Gators expecting to get struggling Kentucky's best shot
Following its 72-62 loss at Georgia Thursday night, Kentucky is in desperate need of a quality win to help bolster its resume for the NCAA Tournament committee.
And along comes Florida.
The Wildcats (20-10, 11-6 SEC) will play their regular-season finale against the No. 11 Gators Saturday, at Rupp Arena, and Florida fully expects Kentucky to bring everything they've got to win this game.
And the Gators plan to respond in kind, hoping to continue with its upward momentum heading into next week's SEC tournament.
"It's very important,'' freshman guard Michael Frazier II said. "We want to go out on top. We want to finish the regular season on top going into the tournament off a win. Kentucky is a different team than when we first played them. They're more mature. They're obviously without Nerlens (Noel - out with torn ACL), but they're still going to be a tough team going into Rupp Arena. Its going to be a tough game."
Florida is 7-5 on the road this season and has lost three of its last four road games. The players said confidence is high on the team, but admit that a win on Saturday would be a huge boost.
"I think it's really critical,'' junior F Will Yeguete said. "We just want to win every single game. Confidence-wise, I think that will help us a lot just being able to go out there and show that we actually can go and beat them. We haven't beat them the last couple years there, so it would be a good chance to go out there and just win.''
Kentucky won three straight home games at the end of February and seemed to be back on the right track. But they enter Saturday's game coming off back-to-back road losses against Arkansas and Georgia. Kentucky has six losses by at least 10 points.
But the Gators still face a tough task; they haven't won at Rupp since 2007. Florida coach Billy Donovan said it's no secret what makes it so tough to play at the storied arena.
"Twenty-four thousand (fans)," Donovan said when asked why opponents have such a tough time winning there. "Great environment there. It's as good as anywhere in the country. Good teams, good players, great home-court advantage, great tradition. I dont know what else it could come down to."