Florida's senior-laden, third-ranked basketball team is in the midst of a 16-game winning streak and is undefeated in SEC play. Yet, when Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete and Casey Prather face No. 14 Kentucky tonight, the game won't be just about keeping a win streak and hopes for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament alive.
This will be the seniors' final chance to earn an elusive win at storied Rupp Arena, where Florida hasn't won since 2007.
"It would be really special to finally get one and not go my whole career not winning there, especially with how well we're playing right now," Young said. "I know we're just all really excited for the opportunity because nobody on this roster has won at Rupp, so I think that's going to be really inspiring for us."
UF is 8-48 all-time at Rupp and 3-14 under coach Billy Donovan. But if ever the Gators had an opportunity to improve those numbers, it's tonight. One of the story lines is the Gators' veteran squad going against Kentucky's roster of mostly freshmen and sophomores.
"This game is going to be our 19-year-olds against their 23-year-olds, now how does that play out?" Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "I know when they're 35 and 36 and you're 30, that's a difference. The old guys got a little problem. But at the younger (college) ages, they've got an advantage. … Most of it is their discipline. I mean their guards are skilled, their bigs are skilled, they can throw to the post, they run their stuff, but they do it for 40 minutes, and we haven't been able to do that, and most of it is because of our lack of experience."
But Donovan said he reminded the Gators about what has earned them so much success thus far: staying focused on what happens only on the court.
"The biggest thing we've done is focus on what takes place between the lines and what we have to prepare for," Donovan said. "Because it's (ESPN's) College Gameday, there will be a lot of excitement. It's always great for college basketball that it is getting a national stage on Saturday night. … It's promoting the sport. All of those things are great. At the same point, all of our guys have a job to do and a responsibility to each other, doing their job to the best of their ability. For us, it's much more getting locked in and focused on what we need to do for 40 minutes and playing on the road."