Ken’s Cats Corner: Florida Preview

Billy Donovan’s No. 13 ranked Florida Gators squad visits Lexington this afternoon to take on the No. 22 Kentucky Wildcats.  Coming off a heartbreaking 77-76 overtime loss to Arkansas Wednesday night, UK needs a win to stay above .500 in SEC play, and within reach of second-place Vanderbilt.

In the earlier contest between the two schools, the Gators pulled out a 70-68 win in Gainesville, after the ‘Cats missed the potential game-winning three-pointer with :03 left on the clock.  Brandon Knight had one of his best games as a ‘Cat, scoring 24 points on 4-5 three-point shooting.

Today’s 4:00 ET tilt on CBS promises to be exciting, so let’s meet the combatants:

Meet the Gators

Making Florida go are the two Gator guards, Erving Walker (5’8″ junior) and Kenny Boynton (6’2″ sophomore).  Walker will run the point, but like UK’s Brandon Knight, he can score the ball (15.8 ppg).  Keeping him out of the paint, and closely guarded on the perimeter (25-78 threes, 32.1%) will be job #1 of the ‘Cats.  UK did a solid job on Walker in the first meeting between the two teams, limiting him to nine-points (1-9 fgs).  Boynton, the team’s second leading scorer at 14.3 ppg, is also a dangerous penetrator, and is unafraid to take the trifecta (26-81 threes, 32.1%) — In UF’s 70-68 victory over UK earlier in the year, Boynton scored 12-points, but he made only 4-14 fgs, and 1-6 three-pointers.

Billy Donovan likes to run the pick-and-roll at the elbow to create mismatches and in-close scoring opportunities for his team, and both Gator guards are adept decision-makers on the play, making defending the ploy of great importance to the ‘Cats.

Chandler Parsons (6’9″ senior forward), one of the most versatile players in the nation, is the glue which holds the Gators together: Parsons mans the paint, averaging a team-leading 8.8 rebounds per contest, scores the ball from all over the court (47.1% fgs), and is one of the SEC’s leading three-point shooters, making the long-ball 44.4% of the time (20-45).  Statistically, his lone weakness is his poor free throw shooting, which checks-in at 55.6% — Parsons was the player of the game for the Gators in their victory over UK in Gainesville, scoring 17-points (2-4 threes) and grabbing 12 rebounds.

Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin round-out the remaining Florida starters.  Tyus, a 6’8″ senior forward tallies 8.2 ppg, and 5.7 rpg — In the two teams’ earlier game, Tyus, in 20 minutes of play, scored eight-points and had four rebounds.  Macklin, a big 6’10” senior center is scoring 12.1 ppg, and snagging 5.8 rebounds per game — In 27 minutes of action in the earlier contest, Macklin scored 11-points on 4-6 field goal shooting, and corralled two rebounds.

Billy Donovan brings two big men and one guard off the bench with regularity.  The first of the big timber is 6’9″ freshman Patric Young who is averaging 3.8 points and 3.8 rebounds pg in 20.7 minutes of action.  Six-nine sophomore forward Erik Murphy is the other big man off the UF bench.  Murphy is averaging 2.9 points and 2.0 rebounds pg.  Six-two freshman guard Scottie Wilbekin comes off the pine to average 2.8 points and 1.4 assists for the Gators in an average of 16.5 mpg — Wilbekin did some damage in the earlier match-up between the two teams, scoring nine-points, and making 2-2 three-pointers.

Kentucky & Florida in the SEC (Conference rank in parentheses)

Points per game: UK 74.4 (1)  UF 71.5 (3)

Scoring defense: UK 66.1 (4)  UF 64.2 (3)

Field goal%: UK 45.0 (2)  UF 44.9 (t3)

FG% defense: UK 39.1 (2)  UF 43.1 (7)

Free throw%: UK 73.4 (4)  UF 66.9 (9)

3-point%: UK 37.7 (3)  UF 34.9 (6)

3pt defense: UK 35.3 (9)  UF 34.2 (8)

Assists pg: UK 12.1 (5)  UF 12.8 (t2)

Steals pg: UK 5.8 (6)  UF 5.9 (5)

Blocks pg: UK 6.1 (2)  UF 3.4 (10)

TO Margin: UK +1.54 (3)  UF +1.85 (2)

Assist/TO ratio: UK 1.1 (3)  UF 1.2 (1)

Offensive reb%: UK 33.8 (8)  UF 35.2 (4)

