Some observations following Florida’s 68-61 loss to No. 1 Kentucky at the O’Connell Center.
— Florida coach Billy Donovan is at a loss to figure out what he can to to fix his team’s poor free-throw shooting. The Gators went 7 of 14 from the free throw line, including a pair of costly misses by senior center Jon Horford with 1:41 left and Florida down 61-59. Point guard Kasey Hill also missed two free throws with Florida down 55-52, but came back to make a pair to cut Florida’s lead to 57-54. Donovan joked that I could come by and sing karaoke to try to distract Gator shooters at the free throw line in practice, but I’m not even sure that would work. Florida came into the Kentucky game shooting 66.9 percent from the free-throw line, 11th in the SEC, and that percentage will drop a bit after Saturday night.
— It’s easy to play the what if game, but had Damontre Harris kept his head on straight and not get dismissed from UF last spring, his physical presence inside could have made a difference for the Gators against Kentucky. With the 6-11, 230-pound South Carolina transfer gone before his Gator career started, Florida had no answers inside to deal with Kentucky 7-foot center Willie Cauley-Stein and 6-11 forward Karl Anthony-Towns. Walk-on Jacob Kurtz and forward Alex Murphy tried at times to guard Kentucky’s bigs, but the mismatches were too tough to deal with over a 40-minute game. Kentucky outrebounded Florida 33-20, grabbed 11 offensive rebounds and scored 12 second-chance points.
— I thought it was one of Hill’s better efforts. The former McDonald’s All-American did miss a few drives to the basket but wound up with 12 points, 6 assists and 1 turnover. He kept taking the ball strong to the basket despite the early misses. The question remains, can Hill build off this, or will he go back in a shell? Improved play by Hill down the stretch could salvage what has been a disappointing Gator season to this point.