Florida vs. Kentucky score, takeaways: Gators unable to keep up with talented ‘Cats in Rupp Arena

By Adam Silverstein
February 12, 2022
Florida vs. Kentucky score, takeaways: Gators unable to keep up with talented ‘Cats in Rupp Arena
Basketball

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

Florida Gators basketball had an uphill battle ahead of itself facing the No. 5 Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena, but exceptionally poor play at the start of each half plus an early injury to the team’s only floor general put the visitors in holes they could not escape. Ultimately, Kentucky cruised to a 78-57 win, taking its sixth victory across the series’ last seven meetings.

Florida lost its first game since Jan. 26 but fell to 1-9 against AP Top 25 opponents this season with an 0-5 mark against such teams in SEC play. The Gators have proven to be among the best of the second-tier programs in this league this season, but that’s quite a fall from grace for head coach Mike White team, one that used to be among the SEC’s blue bloods entering any given campaign.

The loss at UK was not disastrous to UF’s postseason chances, but it certainly didn’t help matters (more on that below). As for what went down on Saturday afternoon, let’s take a look at some Fastbreak Takeaways.

It was over when … Kentucky opened the second half on a 13-2 run with two treys from TyTy Washington Jr. to lead by a game-high 16 points. Consecutive triples from Florida senior guard Myreon Jones briefly cut that deficit in half with 13:28 to play, but UF never got any closer. Even with Washington out for most of the second half, the Gators could not find a way to get within 10 points of the Wildcats down the stretch, and UK actually reestablished its lead, ending on a 13-2 run to take a game-high 21-point advantage at the final whistle. Oscar Tshiebwe dominated inside for the ‘Cats, scoring 27 points on 11 of 18 shooting with an astounding 19 rebounds.

First half focus: Kentucky used five Florida turnovers to help it lead 20-6 after less than 6 minutes as it hit four straight 3-pointers to start the game. Junior CJ Felder responded by draining consecutive triples and playing stellar post defense as part of an extended 15-2 stretch to cut the visitors’ deficit to a single point as the hosts at one point missed seven straight shots. The ‘Cats answered with an 8-0 run, but the Gators fought back to trail by five at the break despite being outscored 9-0 off turnovers.

Exceptional efforts: Senior forward Colin Castleton was the only consistent player across both halves for Florida as he scored a team-high 18 points on 8 of 12 shooting with seven rebounds; however, Castleton’s four first-half turnovers cost the Gators numerous opportunities. Jones hit 2 of 3 triples but only four shots in the game despite being Florida’s hottest shooter from long range, hitting 16 of 24 bombs (.667) since Feb. 2.

Important injuries: Senior point guard Tyree Appleby absorbed a knee right to his thigh, aggravating a nagging contusion after playing just 4 minutes. He was in serious pain on the court and limped off hardly putting any weight on his leg. Appleby returned at the start of the second half but only played a total of 8 minutes in the game. His absence was one reason why the Gators struggled moving the ball offensively as he’s the only real floor general on the team, but it was not an excuse for a 21-point loss. Washington took a shot to his knee midway through the second half and sprint-hopped on one leg off the court and into the locker room. He did not return for the ‘Cats.

Odds and ends: Florida fell to 41-106 all-time against Kentucky with a 11-54 mark in Rupp Arena … the Gators are 4-9 against the Wildcats under White with UK winning six of the last seven meetings since 2019 … Florida fell to 1-7 against top-five teams and 19-36 against AP Top 25 teams under White with a 1-9 mark against such opponents this season … the Gators are now 2-7 this season allowing 70+ points and 0-4 (4-25 overall under White) scoring fewer than 60 …

Kentucky dominated by earning extra possessions and shots; it took 16 more attempts than UF and scored 20 second-chance points thanks to an 18-5 margin on the offensive glass (41-25 overall on rebounds) … the Gators’ turnovers (10-5) also cost them dearly as the ‘Cats turned them into a 17-4 scoring edge off miscues … senior forward Anthony Duruji was a horrific 1 of 7 from the floor due to going 1 of 5 from downtown; Duruji is 4 of 23 from long range (.174) since Jan. 22

What it means: The Gators once again proved they are not ready for primetime. In other words, Florida is very much a second-tier college basketball team this season as it consistently fails against the top competition it faces. While it may be the best among that group in the SEC, that is a significant fall from grace for a program that was consistently head-to-head with the ‘Cats as one of the top two teams in the league entering most seasons. While the Gators are likely one of the 68 best teams in the nation this year, they lack top-level talent and do not have coaching that makes up for the thin roster. That will leave UF on the NCAA Tournament bubble for the remainder of the regular season no matter how many second-rung teams it beats over the next couple of weeks.

What’s next? Florida will remain on the road with a quick turnaround as it travels to face Texas A&M on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET in a game that will air on SEC Network. The Gators have two more games remaining against top-five teams as they will host No. 1 Auburn next Saturday and close the season against the Wildcats on Saturday, March 5 in an attempt to get a measure of revenge before the SEC Tournament begins.

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