By David Schuman
It’s getting a little repetitive to say at this point, but John Calipari has one hell of a team on his hands. That fact was proved yet again Tuesday night, when the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats (24-1, 10-0 SEC) ran No. 7 Florida (19-5, 7-2 SEC) out of Rupp Arena. The ‘Cats will only be shedding crocodile tears for these Gators though.
This was supposed to be the first test of a difficult week for Kentucky. Florida’s four-guard lineup spreads the floor and has been too quick for many opponents this season. Plus, they came in leading the nation in 3 pointers. It was a bad night to go cold.
They shot 6 of 27 from deep, a pitiful 22.2%. It was the worst first half Billy Donovan’s squad has played all year, with season lows in points and three balls made. It’s no surprise they were down by 12 at the break.
What more can you say about Kentucky? Anthony Davis is making a strong case for National Player of the Year honors; he is a true difference-maker on defense. There was a distinct feeling Florida was reluctant to drive the lane, especially after Davis recorded two monster blocks in the same possession early in the second half. He scored 16 points as well, but that’s not so hard when seemingly all you’re doing is finishing alley-oops from point guard Marquis Teague.
Yes, the freshman has come a long way from the early season and you get the feeling that this team will go as far as he takes them. That’s a scary thought when you see how much Teague is improving. Tuesday night he had his first career double-double: 12 points and 10 assists.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had another strong performance, with 13 points and 13 rebounds. He’s got crazy athleticism and it’s easy to see why NBA scouts love him.
With all these freshmen, Terrence Jones somehow gets a little overlooked. Need I remind you he was voted the Preseason Player of the Year in the SEC. With Jones, Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist, it’s hard to find a better frontcourt, outside of maybe Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Also of note, Coach Cal has still never lost at home as head coach of the Wildcats. It’s a 48 game winning streak. In other words, if Kentucky’s got a home game, you might as well not even tune in.
I would suggest turning on ESPN this Saturday night though when UK travels to Memorial Gym to take on Vanderbilt. Vandy’s not a team to overlook when they’re playing in Nashville. That place gets raucous. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance when John Wall and Demarcus Cousins came to town in 2010, and it was the most electric sports atmosphere I’ve ever been a part of. All I’m saying is there is potential for an upset.
Florida, on the other hand, should not be so disheartened by this loss. There’s a reason Kentucky’s ranked #1. Coach Donovan would be wise to have his guys move on quickly, as they take on the Tennessee Volunteers at home on Saturday. It should be a good bounce-back kind of game for them.
Overall, Tuesday night’s game wasn’t the most entertaining to watch, but if you appreciate hard-working, team basketball, then this Kentucky team is a must-see. For that, I’ll keep tuning in. Even if they are playing in Rupp Arena.