Gators confident after series sweep of Kentucky

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Florida senior guard Chris Chiozza gets a shot off Saturday against Kentucky at the O'Connell Center. Gators won 80-67. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun]

Florida coach Mike White said he feels like the Gators are playing their best basketball of the season right now.

The key, with critical games in March ahead, is to sustain it.

“We’ve got to handle success much better than we have at other times during this basketball season,” White said.

The Gators closed their regular season on another high note Saturday, knocking off No. 23 Kentucky 80-67 before a frenzied 10,558 at the O’Connell Center. Florida posted its first regular-season sweep over the Wildcats since 2014 and just its sixth regular-season sweep against UK in school history.

“We’ve got to stay locked in,” said Florida junior guard Jalen Hudson, who led four UF scorers in double figures with 22 points. “Whatever we’re doing right now, we’ve got to continue to do it. We’re in a groove right now. I think this is the best basketball we’ve played all year.”

Florida won its third consecutive game with balance on offense and hustle on defense.  Along with Hudson’s output, senior guard Egor Koulechov added 16 points, redshirt sophomore forward Keith Stone had 10 points and junior guard KeVaughn Allen posted perhaps his best all-around floor game at UF with 11 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals.

Senior point guard Chris Chiozza capped an emotional Senior Day with 9 points, 4 assists and 1 steal, becoming UF’s all-time leader in assists with 551. Chiozza, tied with Erving Walker going into the game, broke the record feeding Stone on a 3-pointer with 6:06 left in the first half.

Florida (20-11, 11-7 SEC) knocked off Auburn, Alabama and Kentucky in eight days to close the regular season. The Gators secured the third seed and a double bye in the SEC Tournament and will open play Friday at 9:30 p.m. in St. Louis.

“This is as confident as we’ve been all season,” Chiozza said.

The Gators scored 16 points off 11 Kentucky turnovers while holding the Wildcats to 41.4-percent shooting from the floor. Florida scored 14 points off turnovers in the first half and went 6 of 13 from 3-point range in the first half to race to a 48-33 halftime lead, scoring its most points in the first half since putting up 48 against Arkansas in the first half Jan. 17.

“We got our hands on a few basketballs early and, of course, when we get out in transition, it continues to be a big strength for us,” White said.

Hudson, coming off a 27-point game earlier in the week against Alabama, scored 17 of his 22 points in the first half.

“I’m not sure if this is the best I’ve ever played, but I’m just trying to be aggressive,” Hudson said. “My teammates keep finding me.”

Florida extended its lead to as many as 23 points in the second half, going up 62-39 on a Koulechov 3-pointer with 16:04 left in the second half, before going on a rut. After a jumper by freshman Mike Okauru put Florida up 64-44, the Gators went the next 8:21 without a field goal during a 12-1 Kentucky run that was sparked when the Wildcats switched to a zone defense.

“They went into that zone and they were really long and that made it tougher on us,” Koulechov said.

But after Kentucky freshman point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander cut UF’s lead to 65-56 with a driving basket, the Gators finally ended their drought with a big shot, a 3-pointer by Hudson with 6:19 left that hit both the rim and backboard before bouncing in to put UF back up 68-56.

“I think that hit every part of the rim,” Hudson said. “It was supposed to go in.”

From there, Florida continued to pad its lead, going up 75-57 on a 3-pointer by Allen with 4:18 left. In the final minute, Chiozza hit a pair of free throws to put Florida up 80-65, which allowed both Chiozza and Koulechov to check out of the game to a raucous ovation.

Kentucky (21-10, 10-8 SEC) had its four-game win streak snapped. Gilgeous-Alexander led four UK scorers in double figures with 17 points. Kentucky coach John Calipari said the Wildcats were done in by a lack of ball movement. While Florida posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of 15 to 10, the Wildcats had just 6 assists to 13 turnovers.

“We didn’t pass today,” Calipari said. “I don’t have any idea why we didn’t pass the ball to each other. If you have two guys on you, that means throw it to somebody. We reverted. This is how we played a month ago.”

With the win over Kentucky, Florida will be the third-seeded team in the SEC tournament and will await the winner of Ole Miss/South Carolina vs. Arkansas at about 9:30 p.m. Friday in St. Louis.
 

FLORIDA 80, No. 23 KENTUCKY 67
KENTUCKY (21-10)

Knox 3-10 5-7 12, Gabriel 1-4 0-0 3, Richards 1-2 0-2 2, Gilgeous-Alexander 7-14 2-4 17, Diallo 0-7 1-2 1, Vanderbilt 2-4 2-2 6, Killeya-Jones 1-1 0-0 2, Washington 5-9 3-5 13, Green 4-7 0-0 11. Totals 24-58 13-22 67.

