Sun, 11 Apr 2021

Kentucky on the rise as Gators visit

Field Level Media
27 Feb 2021, 09:05 GMT+10

Six weeks ago, Kentucky pulled away in the second half to handily win at Florida, a third consecutive victory marking what was then the high point of the season for the Wildcats.

And then they dropped seven of their next eight.

Yet, when the Wildcats host Florida (12-6, 8-5) on Saturday afternoon in Lexington, Ky, they are on the rise and are seeking a season-high fourth successive win.

With three regular-season games remaining, Kentucky (8-13, 7-7 SEC) will enter the SEC tournament with a losing record and must win the tournament to reach the NCAAs. The likely exclusion from the NCAA Tournament can be traced back to the month between Jan. 9 and Feb. 10, when the Wildcats followed that 76-58 win at Florida by losing two one-point games and three home games during what became a 1-7 skid.

"We may be running out of runway, but we're becoming the team we've wanted to see," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "I wish we were just halfway through our season because they've shown unbelievable growth."

Since an 81-80 loss to Arkansas on Feb. 9, the Wildcats have won close games over Auburn and Vanderbilt before getting a 70-55 win at Tennessee on last Saturday.

"Even when we were playing bad, I still believed in them," Calipari said. "They're kids. You keep working with them, but you hold them accountable when they're not doing it right."

Isaiah Jackson scored 16 points and during the winning streak he has 49 points and 27 rebounds. Davion Mintz added 15 and during the last two games, he has 33 points and hit nine 3-pointers.

Florida shot 37.5 percent and committed 16 turnovers in losing the first game to Kentucky but has been playing better since, winning 7 of 10 games and are coming off consecutive wins over Georgia and at Auburn.

On Tuesday, the Gators posted a 74-57 win at Auburn, getting the win despite shooting under 45 percent for the fourth straight game. Tre Mann scored 16 points of his 19 points in the first half when Florida raced out to a 22-point halftime lead. Scottie Lewis scored 16.

"I thought we were pretty good," Florida coach Mike White said. "A lot of times we had the right amount of urgency and at times we didn't."

Mann also grabbed 13 rebounds for his first career double-double to help Florida get 40 points in the paint. Lewis had five steals to help the Gators scored 19 points off 21 turnovers, the most by any SEC opponent this season.

Mann was 2-of-9 from the floor in the first meeting with Kentucky but has been in double figures in eight games since, including a 24-point showing Jan. 23 at Georgia. Lewis is coming off his most productive game since Jan. 2 against LSU and before the Auburn game had been held under 10 points in six of his previous seven games.

--Field Level Media

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