UK vs. Florida – Preview

Posted by ibleedblue040 on March 8, 2008

Kentucky has improved their tournament chances drastically in the last few weeks with winning 11 of 15 games, including games against Tennessee and Vanderbilt, but sunday afternoon will be the icing on the tournament cake if they can win at home against the Florida Gators. Florida beat Kentucky in Gainesville in overtime 81-70 in January. In the first meeting Florida dominated Kentucky from the free throw line, going there 22 more times than the ‘Cats. They also put their league-leading field goal shooting to work by shooting nearly 50% from the floor in the first matchup. Kentucky is in a much different situation than the last time they met up with the Gators, the first time Kentucky played Florida they entered the game only 7-8 overall and were out of even the NIT hunt, never mind the NCAA Tournament. The point is they had nothing to lose, and it seemed like they had really nothing to gain either, because it did not look as though they had a chance to make the tournament and they came into the game as a big underdog in the “O Dome”. This time around Kentucky can basically solitify their tournament chances and can get in contact with their travel agent because with a win sunday at home on senior night Kentucky WILL no doubt be in the tournament. Just to let you all know there will only be two KEYS TO THE GAME today.


The first KEY TO THE GAME deals with the main reason the Wildcats lost the first meeting, Nick Calathes. Calathes, although just a freshman, killed the ‘Cats and almost landed a triple-double on them. Calathes came up with big buckets and big passes at crucial times in the game and when the game was being decided the ball was always in his hands and he almost always did things with it. The reason Calathes is so hard to guard is because he does not have a major weakness that you, as a coach, can exploit. You can not back off of him and make you beat him from the three-point arc, because he will, he has hit at least 3 three pointers in 9 games this season, more than any player on the team. You obviously can not double team him and force him to make plays because at 6’6″ he can see over opposing guards and he can make plays that only a few freshmen in the nation can make. The Wildcats threw everything at Calathes last time and he still scored 24 points and had 8 rebounds and 8 assists. That near triple-double line proves that he has no weakness. The way I would guard Calathes would be to get right up in his chest and force him to go by you, because he is not the fastest guy in the world and hopefully he will get nervous and want to give up the ball as soon as possible. If Kentucky can somehow keep the ball out of Calathes’ hands they will have the automatic advantage over the Gators. I would put Ramel Bradley on him as well because Ramel has proven in games this season that he can stop great players if he face guards them and if he puts his mind to it. For example, Bradley has guarded Chris Lofton face on face in both meetings with the Volunteers this season, he only managed to score 23 points TOTAL in those meetings. The key for Ramel though will to not get in foul trouble; Ramel is the coach and leader on the floor for the ‘Cats and without him they look lost at some points. Calathes gets to the line quite a bit, including going 13-17 against the Wildcats in Gainesville, although he did get some garbage attempts in overtime when the game was out of hand.

The second KEY TO THE GAME will be for Kentucky to continue to have role players step up. Against Tennessee it was Perry Stevenson and Ramon Harris stepped up and last game against South Carolina Stevenson went back down to earth but Harris proved yet again to be valuable, he also stopped Devan Downey and held the second leading scorer in the Southeastern Conference to only 9 points. Harris and Stevenson do not have to fill up the stat sheets, I would almost prefer them not to if that means they lock down on a key player for Florida or get crucial loose balls. Another player that needs to step up is freshman AJ Stewart. Stewart seems to play well whenever he gets in the game but he seems to play only about 4 minutes a game and then gets pulled after making one mistake. Stewart always gives it his all and is definitely better than Mark Coury, Stewart brings energy and athleticism to the game when he gets in, two things that Coury unfortunately can not and does not bring. In his 3 minutes against South Carolina, Stewart scored 2 points on 1-1 shooting from the floor and picked up a personal foul, and then he got pulled. It did not seem to me when I was watching the game that Stewart made a noticable mistake to get pulled, I think if Billy Gillispie lets Stewart play 10 minutes or so that he will benifit from the playing time and I believe that he will make some major strides in the confidence department and production department. Stewart, in my opinion, should take all of Mark Coury’s playing time because he is better at every part of the game than Coury.


March 9 vs. Florida

12:00 pm EST on CBS (Senior Night)


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