Florida basketball: 3 takeaways from Gators' 72-67 loss to Kentucky Wildcats
Florida was unable to carry over the momentum of its upset of No. 2 Tennessee, falling 72-67 at Kentucky on Saturday night before 20,315 at Rupp Arena.
The Gators (13-10, 6-4 SEC) were down by as many as 13 points in the first half and 14 in the second half, but rallied back, cutting Kentucky's lead to 70-67 on a Myreon Jones' 3-pointer with 38 seconds left.
Kentucky forward Jacob Toppin then missed the front end of a one-and-one, opening the door for Florida to tie the game. But a broken play for the Gators ended up with Jones firing up a turn-around air ball on a 3-point attempt.
AUSSIE RULESFlorida basketball: Gators land commitment from 6-foot-11 Australian big man
ROCKY TOPPLEDFlorida basketball: 3 takeaways from the Gators' 67-54 upset of No. 2 Tennessee
SWEET PARTINGKeyontae Johnson is playing basketball again, and well. Florida fans should feel great
The Gators were then forced to foul, and Cason Wallace made two free throws with 13 seconds left to seal the win for the Wildcats (15-7, 6-3 SEC).
It won't get any easier for Florida. The Gators next play Wednesday at No. 5 Alabama (9 p.m., ESPN2).
Here are three takeaways from the game in Lexington, Kentucky:
UF transition defense slips
Florida's defense, which entered the game ranked 8th in the country for Adjusted Defensive Efficiency per KenPom, was unable to stop an athletic Kentucky squad from getting up and down the court.
Kentucky outscored Florida 14-0 in fast-break points, a big factor in the outcome of the game.
The quickness of Kentucky guard Sahvir Wheeler was tough for Florida's defense to handle. Wheeler scored eight points off the bench, mostly by beating Florida down the court in transition.
As a team, Florida surrendered more than 70 points for the first time since beating Georgia 82-75 on January 7.
Slow starts on road continue for Gators
Florida again struggled to get out of the gate in a road game, shooting 26.9 percent from the field (7 of 26) and 16.7 percent from 3-point range (1 of 6) to trail 33-22 at halftime.
The Gators were down 24-11 early in the first half but clawed back to cut Kentucky's lead to 26-22 on a driving layup by point guard Kyle Lofton.
But Kentucky closed the half on a 7-0 run, going up by 11 on a 3-pointer by guard C.J. Fredrick. An Iowa transfer, Fredrick scored 9 of his 12 points in the first half and burned Florida from the perimeter throughout the game, going 4 of 10 from the field and 3 of 6 from 3-point range.
Florida C Colin Castleton outplays Kentucky C Oscar Tshiebwe
In the battle of preseason All-SEC big men, the 6-foot-10, 250-pound Castleton got the upper hand, scoring a team-high 25 points, with 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocked shots.
Tshiebwe was held to 4 points on 2 of 14 shooting before fouling out with 1:36 left. He did damage on the boards with 15 rebounds, but Florida kept the 6-9, 260-pound reigning Naismith Player of the Year from scoring in the post.
“We didn’t double him," Florida coach Todd Golden said. "Colin is one of if not the best defensive players in the country with his block numbers and by our two-point field goal percentage defense. We like that matchup one on one for us on the defensive side of the ball ...
"We wanted to make him turn over his right shoulder and finish that way. Oscar is a lot more effective inside five feet then outside five feet, so we tried to make him get catches away from the rim. We didn’t do a good enough job on the glass with him, he got seven offensive rebounds, and that’s what he does. I thought we did a great job collectively limiting his opportunities. For him to go 2-for-14 without doubling, I thought Colin had a great game defensively.”
Castleton said his mindset was to stay aggressive. With the three blocks, Castleton passed Joakim Noah for fourth place on Florida's all-time shot block list with 187 career blocks.
"Just limit the close catches to the basket and around the rim," Castleton said. "He’s super effective around the rim and is a strong guy, and is one of the most active players in the country. Being able to use my length was the biggest thing.”