen. When they don’t, they become way too reliant on perimeter shooting and if their shots aren’t falling, they lose.
Oh, and when talking about Florida you can’t forget the former Predator lookalike in senior Alex Tyus (6-8, 220). Sorry ladies, but earlier this year Tyus cut off his luscious dreadlocks. He is the garbage guy for Florida and averages 8.8 points and 5.0 rebounds.
Overall, the Gators are one of the best rebounding teams in the SEC. They are averaging 39.2 rebounds-per-game, which ranks 26th in the country, and they are out-rebounding their opponent by 6.7 per game. If the Wildcats get beat on the glass, it is going to be tough for them to come away with a win.
Can Kentucky go into the O-Dome and get a victory? Yes. Will they? Despite Florida’s lack of physical play, I think this is going to be a tough one for the ‘Cats. Depth-wise, these two teams are very similar. However, Florida has a little more depth in the frontcourt than the ‘Cats do and once again foul trouble could be a major issue for John Calipari’s squad.
A win on the road at Florida would be a huge momentum boost for Kentucky. To do so, they are going to have to get scoring from somebody besides Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb. Darius Miller has to be aggresive and be that scoring threat that the Wildcats need. Josh Harrellson has to defend Macklin and be aggressive on the glass. Deandre Liggins is going to have to limit one of Florida’s two guards.
All of this has to happen for the ‘Cats to win and as much as I am not a fan of the way Billy Donovan’s teams play, I think it is going to be tough for a team that can’t seem to find their identity on the road.
Florida 68, Kentucky 65