WILDCATS “TAKE IT PERSONAL” to KEEP SPECIAL SEASON on TRACK
Brendon D. Miller, Midwest News and Sports – February 7, 2015
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA – Kentucky passed its stiffest test to date tonight with a 68 – 61 win in an intense and raucous Stephen O’Connell Center here in Gainesville, on Saturday Night. Sure the CATS were favored to win tonight, but being on the road on the SEC makes betting lines and what should happen a goal but not a certainty.
The CATS toughed this game out as the Gators certainly brought it in a venue and atmosphere the likes of which the CATS will not have to face the rest of the year. The game began just as Billy Donovan wanted, as the crowd and the “Rowdy Reptiles” give the Gators max intensity, Michael Frazier and Dorian Finney-Smith hit back to back threes for a 6 – 2 start and 8 – 5 lead at the first media timeout. This was a familiar script for the upper classmen as it must have brought up thoughts of the three losses that Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Willie Cauley-Stein, Dominique Hawkins, Dakari Johnson, and Marcus Lee, suffered at the hands of the Gators last year. Aaron Harrison in the post-game presser said the returning Wildcats had “took it personal” (the losses) and it was motivation for them in this game, and they needed it during this battle that felt like a heavy weight title fight. Ten first half Kentucky turnovers, the Gators shooting 44% from the field, and two personals on each Aaron and Andrew Harrison led to a 30 – 28 Gator lead at the half. Only four Wildcats scored in the half with Karl-Anthony Towns leading the way with 11, Devin Booker having 8, Aaron Harrison 5, and Cauley-Stein 4 points.
The second half began with the CATS tying the score on a layup by Booker, but the largest lead the rest of the way by either team outside the final minute would be five points. The game changer was WCS’s monster slam over Devin Robinson at the 12:09 mark. The score was 44 – 42 Gators at that time, and the And 1 make by WCS put the Cats up 45 – 44. It was a SportsCenter Top 10 candidate, and the CATS would never trail again the rest of the way. Aaron Harrison poured in 18 in the second half hitting two big threes and leading the CATS with 23 points on the night. Cal has been saying all year, that when the game is on the line, Aaron is the go to guy, and when the CATS needed a bucket tonight, Aaron was the man, with several crowd-taming daggers that stopped the Gators momentum each time. Towns said post-game, “Not many teams in the country have a player like Aaron Harrison. Luckily, we have the only one.” Towns put up All-American numbers with 19 points, on 6 for 10 shooting, with 8 boards, 3 assists and 2 blocks. Two other CATS were in double figures with WCS having 13 and 5 boards, and Booker with 12 and 4 boards. Tyler Ulis was the steadying influence at the point putting in 33 minutes with 5 assists and only 2 turnovers against the withering pressure put on by the Gators.
Seth Davis tweeted that this was the most impressive win of the season for the CATS, and I agree. Deficiencies in the past games were remedied. The CATS have had problems closing games, but not tonight, shutting the door by going 16 for 17 in the second half from the line and 21 for 22 for the game. Many times with Cal teams, free throw shooting has been an issue, but it was the nail in the Gator coffin tonight. Rebounding has also been an issue in the last month or so, and the CATS won the battle on the glass 33 to 20 overall, and on the offensive boards 11 to 6. Motivation will continue to be an issue as the CATS go forward. Hopefully LSU, Arkansas, and Georgia have done something these CATS will “take personal” if this is the kind of performance that results. On we go BBN!!
Game notes by UK Athletics:
Kentucky Postgame Notes – No. 1/1 Kentucky vs. Florida – O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Fla.
Feb. 7, 2015 – Attendance: 12,578 – FINAL SCORE: No. 1/1 Kentucky 68, Florida 61
Team Records and Series Notes
- With the win, Kentucky is 23-0, 10-0 in the Southeastern Conference. Florida dropped to 12-11, 5-5 SEC.
- Kentucky owns a 95-37 all-time record against Florida, including a 34-24 edge in Gainesville, Fla.
- Kentucky improved to 4-2 under head coach John Calipari in when ESPN’s College GameDay is on hand.
- Kentucky will return to action on Tuesday, Feb. 10 with tipoff slated for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
- The only undefeated team remaining in the nation, Kentucky is the all-time wins leader in college basketball with 2,163.
- With 23 consecutive wins to open the year, tied the 1965-66 Wildcats for the second-best start in program history.
- Kentucky is off to the best start under coach John Calipari.
- UK is two wins shy of equaling the best start in school annals.
- UK’s 23-game winning streak is the tied with the 1952 Wildcats for the eighth-longest streak in Kentucky history.
- UK’s 23-game winning streak is tied for the fifth-longest streak in single-season history.
- UK has won 45 of its last 47 games as the Associated Press top-ranked team.
- Calipari has a 175-37 record at Kentucky and a 620-177 overall on-court record in his career.
- Calipari has an 89-9 all-time record when coaching the nation’s No. 1 team, including a 48-4 mark at Kentucky.
- Kentucky has a league-leading 932-262 all-time record in SEC play.
- Kentucky was 21 of 22 from the free-throw line, which was a season-best 95.5-percent clip.
- Florida shot 24 of 49 (.490) from the field, which was the second highest shooting percentage by a UK opponent this year (Ole Miss – .492) and the best by a UK opponent playing on its home floor.
- The Wildcats took an early 2-0 lead on a Willie Cauley-Stein jumper with 18:46 remaining in the first half, and did not lead again until taking a 33-32 lead on a Karl-Anthony Towns bucket with 18:21 remaining in the second half.
- After taking a 45-44 lead on a Willie Cauley-Stein dunk with 12:01 to go in the game, Kentucky never trailed again.
- Kentucky finished the game on a 9-2 run.
- Just five Wildcats scored in the game, with four of them (Towns, Cauley-Stein, Aaron Harrison and Devin Booker) each scoring in double figures.
- Kentucky extended its streak of games with a 3-pointer to 923 consecutive games, the second longest streak in the nation.
- Kentucky finished with four steals as a team, which was a season low.
- Kentucky out-rebounded Florida 33-20, and Florida’s 20 rebounds was the fewest total by a UK opponent this year.
- Sophomore guard Aaron Harrison scored 23 points, with 18 of them coming in the second half.
- Harrison’s 23 points were the second-highest single-game total by a Wildcat this season, trailing only his 26 vs. Ole Miss on Jan. 6.
- He was a perfect 8 of 8 from the free-throw line, which was the best total by a Wildcat who shot 100 percent from the line in a game this season.
- Harrison shot 3 of 6 from 3-point range, marking the fifth time this season he has made three or more shots from the perimeter.
- Freshman forward Karl-Anthony Towns grabbed a game-high eight rebounds, and added 19 points, tying his career high.
- He led UK in rebounds for the second game in a row.
- Towns’ two blocks were also a game high, and marked the second-straight game he has led UK in blocks.
- He dished three assists, one away from his career high.
- Junior forward Willie Cauley-Stein scored 13 points, and was 5 of 5 from the free-throw line.
- Cauley-Stein shot 100-percent from line in a single game for the first time in his career when attempting three or more free throws.
- Freshman guard Devin Booker scored 12 points.
- He has scored in double figures in four of the last five road games.