Gators face talented Kentucky

With an emotional ceremony planned before Saturday's tip off against Kentucky, the Gators face an interesting challenge. The veteran roster has handled almost every challenge thrown its way this season, but after saying goodbye to the Florida fans at home before tip off, the Gators have to switch modes quickly and prepare for one of the most talented teams Florida will see this year.

It's not always an easy task. Teams can get caught in a slow start and fall behind early, especially with a team like Kentucky making the trek to Gainesville. The Wildcats have nothing to lose. They're 22-8 on the season and 12-5 in conference play, but they haven't played well lately.

The young Wildcats are looking for a win that will send them into the NCAA Tournament with momentum, and leaving Gainesville with a win over No. 1 Florida would serve as just that.

With all the emotions that can play a factor, Florida coach Billy Donovan believes his seniors are built to handle it.

"I think they have a responsibility to each other and themselves," Donovan said about the emotional said of senior day. "I think it's very, very easy to kind of get distracted with all this stuff that goes on. I totally get the understanding that senior night is an emotional day and all those kinds of things, but the bottom line is when the ball gets thrown by the officials, all that stuff's behind them. Now we have to go out there and play, and they have a responsibility collectively to each other and to themselves to get themselves focused in on what they need to do for 40 minutes."

There won't be advice from the coaches or much talk about the emotional side of Saturday. At this point in the season, Donovan knows what to expect out of his group. They've used the ‘one game at a time' mantra throughout the season, trying to avoid outside distractions that include winning streaks and other records.

Saturday is the chance for another record to fall. A win would make the Gators the first Southeastern Conference team to ever go 18-0. The 17 conference wins is something only four SEC schools have ever done, but the Gators want to become the first to win 18.

And Donovan trusts his group to do it.

"Those guys right now being seniors, hopefully they're older guys and can handle that moment," Donovan said. "It's going to be an emotional things for them. These kids have meant an enormous amount for our program. They've been great kids, they've represented the school very, very well."

It won't come without a challenge. Florida handed Kentucky its third loss ever under coach John Calipari on February 15, but the Wildcats earned Florida's respect. Even if Kentucky hasn't played well in recent games, including a loss at conference cellar dweller South Carolina last weekend, it has the talent to break out during any game.

Freshman guard James Young has been streaky this year, but if he puts it together in one game, he can carry the Wildcats. He's currently second on the team with 14.4 points per game.

Forward Julius Randle is the freshman that makes the Wildcats go. He's averaging 15.4 points and 10.5 rebounds this season, and the 6-9, 250-pounder can have his way in the paint. Florida's veteran frontcourt is ready for the challenge.

"He plays really physical," Will Yeguete said. "We have to do a good job helping one another and a good job rebounding. We know he's going to try to go one-on-one, so we're going to just try and guard him and be there to help and rebound the ball and just do the same thing we've been doing pretty much."

With former McDonald's All-Americans all over the roster, the Gators know Kentucky has potential to put it all together and have its best game of the season.

"They have so much talent at each position," Florida point guard Scottie Wilbekin said. "They're a great team with a lot of individual talent. Each one of their players is capable of going off for 20 points any night. We have to do a great job with help defense, being collective as a defensive unit."

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