FLORIDA (20-11)

Hayes 1-2 0-2 2, Koulechov 5-7 4-6 16, Hudson 8-16 3-3 22, Chiozza 2-7 5-6 9, Allen 4-9 0-0 11, Stone 4-10 0-0 10, Gak 2-3 2-3 6, Okauru 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 28-57 14-20 80.

Halftime_Florida 48-33. 3-Point Goals_Kentucky 6-16 (Green 3-3, Gilgeous-Alexander 1-2, Gabriel 1-3, Knox 1-5, Diallo 0-3), Florida 10-25 (Hudson 3-7, Allen 3-7, Koulechov 2-3, Stone 2-4, Chiozza 0-4). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Kentucky 32 (Washington 7), Florida 31 (Allen 7). Assists_Kentucky 6 (Gilgeous-Alexander 4), Florida 15 (Allen 7). Total Fouls_Kentucky 17, Florida 20.

92 COMMENTS

  1. A great win today in Chiozza’s (and Egor’s) last regular season game as a Gator. Thank goodness we had a big enough lead to stave off another potential second half meltdown when Kentucky closed to within 9. Great defense though. I’ve laid into KeVaughn Allen in earlier posts, but I will compliment him on his great all-around game, particularly his defense and assists. Glad we have the double bye until Friday and hopefully we can keep the momentum up through the SEC tourney. When we go in the offseason, White has to work with Hayes and Gak’s hands. Big men must have strong hands and at this point Gak doesn’t have strong hands.

    • I agree about the great win. I am surprised about the 3 good games in a row. The major weakness on this team are our so-called big men. None of them that are playing right now can play outside and they are continually getting pushed around inside by players 6″ shorter and 20 pounds lighter. Today Hayes 2 points 0 assists 6 rebounds, Gak 6 points 0 assists 4 rebounds. Not a winning effort for big men and this is one of their better combined efforts this season. Somebody needs to pee in their cereal.

  2. Thank you, Chris ”Cheese” Chiozza, Big John Egbunu, and Igor Koulechov (Seniors) for being ”Gators.”
    It was another great ”team win”, 3rd in a row! And somebody please go get a dust-pan, ‘casue U.K., (a.k.a. 1 and done) just got SWEPT in the reg. season by the Florida Gators! It was the 1st time since Billy ‘D’s Gators (’14). Best of everything in March Madness, Gators! Chomp-Chomp!

  3. Allen played a tremendous all around game today. Nice to see Cheez get the record on Senior Day. Thanks for your contributions Egor. Whole team played well today; good to see we held a big lead when a talented team made a run. We are going dancing regardless of what happens in St. Louis and having that bye will help us stay fresh. Go Gators! Sweeping UK has been done very rarely in UF history!!

  4. one thing i will say for kentucky. their freshmen might want to stick around for another year. gilgeousalexander is the only one who has a real chance at the nba draft, and he doesnt look ready either.

  5. Just got back from vacation and was hoping to be able to relax and watch the game (which I thought would be on later today), Boy was I surprised when I turn on the computer to find out that the game had already being played AND MY GATORS HAD WON!!!, Congrats GATORS!! Job well done. Now we are in the dance for sure. GO GATORS!!!!!!

    • bf. You really can’t get much lower on the troll pole, bf. Taking an underhanded shot at White after such a big win and a great week of coaching and inspired play as a result of his great coaching. By the way, White rotating Chiozza and Hill last year got the Gators to the final eight. Maybe you should look that up.

      • That was directed more at Hill. In fact, I like White a helluva better than I did Hill.

        Wish everyone on here would pick his Final Four. If I can’t beat you and the ones on here that only post about “bf”, I’ll quit.

        MSBS can’t be included as he only predicts when the event is over.

        • Have to agree with you on that one. Hill was right. Chiozza was always better. Hill had no business starting. Proud of the team this year with all they had to overcome. Tough to play in the SEC without depth in the front court. We deserved to be ranked ahead of Kentucky and maybe now the Gators will get the respect they deserve.

        • Makes perfect sense to me. I’m sure you see it, too. I’m just stating the facts, much like your facts about how many times UF has lost as the favorite, but I guess you’re just having a little trouble accepting the truth.

          • Florida has nine losses as a favorite. If you doubt that, call/email Brockway. He even mentioned that very thing in an article.

          • I know, bf, you’ve mentioned it numerous times, and though I haven’t researched it, I don’t doubt that you’re right. It’s just that it doesn’t have much to do with anything. The Vegas betting line has little to do with who should win the game, and everything to do with enticing people to bet on the games. You were right when you said the Vegas people aren’t stupid. They know that their job is to set a line that will produce the most bets, and that’s what they do. If they were actually trying to predict who should win the games, they would indeed be stupid for making Florida the favorite so many times.

          • Most on here don’t know that Vegas wants approximately the same amount of money bet on each side. Vegas doesn’t know who will win, of course. They’re only interested in earning the “juice” or vigorish, 10% or so.

