No. 10 Kentucky is home for the second straight Saturday, this week in a matchup with the Florida Gators inside Rupp Arena. Kentucky looks to extend its five-game win streak against one of Coach Calipari’s biggest adversaries every year.
Kentucky (11-2 SEC) has taken a two-game lead in the SEC standings after defeating LSU (9-4 SEC) this past Tuesday in Baton Rouge, while Auburn (9-4 SEC) has suffered two straight losses in conference play. Florida (9-4), on a three-game winning streak has made it a three-way tie for second place in the league.
With a win Saturday, Kentucky can be considered front-runner for the regular season SEC title. With a loss, the Gators have the opportunity to take second place, making the final stretch of SEC play a bit more interesting when it comes to standings.
Florida is playing some of their best basketball of the season at the moment, blowing out three straight SEC foes heading into Saturday’s game.
“Watching tape of them too, they’re good,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. “There was a couple games that they lost that I watched that they had and they kind of let go. They’ve got some size, their guard play. They’ve got some veterans. They’re good.”
The player to watch for Florida is Keyontae Johnson. He’s is averaging 13.7 points and seven rebounds per game, scoring over ten points in each of the last nine games for the Gators.
The 6-foot-5 sophomore led the way for Florida in a win Tuesday against Arkansas, dropping 24 against the Razorbacks while shooting 15-of-17 from the free throw line. Foul trouble is something that Kentucky’s guards have struggled with at times this season, and is a key for success for Florida this weekend.
For Kentucky, Nick Richards has to have a big game on both sides of the ball, if he plays. He suffered an ankle injury against the LSU Tigers Tuesday night, but said Friday afternoon he feels pretty good.
“I think my ankle’s pretty good. I’m just going day by day, getting treatment on it every day, listening to my trainer and that’s basically it,” Richards said.
He’d be going up against Kerry Blackshear, who is one of the top centers in the country. Richards, averaging 14.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, has had an unbelievable season and this matchup can be a testament to who he really is and why he’s in the conversation for SEC Player of the Year.
Richards practiced Friday, but said they’ll see how he does and go from there. Ashton Hagans is also dealing with an injury from the LSU game—he suffered a thigh contusion in the second half.
“I’m not sure,” sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley said of Hagans’ status. “I just know from what everybody else knows that he took a hard spill. I think it started from, I can’t remember what game it was, he took a hard spill on his back and I think it hurt him more at LSU. So, we hope we can get him back. But if not, we’ve just got to be ready to go.”
Tip-off is at 6:00 p.m. inside Rupp Arena in Lexington this Saturday. Tickets are already sold out for the game, but you can catch it live on ESPN.