Wildcats seek perfection in showdown with Gators

Lexington, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - The top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats set their sights on a perfect regular season, as they close things out on Saturday afternoon, taking on the Florida Gators in an SEC showdown at Rupp Arena.


John Calipari's Wildcats have faced 30 opponents this season and have beaten them all, en route to the team's 46th SEC title. They haven't all come easy, including Saturday's come-from-behind win at Georgia, 72-64, to move to 17-0 in league play.


Billy Donovan's Gators are far removed from last year's conference crown. Florida has struggled this season to a 15-15 overall record, which includes just an 8-9 mark in the SEC. The Gators have played better of late and enter the regular-season finale off back-to-back wins over Tennessee (66-49) and Texas A&M (66-62).


This is a mirror image of last year's regular-season finale, as top-ranked Florida was looking to secure the first 18-0 SEC record in conference history. Florida completed the feat emphatically with an 84-65 rout of the Wildcats. This season has Kentucky on the verge of perfection.


Kentucky owns a 95-37 edge in the all-time series with Florida, including a dominant 48-9 mark at home. The Wildcats earned a 68-61 victory in Gainesville on Feb. 7 in the first meeting this year.

A pair of crucial runs by Florida put the team over the hump against a strong Texas A&M squad last time out. The Gators used a 12-0 run to overcome an early 10-0 deficit and then followed up with a 14-0 run later to take control of the game. Four Gators notched double figures in the victory, led by Dorian Finney- Smith's 12 points. Eli Carter finished with 11, while Chris Chiozza and Devin Robinson checked in with 10 points apiece.

Florida's top scorer, Michael Frazier II (13.2 ppg) has missed some time with an ankle injury. The good news is that Finney-Smith has been solid in stepping up, averaging 13.1 ppg and a team-best 6.0 rpg. Carter ranks third in the team in scoring at 8.8 ppg, while Kasey Hill isn't much of a scorer (7.0 ppg), but is tied for second in the conference in assists (4.7 apg). Still, UF is a team that likes to force its will on the defensive end. The Gators are allowing just 59.7 ppg this year, holding opponents to just .406 shooting.


While the Gators plays solid defense, the Wildcats have mastered it. Kentucky leads the nation in field-goal percentage defense (.349) and scoring margin (+21.4) and ranks second nationally in scoring defense (53.5 ppg) and blocked shots (207). Aaron Harrison (11.3 ppg) and Devin Booker (11.0 ppg) provide perimeter scoring, while big men Karl-Anthony Towns (9.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 68 blocks) and Willie Cauley-Stein (8.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 49 blocks) are dominant down low, especially at the defensive end.


The Wildcats trailed by six points with five minutes to go in Athens, but the team rallied to remain unbeaten. Towns was an efficient 8-of-12 shooting and led the team with 19 points and seven rebounds. Aaron Harrison poured in 16 points, while brother Andrew chipped in 12.


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