For weeks, spectators eyeing Kentucky basketball have wondered when the Cats would finally make some sort of turnaround as they looked dreadful for the better part of two months. Well, that “turnaround” may have taken its first large step last night, as UK went into Gainesville and defeated Florida 76-58, their largest win in Gators’ territory since 1998.
It was an all-around effort for Kentucky, as they looked sharp offensively and focused defensively. As a team, they shot 58.8% from the floor (second-highest of the season) and 46% from the three-point line (6/13). The Cats also had 1.15 points per possession, their second-highest mark of the season as six players scored nine or more points and they finished 23/24 from the free throw line.
Defensively, UK held Florida to 38% shooting, scored 25 points off of 16 turnovers and totaled seven blocks for the third straight game along with 10 steals. By all standards, it was without a doubt Kentucky’s most complete performance.
I know there was probably some people that put dirt on the coffin. We pushed the coffin open and said, ‘You ain’t putting that dirt on this.’ That stuff was out there, but look – I kept saying to you. We’ve got good kids. I’m proud of these kids. They just need time. And I’m not changing that thought. We just need time,” UK Head Coach John Calipari said afterwards.
One of the biggest differences for the team was the return of sophomore forward Keion Brooks, Jr. He provided needed leadership, and was able to stretch the floor while creating around the rim for others. By the end of the game, Brooks totaled 12 points on 6/8 shooting from the floor along with six rebounds and four assists. All awhile not competing in five-on-five practice scrimmages for three months.
“I just try to bring energy and hopefully my energy is infectious to my teammates. They also did a great job of sticking with me the whole time I was hurt. I didn’t want to go out there and let them down, not playing to their standard, not being as engaged as they are, not having as much energy as they would have. That works both ways,” Brooks said. “My leadership was really dependent on them and them allowing me to be a leader. It went well tonight.”
Other notable performances include freshman BJ Boston scoring 13 points on 3/8 shooting from the floor (6/6 from the free throw line), and snagging four boards along with three assists as well as a team-high four steals. Isaiah Jackson was a force around the rim, scoring a season-high nine points on 4/7 shooting along with totaling six rebounds and four blocks.
So yeah, Kentucky might just be rolling now, and the rest of the SEC probably let out a loud sigh at the sight of their latest victory.