Three observations following Florida’s 66-64 win over Kentucky at Rupp Arena:
— Even though Florida was outrebounded by Kentucky 49-38, coach Mike White felt it was one of UF’s best efforts on the boards this season. The Gators grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and stayed even with Kentucky in second-chance points (12-12). Junior center Kevarrius Hayes had his best game of the season on the boards with a season-high nine rebounds.
— Credit Florida grad transfer forward Egor Koulechov for keeping his head in the game despite an off-shooting night. Koulechov went 0 for 8 from the field, 0 of 5 from 3-point range and finished with just two points. But Koulechov scrapped inside for nine rebounds and came up with one of the big blocked shots late that helped seal the win.
— Florida had a rare off night from the free-throw line (64 percent) in part due to the fact the wrong players were getting to the line. Hayes went 1 of 6, but junior guard Jalen Hudson stepped up, going 7 of 10. Hudson made a pair of big free throws with 31 seconds left to put Florida up 66-61, though Keith Stone missed the front end of a one-and-one with 19.9 seconds left that nearly proved to be disastrous. On the play, Florida should have drawn something up that ensured the ball was in the hands of one of its top free throw shooters — either Koulechov, senior point guard Chris Chiozza or junior guard KeVaughn Allen. Kentucky let some seconds drain from the clock and trapped Koulechov as he was waiting to get fouled, nearly forcing a turnover. Koulechov got the ball out of the trap to Chiozza, who had to make a quick pass upcourt to Stone to avoid a 10-second violation.
A win at Rupp has always indicated good things were ahead for Florida. This is usually the most difficult game to win on the SEC schedule.
There will be major challenges ahead, but this was a key win to setup a championship season.
Great win! I mean a really great win! Rupp is one of the hardest, if not the hardest places to win. The Gators were short handed and hung tough and found a way to win with defense. Despite a poor shooting night both from beyond the arc and at the free throw line. They built a late lead only to see it crumble with more poor shooting. They could have folded and said “we tried” but they did not. They dug deep and refused to give up and found what it took to win. This is the kind of game they needed to prove to themselves they have what it takes to win. This win will go a long way to give them the confidence to play and win close games the rest of the season. They will be getting back some key players shortly. Now they will be able to move forward and get even better. Deep run in the tourney. Go Gators.
Yep. It’s what you do the nights that the shots don’t fall that tell your measure as a team. Florida is becoming a very good defensive team, and that’s what will matter most in March.
Kevin’s right about the FT’s. Wrong players getting to the line. Hayes had a very good game overall, but terrible FT shooting. On the play resulting in Stone missing the 1 & 1, Bilas mentioned on TV that, with 30 seconds left, UK would probably try to trap for 10 seconds then foul if they didn’t get the turnover. UF probably should’ve anticipated that and tried to advance the ball up court on the dribble immediately to keep the ball in the hands of the best FT shooters. But it all worked out with the two blocks and a steal in a great defensive stand. Great win for the Gators!