Florida celebrated on the floor after a 69-61 win over the Crimson Tide, but when they returned to the locker room and postgame media opportunities, the focus of the questions was already on No. 1 Kentucky.
It will be the third meeting between the two games and the second meeting the in the last week.
It’s also the second year in a row that the teams will meet three times. Last season, it was a much different outcome. The Gators (16-16) swept all three games, including the meeting in the Southeastern Conference Tournament final. This year, it’s Kentucky that won the two regular season matchups and heads into Friday’s game (1 p.m., TV: SEC Network) with a perfect 31-0 record and 18-0 record in SEC play.
The challenge for Florida this season is that the Gators played on Thursday while the Wildcats were resting. Dorian Finney-Smith led the way with 23 points and 11 rebounds, but he also led Florida by playing 33 minutes. Michael Frazier, coming off the high ankle sprain, played 23 minutes.
“I like the fact that we (played) at noon, that instead of playing a night game (where) by the time they go to bed, it's 2 or 3 in the morning,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said after the Gators beat Alabama. “At least they can unwind the rest of the afternoon and then get ready to play tomorrow.”
In a conference tournament setting, there isn’t time for teams to go through normal preparation and scouting reports. For both Florida and Kentucky, they’ll have the benefit of getting ready with a familiar scouting report. It’s the same one both teams spent last week going over while preparing for their matchup at Rupp Arena last Saturday, one the Wildcats ran away with late for a 67-50 win.
“On a quick turnaround, I think that's positive for our guys because there's at least a familiarity for us where you've had a game and you're playing again tomorrow at noon,” Donovan said. “There's not a lot of time to prepare. Sometimes (it’s) a little bit more difficult when you play against a team that you haven't seen since, let's say the middle of January. These guys will be a little bit familiar with it. We're excited we get the opportunity to play.”
“We'll try to make some corrections, things that we need to get better at and build on. Try to concise things for our guys where we're not overwhelming them in such a short period of time.”