Florida (23-5, 13-2) at Kentucky (23-5, 13-2)
When: Saturday, February 25th 2017
Where: Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY
Time: 2:00 ET | TV: CBS
The Kentucky Wildcats and Florida Gators will battle Saturday afternoon in Lexington with first place in the SEC on the line with only a few games left. The red-hot Gators extended their winning streak to nine games with an 81-66 victory over South Carolina on Tuesday, and have won those nine games by an average of 20.5 points. One of those victories was an 88-66 thumping of the Wildcats in Gainesville on February 4th that snapped a five-game slide in the series as senior guard Kasey Hill (9.7 points per game) matched a career high with 21 points. The Gators are fourth in the SEC in scoring (79.6 points per game) and have eight players averaging at least 6.4 led by sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen (13.6), who scored 26 versus South Carolina to record his sixth game with 21 or more points this season. Senior guard Canyon Barry (12.7 points) was scoreless in nine minutes against South Carolina after rolling his ankle during a victory over Mississippi State on February 18th. Barry scored 30 in the 114-95 victory over Auburn on Valentine’s Day. Junior guard Chris Chiozza (6.5 points, 3.8 assists) has reached double-digits in points in the last five games – the longest stretch of his career. Junior Devin Robinson (11.2 points, 5.8 rebounds) pulled down nine boards in the first meeting as the Gators outrebounded Kentucky 54-29. Only two opponents reached their season average in scoring against the Gators this season – Georgia in overtime and Auburn in regulation.
The big concern for Kentucky entering this contest is the health of freshman De’Aaron Fox (knee), who is questionable to play. Kentucky coach John Calipari said it’s a game-time decision as to whether his star point guard, who averages 15.5 points and leads the SEC at 5.3 assists per game, takes the court. The Wildcats won at Missouri 72-62 on Tuesday – when Fox sustained his injury after falling to the court – for their fifth straight victory since the loss to the Gators. Freshman guard Malik Monk continues to lead the SEC in scoring at 21.1 points per game, but has scored a total of 27 points in the last two games combined and hasn’t reached his average in the last four. Freshman forward Bam Adebayo (13.0 points, 7.4 rebounds), who recorded nine points and seven rebounds in the first meeting, registered his fourth double-double of the season with 22 and 15 versus Missouri. Calipari can use sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe (13.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists) more if Fox cannot play or is limited. Kentucky is fourth in the nation in scoring at 88.2 points per game but that average has dipped to 76.0 in its last four games.
This is a classic revenge scenario for Kentucky after the humiliating loss in Gainesville earlier this month. Kentucky is deep enough to withstand Fox not playing. Center John Egbunu (7.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.5 blocks) of Florida is out for the season after tearing the ACL against Auburn and that is a huge loss for this game in particular. I like the Wildcats to roll in this one.
Pick: Kentucky -4
HEAD TO HEAD
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