Rushed Reactions: #1 Florida 61, Kentucky 60Posted by CD Bradley on March 16th, 2014
C.D. Bradley will be reporting from the SEC Tournament semifinals and finals.
Three key takeaways:
- Kentucky’s tweak might not have taken: The Wildcats very nearly made it out of the hole they dug themselves on Sunday. Down 16 early in the second half, and by 14 with less than 11 minutes left, they had the ball with a chance to win. They didn’t get a shot off, and it wasn’t their first failure on offense. Kentucky shot only 35.3 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from three, which was bad enough. But the Wildcats came into the game as the best offensive rebounding team in the country, grabbing 42.5 percent of their own misses. Florida held them to 32.4 percent (12 of 37).
- Florida slowed down too early: The Gators are #1 for a reason. They have everything: experience, athleticism, size, shooters and one of the best coaches in the country. In the first half, they ran UK ragged. In the second half, they looked like they were trying to run out the clock. Scottie Wilbekin, in particular, looked like he was running on fumes. The Wildcats went on their furious run, but the Florida D clamped down and held UK off. Barely.
- “We have five freshmen out there”: That’s what John Calipari said after Saturday’s win, and it was again apparent on Sunday. I would love to play poker against UK’s players, who wear every emotion on their faces. As Eric Crawford noted, “They go from bad body language to great faster than any team I’ve ever seen. And, of course, back again.” By contrast, Florida maintained a business-like demeanor in the face of Kentucky’s furious run. The pressure will only grow next week, and how the young Wildcats handle it will be key in determining how long they hang around.
Star of the Game: Although he was running on fumes by the end, Scottie Wilbekin is what makes the Gators go. He had 11 points, six assists, three rebounds and two steals on the way to the tournament MVP award.
- “This is the best team I’m ever been on. Every game is a joy, It’s a joy to play with these guys, it’s a joy to play D like we do.” - Wilbekin, on Florida’s success this year
- “They’ve had their ups and downs, but they have learned they have grown, they’re totally committed to the program and to each other.” – Billy Donovan on his four seniors
Sights and Sounds: While Kentucky will always dominate the fans at the SEC Tournament, Florida made a very respectable showing; it’s a credit to the success Donovan has built at what was a football school with little basketball tradition before he arrived. The stands were certainly the fullest they’ve been all week, and both fan bases were loud from before the tip.
What’s Next: Both teams will be playing next week, Florida almost certainly as a #1 seed (and probably the overall #1 seed) in Orlando on Thursday. Kentucky’s seeding fate and destination is a little murkier, but they probably improved it with their performance this weekend.777