GAINESVILLE -- In advance of Saturday’s marquee matchup, No. 3 Florida coach Billy Donovan called No. 14 Kentucky “top to bottom the most talented team in the country.”
The Gators -- the lone undefeated team in Southeastern Conference play -- take on the Wildcats in Rupp Arena tomorrow night in primetime (9 p.m., ESPN College GameDay).
Kentucky starts five of the top nine freshmen in ESPN’s 2013 prospect rankings, led by double-double machine Julius Randle (15.8 ppg, 9.9 rebs) and the Harrison twins (Aaron, Andrew).
Florida’s coach downplayed the youth versus experience (UF starts four seniors) angle though, saying, “Those guys have played a lot of basketball against a lot of good players. Right now, everybody’s got about 24-25 games under their belt. Those guys certainly, all their guys have logged an enormous amount of minutes. They’ve grown, too. I don’t look at it like that. Maybe it’s different at the first game of the year. Right now at this point in time, you’ve got a very experienced team in terms of roles, responsibilities and what they’re going through.”
The Gators have dropped eight of 10 against John Calipari’s McDonald’s All-American factory Wildcats and haven’t won in (rowdy) Rupp Arena since 2007.
UF senior center Patric Young admitted, “We let one slip out of our hands last year (61-57). It would be really special to finally get one and not go my whole career not winning there.”
While expounding on Kentucky's talent, Donovan also acknowledged he is wary of UK’s size and rebounding prowess, calling it the “ultimate test” and “extremely important in the outcome in the game.”
“It’s an impressive stat. They get it back a little bit more than 41% of their missed shots,” Donovan said. “They do a great job on the glass. … Kentucky’s depth in terms of two guys on the bench with the same level of length and size and physical strength, it makes them a good rebounding team.”
Florida, in the midst of a 16-game winning streak and just one victory shy of matching a school record, hopes its staunch defense (No. 1 scoring defense) can contain Kentucky’s explosive offense (No. 2 in scoring). A win (very likely) wraps up the SEC regular-season title for the Gators and keeps them in line for a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
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