The Kentucky Wildcats seek their fifth victory in a row today in Gainesville against the Florida Gators. The Gators return home for the first of three straight games at the OConnell Center, starting with Kentucky in a rematch of the last two SEC Championship games.
We have to pass the ball and rebound the ball better because those are areas that Florida is really good at, said coach Tubby Smith, They are a team that really pushes the ball up the court well. They are second in the league in scoring and tops in the league in offensive field-goal percentage. They are doing a heck of a job defensively. [Florida coach] Billys [Donovan] teams have beaten us the last two times we have played. With [ESPN] GameDay being down there, there will be a lot of emotion since we are both sitting at 5-2 in the SEC right now. We have our work cut out for us going down to Gainesville as we always do. We will have to play probably our best game in order to compete down there. I have been so impressed with what Billy has done over the last two years. They have become more physical and they are rebounding the ball better. [Al] Horford and [Joakim] Noah are two of the most athletic post men in this league and probably in the country. They run extremely well and that keeps a lot of pressure on us.
Did you know?
Coach Bill Donovans team will be going for its school record 20th straight home win. Floridas last 19-game home winning streak was snapped, ironically, by Kentucky on March 8, 2003.
After losing eight straight games in the series, Florida has won the last two meetings, taking a 53-52 decision in Gainesville, followed by a 70-53 victory in the SEC title game just a week later.
Starting guard Lee Humphreys status is still in doubt with a separated left shoulder, while Corey Brewer has not started either of the last two games after spraining his right ankle on Jan. 21 at Tennessee.
Florida is hitting 52.3 percent from the floor on the year and has hit 51.8 percent and 53.5 percent in back-to back wins.
The Gators are second in the SEC in points per game (81.9) and leads the SEC in points per game allowed (62.0) and in point differential at +20.0.
Florida has won 39 consecutive games when scoring 80 points, dating back to an 82-81 loss at Georgia on March 4, 2003.
Players to watch for.
Al Horford has 30 points and 21 rebounds over the last two Gator victories and has hit 13-of- 21 shots.
[Taurean] Green makes them go, Smith said, he has had such a great year. He is pushing the ball, he is leading the league in free-throw shooting, and he is shooting the lights out from three. He is averaging 14 points-per-game and he is doing such a fantastic job in all areas. When I look down at what all he has accomplished it is really impressive considering he is just a sophomore. He is taking care of the basketball - averaging five assists a game. He is in the top categories in all areas; scoring, assists, and free-throw percentage - in the league. [Lee] Humphrey is coming of a shoulder injury but I understand he will play. [Corey] Brewer is a guy that can play anywhere on the court. So, that will be a tough match-up for Joe [Crawford] or anyone who guards him because he is 6-foot-8. They have a lot of size in the frontcourt, so that is something we have to be conscious of - keeping them off the boards. We have to make sure we get back on transition. If we dont run with them we wont win, we wont have a chance.
Walter Hodge and David Huertas have both cracked the starting lineup with Brewer and Humphreys injuries and combined for 19 points at Ole Miss. Both are hitting 50 percent from three-point range in league play and Hodge played a team-high 37 minutes at Ole Miss.
Walter Hodge is scorching hot from beyond the arc the last five games, connecting on 11- of-16 three-point attempts (68.8 percent), while averaging 10.4 points per game in that time.
Florida and Kentucky has become the SECs premier national match-up, as this will be the 16th straight meeting between the two to appear on national TV, with all having been on one of the ESPN networks or on CBS.
The two teams have met in each of the last two SEC Championship games, while the two shared the regular season SEC East title from 2000-02, and finished 1-2 in the standings (Kentucky first, Florida second) each year from 2003- 05.