A look ahead at Florida vs. Kentucky

Kentucky's Nerlens Noel, right, shoots next to South Carolina's Lakeem Jackson during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. on Feb. 5. Kentucky defeated South Carolina 77-55. (The Associated Press)

Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 11, 2013 at 10:19 p.m.

Three things to watch


Who: No. 7 Florida Gators (19-3, 9-1 SEC) vs. No. 25 Kentucky Wildcats (17-6, 8-2 SEC)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: O'Connell Center, Gainesville
Gainesville-area TV:ESPN
Gainesville-area radio: AM-850, 103.7 FM

G Kenny Boynton 6-2 Sr. 13.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg
G Mike Rosario 6-3 Sr. 12.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg
G Scottie Wilbekin 6-2 Jr. 9.3 ppg, 5.1 apg
F Erik Murphy 6-10 Sr. 12.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg
C Patric Young 6-9 Jr. 10.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg

G Julius Mays 6-2 Sr. 9.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg
G Ryan Harrow 6-2 So. 10.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg
G Archie Goodwin 6-4 Fr. 14.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg
F Alex Poythress 6-7 Fr. 12.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg
C Nerlens Noel 6-10 Fr. 10.6 ppg, 9.6 rpg

Notes: Florida is 11-0 in the O'Connell Center this season. … The Gators are 33-93 all-time against Kentucky and 13-22 vs. the Wildcats under Billy Donovan. … Florida ranks fourth in the nation in scoring defense, holding opponents to 52.7 points per game. The Gators have held 11 opponents under 50 points and 16 opponents under 60 points. … Offensively, Florida has shot better than 50 percent from the field in nine of its last 12 games. … Florida freshman guard Michael Frazier II is shooting 59 percent from 3-point range (13-22) over his last four games. … The Gators are going to need to guard Kentucky off the dribble and stay out of foul trouble. Kentucky is getting to the free-throw line an average of 24.3 times per game.

Key Matchup

Florida center Patric Young vs. Kentucky center Nerlens Noel
Young had one of his best games last season against the Wildcats, finishing with 21 points and nine rebounds against Kentucky at the O'Connell by taking the ball right at Anthony Davis. Look for Young to employ a similar strategy against shot-blocking Kentucky freshman center Nerlens Noel. Florida is thin up front with junior forward Will Yeguete out after knee surgery, so Young must stay out of foul trouble. If Young can get Noel into foul trouble, it will create an advantage inside for the Gators.

Block party

Florida coach Billy Donovan said that Kentucky freshman center Nerlens Noel is “just as good a shot blocker” as his predecessor, Anthony Davis. Noel leads the SEC in blocked shots at 4.5 per game. “He's got unbelievable length,” Donovan said. “He's got unbelievable timing. He's very skilled at it.” Florida senior guard Kenny Boynton said UF players are going to need to be smart and not put up too many floaters in the lane capable of being swatted away. “Trying to shoot over him is a bad idea,” Boynton said. “I would say, we've got to drive to kick, try to get him to commit to us and get Pat (Patric Young) or Murph (Erik Murphy) some easy layups.”

Guarding the 3-point line

Donovan is concerned about his team's 3-point defense. Over the last three games, Florida has given up an average of seven 3-pointers while allowing opponents to shoot 41.1 percent from beyond the arc. “Our close-outs have been a little bit shorter than normal,” Donovan said. “We have not gotten out there.” Florida will need to keep an eye on Kentucky sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer, who has emerged as a 3-point shooting weapon off the bench. Wiltjer is second in the SEC in 3-point shooting accuracy at 40.7 percent.

Florida's pressure

Kentucky's guard play has been shaky at times this season, particularly on the road. Look for Florida to press early to test Kentucky starting guards Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin, who already has 70 turnovers this season. As a team, Kentucky is turning the ball over 13.2 times per game.

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