Gators Can Create Space with Win Over UK

The Gators come into Saturday night with a chance to put two games of separation between them and Kentucky. In order to have that advantage going into the second half of the SEC schedule, Florida will have to stop a point guard that spurned them. Kentucky freshman Brandon Knight will return to The Sunshine State for the first time in his college career.

The Gators are hoping to spoil Knight's homecoming. Florida spent years recruiting him to run its offense, but Knight made the decision to play for John Calipari instead.

Florida head coach Billy Donovan thought his team had a chance at Knight in the fall of 2009, but once that signing period passed, their optimism was erased.

"I thought he was a terrific player," Donovan said. "I had a chance to watch him quite a bit. He came and took a visit here early in the process, and then he waited to sign late. As time started to go on, I never felt like we were in a good place to sign him. We moved on to some other things, but I loved him as a player. He's a great kid with a great family."

Since getting to college, Knight has done nothing to disappoint. Knight is second on the team in points per game at 17.2. He is shooting 40.2% from behind the three-point line, and he also leads the team at 35 minutes per game.

"He is exactly what I thought," Donovan said. "He's a terrific player. I admire his work ethic and commitment to be the best he can be. That goes for schoolwork, too. I have great admiration for him."

Knight returning to Florida isn't just returning to his home state. It also sets up a matchup with former AAU teammate and high school rival Kenny Boynton. The current Florida shooting guard isn't surprised at the success Knight has experienced on the court this year.

"He has always been a smart player," Boynton said. "When he's on the court, he always makes the right plays. He'll take the open shots, but when he sees the open man, he's a great passer."

The two haven't talked much this season, most recently texting after the Gators beat Xavier on New Year's Eve.

Knight isn't the only player the Gators have to focus on stopping. Freshman forward Terrence Jones leads the team with 17.9 points per game and nine rebounds. He is a difficult matchup for any team with his athleticism near the basket.

"The first thing that comes to mind is Terrence Jones," forward Chandler Parsons said on the first thing that comes to mind with Kentucky. "The guy is an animal. He's had a very good year. He rebounds like crazy and puts the ball in the basket."

Junior guards Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins combine for 18.6 points per game, and the Gators can't let either of them have a breakout game. The Wildcats also get a punch off the bench in freshman guard Doron Lamb, who is averaging 14.2 points per game.

Florida must focus its efforts on stopping the shooters that will be all over the floor for Kentucky.

"It's going to be important," Boynton said. "They have the type of team where Lamb can have 20 points and so can Miller. It's going to be a good game."

Liggins is listed at 6-6 and Miller is 6-7, making them long guards that could give the Gators problems. The length of Kentucky's entire team can make them a tough team to score against.

"They have a lot of length on the perimeter," Donovan said. "We're going to do the things we normally do. We'll have a combination of inside-out with a post presence, but there's nothing we'll do differently with their size."

The Wildcats have plenty of length, but they don't have much size near the basket. Senior forward Josh Harrellson is 6-10, 275 pounds, but the only depth off the bench down low comes from Eloy Vargas, a former Florida player.

Florida must be able to score near the basket and rebound well to win the game.

"They're very aggressive and play hard," Donovan said. "John's teams always play hard. I would expect coming and playing us they'd give us their best shot. Hopefully it'll be a game where we play our best and give them our best shot. We fully anticipate them coming in here and playing as well as they can possibly play."


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