The Florida game had its ups and downs, highs and lows, and showed that the team (even with the loss) has the tools to make a run in March.
Exhibit A: The Cats held one of the most prolific scoring teams in the country to 66 points, 20% behind the arc, and 33% from the floor. The Gators are ranked 1st in the conference in 3 point field goal percentage at (40%), 3 pointers per game (at almost 10 per game), and 3rd in scoring at 82 points per game. The defense was at its highest level it has been this season. When you are as accurate as the Gators are from the field, shots will go down. Florida shot twice as many free throws as the Cats, making 16 of 25. The Cats’ woes with foul trouble were not present in the game. In fact, the Gators did not get into the bonus until 2:19 left in the first half.
Exhibit B: The Cats came into the Florida game averaging 38 rebounds per game. The young Cats won the battle on the boards 49 to 38. Nick Richards had 9 rebounds and finally gave BBN a glimpse of why he was highly touted out of high school. Equally impressive was the Cats “senior leadership” from Gabriel and Killeya-Jones. All 3 bigs crashed the boards hard at different times last night.
Exhibit C: The Cats finally have a full and healthy roster. Quade Green played last night after being out the past few games with a back injury. You could tell he was rusty by a few missed shots that are normally clutch. He added defense and passing. Once his game legs return, he will bring a much-needed presence behind the arc and a fierce competitiveness that the young Cats need on the floor. Vanderbilt made his Rupp Arena debut, but like Green last night, he is still not in game shape and only could play in short bursts to preserve energy. Many ask about Baker, but from the reaction of Coach Cal, you can deduce that he won’t grace the floor this year. Seeing Coach Cal run players in and out those first 13 minutes of the game was a thing of beauty. Players playing intense, going hard, and getting short breaks was leading to easy buckets and the uptempo style of play BBN is used to.
There were flashes of brilliance exhibited above that should have led to a “W,” but was canceled out by turnovers and lack of focus at the end of the game that led to the young Cats’ demise. Its hard for the perpetually negative BBN to see that this loss was not the end of the world, but in fact, the team turned a corner. As a wise man we all know and love says, “Nothing matters until March.” And like Coach Cal said, “We’re fine.” This member of the BBN is a firm believer of both.