Florida vs. Kentucky basketball score, takeaways: Gators embarrassed in blowout home loss

By Adam Silverstein
January 9, 2021
Florida vs. Kentucky basketball score, takeaways: Gators embarrassed in blowout home loss
Basketball

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

It has undoubtedly been a difficult season for Florida Gators basketball both on an off the court, but following a 76-58 whooping on Saturday night by the rival Kentucky Wildcats inside the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, the Gators will be searching high and low for answers. Florida (5-3, 2-2 SEC), which opened the week on the cusp of being ranked in the AP Top 25, lost consecutive games for the first time this season.

UF was defeated Saturday at home in Gainesville, Florida, by 18 points, its most lopsided margin of the season and largest margin against its biggest rival since the 2015-16 campaign. It was also Florida’s worst loss to Kentucky in the O’Dome since 1998 and head coach Mike White’s worst home loss since taking over the UF program.

Though the Gators were competitive with the Wildcats (4-6, 3-0 SEC) throughout the first half, it only took a couple minutes into the latter period for the visitors to put it away. This despite UK getting off to a terrible start this season that had many doubting whether it could even contend in league play.

After the first meeting between the long-time SEC rivals, it looks like Kentucky will be just fine in conference play, while Florida has numerous questions to answer as its postseason aspirations now appear shaky at best. Let’s take a look at what went down with some Fastbreak takeaways.

It was over when … Kentucky opened the second half with a 14-2 run to lead by 18 with 14:49 to play. Following a subsequent 13-0 run, it led by a game-high 25 points with less than eight minutes left. Florida was noncompetitive over the latter portion of the game, shooting 37.5% on field goals (35.7% in second half) while allowing Kentucky to hit 55.8% of its shots (66.7% in the second half). UF was dominated in scoring in the paint (34-22), off the bench (31-18) and off turnovers (25-14).

First half focus: Florida led early but trailed quickly after a 10-0 Kentucky run. The Gators made 4 of 5 field goals to start the half but then made just 7 of 23 down the stretch while committing nine turnovers that led to 15 points for the visitors. The Wildcats dominated in nearly every phase and used an 11-5 stretch to take a six-point lead at the break.

Exceptional efforts: Junior forward Anthony Duruji scored a game-high 15 points on 6 of 13 shooting, making 2 of 5 threes with three rebounds. Junior point guard Tyree Appleby was the only other double-digit scorer with 10 points on 4 of 9 shooting. The Gators did not have a single player shoot better than 50% from the field (minimum two attempts), though as a team they shot a respectable 9 of 20 from three.

Odds and ends: Florida is now 40-105 all-time against Kentucky, including 26-38 at home and 3-8 under White with five straight losses dating back to the 2018-19 season … UF is now 61-63 under White when scoring 79 points or fewer compared to 52-3 when scoring 80+ … this marked the fourth time in the last five meetings that the Wildcats held the Gators below 60 points

What it means: It’s tough to draw any real conclusions from this beating considering Florida was never in the game late and failed in nearly every area of consequence. More than anything, it seems as if it will have to utilize this as one of those “back to the drawing board” efforts where the coaching staff completely reevaluates what it is trying to do this season.

While the Wildcats, due to their talented roster, were never going to be as bad as they played entering this game, a floundering team nevertheless used the Gators as a stepping stone to possibly jettison itself back into contention over the rest of the campaign. That’s never good. Florida being unable to get anything going in the second half is worrisome as this team needs to find an identity without star junior forward Keyontae Johnson. It’s unknown and potentially doubtful if Johnson will be able to return at any point this season, and UF is going to have to figure out ways to at least beat mediocre teams without him on the court.

What’s next? Florida will remain at home early next week as it welcomes Ole Miss to town on Tuesday in a game that will tip off at 7 p.m. ET and air live on SEC Network. It will be the Gators’ third game in eight days as they look for their first win since Jan. 2.

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