Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Newcomers lead revived Kentucky into matchup against Florida Gators

Kentucky freshman guard John Wall has been a force during the team’s perfect start, creating matchup nightmares with his speed, athleticism and length.

Associated Press

Kentucky freshman guard John Wall has been a force during the team’s perfect start, creating matchup nightmares with his speed, athleticism and length.

GAINESVILLE — When Kentucky steps onto the court to face Florida tonight at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center, the Wildcats will carry a No. 2 national ranking and a 16-0 record — their best start since 1966.

After toiling in mediocrity and uncharacteristic NIT appearances or early NCAA exits the past several years, Kentucky is back on the rise.

The Wildcats are in the Associated Press top five for the first time since 2002 and once again are the big draw in the SEC.

For first-year Kentucky coach John Calipari, the resurgence has been a combination of battle-tested veterans who have bought in to what he's selling and talented newcomers who have helped spark the comeback.

Kentucky's top seven lineup includes four freshmen and two sophomores, but none has generated more attention than freshman John Wall.

"He has great speed and athleticism, and he's very long for a guard," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "He has the ability to rebound and be explosive on the open floor, has a terrific feel of how to play. He makes people around him better. He's a guy that's a special player all the way around."

Wall, who owns the school single-game assists record (16), has drawn comparisons to two other former all-star players under Calipari — Tyreke Evans and Derrick Rose. But the decorated coach said Wall falls into a category all his own.

"It's different in that Derrick took over a veteran team, so he knew they had been through it," Calipari said. "The year before they had been to an Elite Eight. John Wall has taken over a team that was in the NIT, so there was more that he had to do, and he's doing whatever he has to do. There are games he scores more; there are games he passes more. … But again, he still has a ways to go."

Gator freshman Kenny Boynton, who has four 20-point games this season, has spent time playing with Wall on the AAU circuit and at all-star camps. He knows firsthand what the Gators are up against.

"His speed and his athletic ability (make him so good)," Boynton said. "When he gets in the open court, it's hard to stop him, but you have to try to stop him and not let him run. If we can get back in the halfcourt offense, we'll probably be able to stop him more."

Florida (11-4) enters the game three days removed from a tough loss to Vanderbilt, but the players see this as a prime opportunity to prove they, too, are legitimate contenders in the SEC East.

"No matter what game you're coming off, you're going to get excited to play Kentucky," junior forward Chandler Parsons said. "Obviously the success they are having this year, it's a great game to have to come back and build off something after a loss like Vanderbilt. … We've been the underdog pretty much all season long. We knocked off Michigan State when they were No. 2. We're not going to go in there scared at all. We're going to go in there a confident team and ready to play anybody and compete."

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]

tonight

Florida vs. No. 2 Kentucky

When/where: 9, Stephen C. O'Connell Center, Gainesville

TV/radio: ESPN; 1250-AM

Records: Kentucky 16-0, 1-0 SEC; Florida 11-4, 0-1

Notable: Florida has its first sellout tonight. … The Wildcats present a matchup problem for the Gators. "The fact that they are playing two point guards together makes them even that much more effective in transition and half-court offense," UF coach Billy Donovan said. "And then you look at the size of Daniel Orton (6-10), DeMarcus Cousins (6-11) and Patrick Patterson (6-9), you are probably dealing with three or four lottery picks on their team. They are a team with overwhelming size and talent."

Antonya English, Times staff writer

Newcomers lead revived Kentucky into matchup against Florida Gators 01/11/10 [Last modified: Monday, January 11, 2010 9:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lightning's J.T. Brown to stop anthem protest, focus on community involvement

    Lightning Strikes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lightning wing J.T. Brown will no longer raise his first as a protest during the national anthem before games.

    J.T. Brown says he will work more with the Tampa police and groups that serve at-risk young people.
  2. Signs point to Jameis Winston dressing vs. Bills

    Sports

    TAMPA — The Bucs didn't sign another quarterback Wednesday, which would suggest they are confident that Jameis Winston can be active as a backup to Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday at Buffalo if he doesn't start.

  3. FSU doesn't feel need for ongoing reminder of last year's beatdown at Louisville

    Sports

    Of course Florida State remembers what happened against Louisville last year. The 63-20 loss was one of the worst defeats in Seminoles history.

    Louisville's Lamar Jackson looks back at the action from the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Murray State, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
  4. Goodell: NFL not changing its national anthem policy

    Bucs

    NEW YORK — In the face of fan unrest and accusations from the president about the league being unpatriotic, the NFL is not changing its national anthem policy to require players to stand.

    NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news conference, Wednesday in New York. [AP Photo/Julie Jacobson]
  5. NFL gives Tampa Bay final approval to host Super Bowl LV

    Blogs

    TAMPA – Start celebrating. Finally, it’s official. The biggest Super Bowl LV party will be held on the streets of Tampa Bay.

    NFL owners granted final approval today for Tampa Bay to host Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7, 2021 at Raymond James Stadium.