            My point is this: Vegas knows the strengths of these teams. Their opening spread has to be “on the mark.” Otherwise, they risk taking big hits from the get-go.
            With the information they have, the better team, with few exceptions, is easily identified. Think about this: The Gators, not even ranked in top 20 currently, were only underdogs five teams this year! Vegas didn’t make a mistake on those spreads!

            White won 61% of his games this season as a favorite. Not good — in fact, probably the worst in country in Div. 1.
            He lost too many games as a favorite and it looked a number of times that the Gators quit.

            That’s why I went overboard on White this season. But, you might remember my post from a week or two ago. If White wins two (not one) games in the Dance, the peace pipe will have been smoked and I will not be critical of him when next season begins.

          • bf, that’s fair. I think they may have quit in couple of games in the 2nd half when they couldn’t buy a shot and it seemed hopeless, but I don’t think that’s Mike White’s fault, although it is his responsibility to deal with. I think the recent better defense may be an indicator that he has dealt with it. The Sweet 16 seems like a possibility, so if you’ll call off the dogs for two wins, that sounds reasonable. But what will we do for entertainment without your outrageous posts?

  6. Don’t look now, but the Gators are playing very well all of a sudden. They knocked off Kentucky twice and are on a little win streak. I am not getting too excited because they are still undersized, but if they play well they can do so damage.

    • Joel, they’ve been pretty good all year when they’ve shot the ball well. They do seem to be playing better defense now, but they’ve played well throughout the year despite the record. Now may be a good time for you to walk back some of the more ridiculous comments you’ve made during the course of the season… comments like the one prior to the Auburn game when you said the Gators were ready to “run and hide”, or the many times you’ve said this team has no talent, heart, toughness or guts, only to change your tune after a big win, or the times after a disappointing loss when you’ve said they wouldn’t win another game, or your insane comments about how Mike White has to go. Just admit that you’re primarily a Gator football fan, and you can only view other sports through a football lens which doesn’t allow you to understand the very different nature of those other sports. In football, it’s still possible for teams to have undefeated or 1-loss seasons. In basketball, while it’s theoretically possible, it just isn’t practical. You may be aware that the last undefeated season in college basketball (Division I, anyway) belongs to Indiana in 1976. It’s unreasonable to have that expectation, yet after almost every loss you’ve acted as if the season was ruined. I admire your passion, and I give you a lot of credit for posting your real name with your comments. That takes some guts, especially when those comments are as outrageous as many of yours have been. Own it, relax, and enjoy the rest of the season. I have no idea what will happen next. The Gators could shoot poorly and be out of the SEC and NCAA tournaments in the next two games, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying the ride. Only two Division I teams will end the regular season with a tournament win, and nobody will remember one of them. If the one everybody remembers isn’t the Gators, it’s still been a good season.

      • Coach White said it best,”We can play with and beat any team in the country, and we can lose against any team in the country.” Let’s hope they continue with the first analogy, and not the second from here on out.

      • Joe, could your post be any longer! Joel just wants us to win and he gets on us when we don’t but that’s how bad he wants us to win. Is he too negative at times? Yes, but he does make good points! I can be very negative at times too but I’ve learned to just go with it and accept myself and also try to emphasize the positives too! Nobody’s perfect!

      • I am a fan. I am passionate about the Gators. I don’t care about whether they lose any single game. I agree I get a little over heated and upset when they play poorly and when they keep making the same mistakes game after game. My comments need to be viewed in the context they were made, as they relate to that game and how they were playing at the time. For example, now KA and JH are shooting and scoring. Now they team is playing defense very well. They are also rebounding very well. This is a different team from even just a few games ago. If they continue to play like this, with heart and fire they can and will do well. Just look at the fact that they beat Kentucky twice this year despite all the 5 star blue chip players they have. We are better. As far as Mike White is concerned, he has done OK. I am still not sold on him. I think we should have gone after a more established coach with more star power like a Jay Wright. But if he keeps winning and proves that he can recruit talent, he will be fine.

        • Can’t argue with your passion. I’ve had some of the same doubts at times, but just haven’t posted them the way you have. There’s certainly room for debate, but I think the major difference is just hitting shots. Both the UGA game and the UT game could’ve been won with better FT shooting, and if that had happened, the Gators would’ve earned a share of the conference title. I agree that Jay Wright would’ve been an excellent choice if we could’ve gotten him. Go Gators!

