Bledsoe outshines fellow freshman Wall
Published: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 12:41 a.m.
John Wall is the superstar, but it was a trio of Kentucky freshmen that fueled Kentucky's 89-77 win over Florida Tuesday night.
Wall, who entered third in the SEC with 17.2 points per game, wasn't the main attraction he was expected to be early. Ironically, it was fellow guard Eric Bledsoe that got things going for the second-ranked Wildcats.
As a high school senior, it seemed Bledsoe might make his home in Gainesville, but after John Calipari was named Kentucky's new coach, Florida lost out on the top prep guard.
Bledsoe said he expected boos to rain down on him. Instead, he was eased by a somber welcoming to a place he once admired.
"It was really tough for me (to choose Kentucky) because I loved coach (Billy) Donovan and I always wanted to come here," Bledsoe said. "But it was kind of fun (to play against Florida)."
Bledsoe said it was Kentucky's style of offense that drew him to Lexington and he showed why with his game-high 25 points off 10-of-13 shooting, while collecting seven rebounds and five assists.
It took a while for Bledsoe -- and the rest of Kentucky's freshmen -- to warm up, but with Wall and freshman forward DeMarcus Cousins battling foul trouble in the first half, Bledsoe took it upon himself to lead the Wildcats. Once he made his presence known on the O'Connell Center floor, there was no stopping him.
His first points were actually Kentucky's first. Bledsoe put an end to Florida's early 7-0 run when he slashed to the basket for a fastbreak layup. Almost five minutes later, Bledsoe got on the scoreboard again with a 3-pointer to cut Florida's lead to 11-9. His speed got the better of the Gators once more when he sliced through the lane for another fastbreak layup with a little over nine minutes remaining in the first half.
When Bledsoe wasn't outrunning the Gators for points, he was making them look silly with his acrobatic moves under the basket. He somehow contorted his body around the 6-foot-8, 220-pound Alex Tyus on his way to the rim for a fancy-looking layup to grab his ninth point of the night.
Wall said Florida's 2-3 zone kept him from making plays, but helped Bledsoe to his 15 points off 6-of-7 shooting.
"Teams are going to key on me the most and (Bledsoe's) realizing he's another great point guard just like me," Wall said. "I told him when guys are keying in on me, I don't mind if you're making shots and making plays for our team because you're the type of player that can make those kinds of plays."
The Wildcats entered halftime with a 38-31 lead with 23 of those points coming from Bledsoe and Wall.
Kentucky continued to run its offense through their two freshmen guards in the second half, but added a key component in Cousins, who struggled to find any sort of shot in the first half.
After being outplayed by Florida's Vernon Macklin for the first 20 minutes, Cousins held him to four points, while dialing up 10. He added five rebounds.
Cousins' solid play early in the second half proved key as the Gators contained both Bledsoe and Wall.
But Wall, who showed off his 360-degree dunking ability during pregame warm-ups, once again came out of hiding and crushed the Gators' confidence with an alley-oop to put the Wildcats up 70-66, ending a Gators' 8-0 run with under eight minutes remaining. Wall's sluggish first half was an afterthought as he finished the night with 19 points, despite going 1-for-7 from beyond the arc.
Kentucky provided another dagger to a Gator run when Bledsoe knocked down a 3-pointer off a pass from Wall to go up 80-73.
It was Wall's clean block on Florida's Kenny Boynton on a late fastbreak and he and Bledsoe combining for Kentucky's final 10 points that cemented the Wildcats' 17th win.
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