Gators Look to Hand Calipari First Home Loss

Hitting the road usually sets up a tough situation for any team. Stepping into Rupp Arena where Kentucky has never lost under second year head coach John Calipari is usually impossible. The Gators will try to break the streak on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. as they continue to chase an SEC Championship.

"It's a very difficult place to play," Donovan said. "They probably win on average about 90% of their games there. It's a very hard place to play. It's a great opportunity and challenge against a terrific team. It's a team we're playing for the second time, too."

The road win won't be easy, but the Gators have recorded plenty of big wins on the road already this season. Florida is 7-1 in true road games and 9-2 away from Gainesville. If the Gators win Saturday or next weekend at Vanderbilt, it will be the first time under Billy Donovan that the team has recorded eight road victories. The last time a Florida team won eight road games in a year came in 1993-94.

A win at Kentucky would be the crown jewel of a season with plenty of impressive ones.

The first two came before the Gators even hit conference play. On the heels of the football team getting blown out in Tallahassee 31-7, the basketball team snuck out of the city with a 55-51 victory. It was the team's first victory at Florida State since 2002. Florida then snapped Xavier's 30-game home winning streak on New Year's Eve.

In conference play, Florida has won at Georgia and South Carolina for the first time since 2008, at Tennessee for the first time since 2005 and at LSU for the first time since 2003.

A win at Rupp Arena would be Florida's first victory in that building since 2007.

"I think we're ready. I think we're going in there with the mentality that we're going to win the game. We're not going to back down. (The streak) is not intimidating. Everything they've done before us is irrelevant because it's a fresh start once the ball goes up."

Kentucky has lost four of its last seven games, including a 70-68 loss in Gainesville on February 5. All four of those losses have come on the road. The Wildcats have an average winning margin of 19.5 points in their games at Rupp Arena this season.

Florida is in a difficult situation leading up to the game. Donovan knows his team will see some adjustments from Kentucky. It's the one day between games that makes it tough for Donovan to prepare his team.

The Wildcats play mostly man-to-man defense, and the Gators have struggled all season with zone defenses. Kentucky played some zone in Gainesville, but Donovan wouldn't be surprised if that's one of the adjustments Calipari makes.

The first meeting saw Kentucky's freshman duo of Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones present matchup issues. Knight went for 24 points while Jones had 18. The freshmen showed poise on the road against the Gators, and now they will get their shot at Florida in Lexington.

There will be difference in game plans for each team, but playing a team for the second time in the season does make it the two teams more familiar with each other.

"In a sense of speed, quickness, personnel and what their speed is, there's no question there is a familiarity," Donovan said. It's also a different scouting report because you know there going to make some adjustments. We have a very quick turnaround. We don't want to overload our guys, but we want to give them an idea of the changes we have to make."


Fightin Gators Top Stories