Defensive reb%: UK 66.3 (6)  UF 71.3 (2)

Cal on Florida and Close Games

On how Florida seems to be so good in close games and if there’s some luck involved in that:

“No, I don’t want to say that because we’ve been poor in close games, and I don’t think it’s been luck.  I think you create opportunities and what they do is create opportunities for themselves.  You watch our game down there, we were up three and all of a sudden we kick one off a guy’s foot, foul a guy and don’t defensive rebound three times and they came up after us and were the aggressive team.  I think what they do is they’ve got players that expect to win and they make plays.  I don’t know if there’s a whole lot of luck to it.  Just about every game has been a wire-to-wire close game.  A couple of them they’ve had two or three blowouts.”

On what the common thread has been in Kentucky’s close losses:

“Well, it’s been a one-point game with a minute to go in probably five of them and we’re not making the plays down the stretch.  We don’t make that basket, we don’t get that one stop, we don’t come up with that one rebound.  One of the things I said to them yesterday, it’s almost like each of you is expecting the other to do something.  You’re all hoping someone does something just so it’s not you.  You can’t play that way.  I’d rather have two guys bump heads throughout the whole game. We only bumped heads one time against Arkansas and the worst time we could have done it, when DeAndre (Liggins) came flying in when Darius (Miller) had an easy tip in.  And it’s the only time, and he does it on that play and tips it away from our guy.  That’s it.  We had no other attempts where two guys went after balls like that.”

Kentucky SEC-only Stats and Trends

Terrence Jones: 18.1 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.0 bpg, 1.6 apg, 1.2 spg, 46.3% fgs, 30.0% threes (9-30), 73.1% fts.  Trending Terrence — In his last four games, Jones has made 27-50 field goal attempts (54.0%) … Jones has grabbed 50 rebounds in his last five games (10.0 pg) … In his last seven games, TJ has dished out 17 assists (2.4 pg) … In the Arkansas game, Jones tied his season-high with four blocks … In 39 minutes of action versus Arkansas, Jones attempted only two free throws.

Brandon Knight: 17.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 4.2 apg, 3.1 tpg, 44.4% fgs, 39.5% threes (30-76), 76.8% fts.  Trending Knight — In the last two games, Knight has made only 12-32 shots from the field (37.5%) … In his last three games, the UK point guard has handed out 21 assists (7.0 pg) and committed only eight turnovers (2.7 pg) … Knight has snagged 17 rebounds in the last three games (5.7 pg).

Doron Lamb: 12.5 ppg, 2.2 apg, 1.7 rpg, 1.0 apg, 47.4 fgs, 43.8% threes (21-48), 84.6% fts.  Trending Lamb — Lamb scored a season-low two-points in 16 minutes of play versus Arkansas … Over the last five games, Lamb has made 13-17 free throws (76.5%) … Over the last four games, Lamb has connected on 6-12 trey tries (50.0%).

Darius Miller: 11.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 45.4% fgs, 42.3% threes (22-52), 90.9% free throws.  Trending Miller — Over the last three games, Miller has made 16-32 field goal attempts (50.0%), and 10-20 three-pointers (50.0%) … Over the last five games, Miller has been true on all 10 of his free throw attempts … Since grabbing zero boards versus Mississippi State, Miller has corralled 17 rebounds (six offensive) in the last two games (8.5 pg) … In the last four games, Miller has blocked nine shots (2.3 pg) … Miller has committed only two turnovers in the last four games … Over the last three contests, Miller is averaging 16.0 ppg.

DeAndre Liggins: 8.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.3 spg, 43.3% fgs, 37.0% threes (10-27), 60.0% fts.  Trending Ligs — Over the last two games, Liggins has made 11-19 shots from the floor (57.9%) … In the last five games, Ligs has connected on 5-14 trey attempts (35.7%) … In the last five games, Liggins is averaging 11.0 ppg, and has scored in double-figures in four of those contests.

Josh Harrellson: 6.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 1.0 apg, 52.2% fgs, 47.4% fts.  Trending Harrellson — Jorts has made 24-38 shots over the last six games (63.2%) … Over the last four games, Harrellson is averaging 9.8 ppg … With his 12-point,14 rebound performance against Arkansas, Harrellson recorded his fifth double-double of the season … In the last five games, Harrellson has grabbed 21 offensive rebounds (4.2 pg).

Tip-off is at 4:00 ET on CBS.