Florida-Kentucky Preview

The Associated Press

Kentucky opened SEC tournament play with perhaps a tougher challenge than it expected, but the conference's only other ranked team hasn't been able to give the Wildcats much of a contest this season.

No. 22 Florida gets a third chance at the nation's top-ranked team in Saturday's semifinal matchup in New Orleans, also a rematch of last year's championship game.

Kentucky (31-1) rolled to a second straight SEC tournament title with a 70-54 win over the Gators last March, and Florida (23-9) has provided equally little resistance in this season's meetings.

The Wildcats - potentially marching toward the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament - won twice by an average of 17.5 points, including a 74-59 victory in Gainesville last Sunday to cap a perfect regular season in SEC play.

"They have really good chemistry, they're really together," Florida big man Patric Young said of Kentucky after that game. "No one's out there trying to score for himself. ... They have a really complete team. It will be really tough to beat them."

SEC player of the year Anthony Davis, who has averaged 19.0 points and 5.0 blocked shots in the two meetings with the Gators while shooting 17 of 26, is a huge reason why Kentucky is so tough. The freshman had 12 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks Friday in a 60-51 quarterfinal win over LSU.

John Calipari's team forced its way into the semifinals by holding the Tigers to 29.4 percent shooting, but the coach wasn't thrilled after Kentucky trailed in the second half and finished with 18 turnovers - its highest total against an SEC foe this season.

"I'll go back and watch the tape and see what adjustments (need to be made), because people will be watching the tape, saying 'This is how you need to play them,'" Calipari said. "And we have been played every way possible."

Still, none of the Wildcats' last 23 opponents have played them successfully, with Kentucky always finding someone to step up from its massive stable of talent. Friday's offensive leader was freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who scored a game-high 19 points.

Sophomore Terrence Jones added 15 after scoring 19 on 9-of-13 shooting last weekend against the Gators.

"They're obviously a terrific team," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "There's probably not a whole bunch that you're going to be able to tweak and change. ... There's only so much you can get prepared for."

Donovan's team earned another shot at an upset by holding off Alabama 66-63 on Friday despite squandering a 12-point lead in the second half. Kenny Boynton scored Florida's last five points with a 3-pointer and two free throws to help secure the win.

The fourth-seeded Gators delivered a workmanlike effort, winning even though the Crimson Tide shot much better - 53.3 percent to Florida's 38.5 percent. Florida matched a season low with five turnovers.

"Our team, we're mature," Boynton said. "We've been through everything, played the best teams throughout this year, so I think we'll come out (Saturday) and be ready to play."

Young has been the Gators' best weapon versus Kentucky this season, averaging 16.5 points while making 15 of 25 from the field, but Florida's guards have struggled.

Senior Erving Walker has totaled just eight points on 3-of-18 shooting against the Wildcats, while standout freshman Bradley Beal hit 1 of 10 shots Sunday. Beal led the Gators with 16 points Friday.

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