        • Roth, I hear you, and you do return after wins unlike many…but I think that coaching hire was wishful thinking. I just don’t know if we could have really landed that type guy despite being a premier program…perception, however, nationally is that we are a football school. Mike White was 3 in a row conf champ and coach of the year there before getting to UF after a 16-17 season, and a roster that shot the ball miserably. He has done well considering and IMO has to recruit the way he has, develop talent, and in the long run the major Brad Beal type kid will sign. I firmly believe we are headed in the right direction. It’s been a crazy season, and sometimes kids, for whatever reason, can’t be consistent. Patience my man…

  7. Nice win. Any season that includes a UK sweep is a great season. Gators are peaking at the right time with 3 straight wins against quality teams. Mike White may have worked himself into the COY conversation to the chagrin of the Buf-Foon. A special congrats to Cheese for claiming the assist record.

  8. bf is fairly harmless. He has been humbled a little in the last 2 weeks. With Auburn, Bama and “KU” left on the schedule he stated that UF wouldn’t win another game and after going 1 and done in the SEC tourney they would be left out of the big dance. After the 3-0 finish and basically demolishing all 3 teams, his crow is probably tasting a little thick!
    Go Gators always!!

  9. Mike White is a very good coach. He must have learned something from the noise out there about milking the clock way too early and it showed in this game. Give White credit for what he’s done without a legitimate center who can both score and defend and make his presence felt down low. Hayes and Gak play hard but they just don’t have “it” at this time and hopefully each will improve.

  10. Just ignore the ignorant bloviating BF (bellicose fanatic). By replying to him you continue to make him think his comments are meaningful when they are totally irrelevant. Don’t make his useless drivel a part of the conversation. Let him live in his self-important fantasy by himself. Go Gators.

  11. For the ones that do have fun picking a Final Four, here’s a little help for you. This is directed primarily at the ones who post only about me. More so than expressing a cogent opinion, they are only juiced up when they can ridicule me.

    Cincinnati isn’t a Final Four team! There, I gave you one! You’re welcome.

    • bf, I fell out of my chair laughing when I read that you think you post thoughts and opinions on here that appeal to any mid to high level of cognitive skill development. All you do is try to insult anyone who expresses or shows intellect on any level. And I also love it with a North Florida student or grad insults the intelligence of a UF student or graduate, as we all know that high achieving students always choose to attend NF over UF because they have far superior cogent opinions and thinking skills. LOL.

  12. Bottom line…if this team can find that same groove that they had at the beginning of the year on offense they will go deep…the lack of a big man still hurts them but if they can get into that groove they’ll be hard to beat.

  13. Jerry Palm moves us from an 8 to a 7; UK stays at a 5. Nice. Not saying we are much better than a 7 but to have UK at a 5 is just crazy. They lack the quality wins to be considered that high if you take a look at the resume.

  14. Oh my, wasn’t that so unfortunate that Tom “Dr. Nassar” Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans lost yesterday to Michigan in the Big 10 tourney?! How sweet would it be to see that sunzabitch go down in the first round in the NCAA tournament?!

      • Just guessing that we two could probably take on all the posters on here and hold our own. Your sense of humor indicates a conservative — liberals, generally, are devoid of humor and intelligent reasoning. Not only that, they even get off voting for traitors to this country.

        Wait until football starts. These jerks have no chance! Yes, a real coach is in place!

        Don’t forget though, TampaGator, if White wins twice in the Dance, no more criticism from me. Hell, you even know what winning two means, maybe?

        • bf. Your statement about liberals is almost as distorted as your view of conservatives. My expanded reading has enlightened my mind to the fact that their are brilliant men and women on both sides of the fence. They just have different views of the pasture on the other side of the fence in which they stand. Hence, me being a moderate thinker with an open mind to all viewpoints, left or right, as long as they are intelligent and common sense views that are well thought out and communicated. Your stand, however, seems to ignore that there is another side of the fence that matters, and you clearly have closed the gate of your mind to anything other than is only on one side of that fence. Personally, I find closed mindedness and/or single mindedness boring and wasteful.

        • And bf, White has already won more than twice in the NCAAs. Last year. So, please honor your pledge starting right now. Better yet, just go away permanently. But that would take honor and decency, of which you exhibit little.

          • bf. You did not say that in your post. Be clear and do not assume, or you become what you called me. But I have already come to the conclusion that you are exactly the insults you post about other people on here.

  15. This team continues to struggle against most zone defenses. It normally becomes a stagnant offense that doesn’t try anything until there is 10 seconds left on the shot clock, and they end up jacking up a bad 3 attempt. Hope most teams stick to man against us or we do a better job of attacking the middle of the paint.

  16. Most recent odds to win title:

    Nova 9-2 / Duke 5-1 / Va 6-1 / Mich St 8-1 / Mich 9-1 / Kansas 10-1 / UNC 12-1 / Purdue 12-1 / Wich St 14-1 / Florida 20-1 / W Va 20-1 / Ariz 20-1 / Xavier 20-1 / Cincy 20-1 / Tenn 20-1 / TexTech 20-1 / Kentucky 25-1 / Gonz 25-1 / Auburn 33-1 / Ohio St 33-1