Kentucky (18-4, 8-1) at Florida (17-5, 7-2)
When: Saturday, February 4th 2017
Where: O’Connell Center, Gainesville, FL
Time: 8:15 ET | TV: ESPN
The Kentucky Wildcats fought through a flu-bug that hit the team to snap a two-game losing streak last time out, and will now face a tough Florida Gators team on the road in Gainesville. The Wildcats suffered losses at Tennessee (82-80) and home against Kansas (79-73) before rebounding for an overtime win at Georgia on Tuesday. Freshman guard Malik Monk’s jumper with eight seconds left forced overtime before Kentucky put away Georgia 90-81 as freshman point guard De’Aaron Fox sat out with the flu. Senior guard Mychal Mulder and freshman forward Sacha-Killeya Jones – a pair of key reserves – also missed the Georgia game because of illness, but Fox and Mulder are expected to return Saturday. Sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe (14.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists) is averaging 15.3 points, 11.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists in his last three games. Monk, whose 22.4 points lead the SEC after he exploded for 37 on Tuesday, is key to Saturday’s road contest and freshman forward Bam Adebayo (13.2 points, team-high 6.8 rebounds) needs to stay out of foul trouble as he’s recorded four fouls in four of the last five games.
The Gators sit in third-place in the SEC – one game behind the Wildcats and No. 20 South Carolina – after beating up Missouri 93-54 on Thursday for their third straight victory and will look to snap a five-game losing streak in the series. The Gators won their last three games by a combined 106 points while the Missouri game featured junior guard Chris Chiozza (5.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists) recording the fourth triple-double in school history with 12 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen (13.6 points) leads a balanced scoring attack with senior guard Canyon Barry (12.8) and junior forward Devin Robinson (11.8) the other double-figure scorers. Junior center John Egbunu (7.7 points, team-high 6.7 rebounds) and Robinson (5.7) control the paint with Robinson averaging 9.8 over his last five games. No opponent reached its scoring average in regulation against the Gators this season with Georgia needing overtime to do it in Florida’s 80-76 victory last month.
The O’Connell Center will be rocking tonight and the Gators are ready. They’ve been crushing opponents lately and Kentucky comes into visiting arenas with a target on their back. I expect a back-and-forth contest with the Gators pulling it out in the end.
Pick: Florida -1.5