Florida hasn't played a well-rounded
game all season.
The Gators have endured shooting woes, defensive lapses and
second-half struggles. The problems change from game to game, half
to half really, and there's no telling which one will show up next.
Coach Billy Donovan has a solution, though. It's one he needs to
be effective for Florida (11-4, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) to
compete with unbeaten and second-ranked Kentucky (16-0, 1-0) on
"We've got just to focus on everything, maybe get them to do
everything at the same time," Donovan said Monday. "It's been
different things at different times, where we've tried to put
attention on different things to try to get better at. But when
we've done that some other things have slipped.
"This will be a game where we're going to need to play well
offensively and we're going to need to play well defensively."
Without question, it's Florida's biggest challenge of the
The Wildcats feel the same way. They have played just one road
game all season, a 90-73 victory at Indiana last month. And playing
in Gainesville, where the Gators have won the last five in the
series and are 76-9 since 2005, will provide a stiffer test.
"We are going to find out where we are," Kentucky coach John
Calipari said Monday. "That is why you do this. We went to Indiana
and got down really fast and were down 12 and about to get blown
out and we just had to chip away and get back in the game and end
up beating them. Now, this will be a team that will be even better
and a tougher environment than Indiana. We will see if we are ready
Kentucky is one of only two undefeated teams remaining. And
given Tennessee's suspensions and Florida's struggles, there's
already talk about the Wildcats going unbeaten in SEC play.
Kentucky isn't quite ready to join in the conversation,
especially after a close game against rebuilding Georgia on
Saturday. The Wildcats blew a double-digit lead and made the game
closer than they wanted, something Calipari says has happened too
often this season.
"We get people down and we don't put them away," he said. "We
get 'em down 10, 12, 13. Well, get it to 20. Instead, it's down to
"When you go on the road and that happens, you cannot stop the
avalanche and it just bowls you over. It's just all that experience
stuff that we don't have that scares me more than anything else."
With three freshmen - John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus
Cousins - in his starting lineup, Calipari asked his older players
to talk to the team about what to expect in the O'Connell Center.
"We tell them that it is crazy, but I am sure they have seen a
little bit of what it is like on TV," guard Ramon Harris said.
"It's definitely something you have to experience for yourself.
Loud, intense, the floor may be shaking a little bit. But it's
going to be fun and I'm looking forward to it."
Kentucky's last win in Gainesville came in February 2004, and
Florida has won eight of 10 in the series. This time, though, all
the attention is on the Wildcats.
"There is a lot of pressure on us to do well and compete and
see how we do on the road," forward Daniel Orton said. "That is
one of the things we are focusing on right now, just seeing how we
can do on the road."
The Gators have lost four of their last seven games, and one of
those wins came on Chandler Parsons' 75-footer at the buzzer in
overtime at North Carolina State. Florida was downright awful from
3-point range in that game. Donovan's squad seemed to snap out of
its season-long shooting slump Saturday at Vanderbilt - the Gators
hit a season-high 13 3-pointers - but gave up too many offensive
rebounds and too many uncontested shots around the basket.
"For us to even be in the game, we're going to have to play
defense and we're going to have to rebound," Parsons said. "If we
do that, we'll have a chance. We understand that they're a good
team. We have to have the maturity and focus to know what they do
and be ready for it. But we're not intimidated at all."