UK looks to roar into SEC tourney in trip to Gainesville


#11 Chris Chiozza of the Florida Gators tries passing the ball around the back of Sacha Killeya-Jones #1 of the Kentucky Wildcats during the game against Florida Saturday, January 20, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Florida defeated Kentucky 66-64. Photo by Carter Gossett | Staff

AJ Harris

On Jan. 20, UK basketball lost its fifth game of the 2017-18 season to the Florida Gators in Rupp Arena 64-66. The Cats (21-9, 10-7 conf.) will look to avenge their loss to the Gators (19-11, 10-7 conf.) on Saturday, March 3, at noon as they travel to Gainesville, Florida.

The Gators were led by Jalen Hudson, who had 17 points in Florida’s win over Kentucky. Following him with big games were Keith Stone (14 points) and Chris Chiozza (13 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds). For the Cats, the 10 points by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Wenyen Gabriel were not enough as the Cats fell to 14-5 on the season.

This is a big game for both teams heading into the SEC Tournament. UK comes into the game on a four-game winning streak in a three-way tie with Florida and Arkansas for third place in Southeastern Conference.

After beating Mississippi on Wednesday, the Cats will receive their seed for the conference tournament. If UK beats Florida, UK will be the No. 3 seed in the SEC Tournament and will play at 9:30 p.m. Friday against either the No. 6, 11 or 14 seed after a double-bye.

The Cats could still receive a No. 4 seed with a loss to Florida. For that to happen, Missouri needs to beat Arkansas in that SEC matchup in Columbia, Missouri, later on Saturday. UK will be the No. 5 seed with a loss to Florida and a Razorback win.

If Florida wins on Saturday, the Gators will receive the No. 3 seed. Tournament games begin on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, at 7 p.m. EST at the Scottrade Arena in St. Louis, Missouri. 

Looking ahead to Saturday, the Cats have been really good as of late, often having five or more players in double figures. If Kentucky hopes to win, PJ Washington and Jarred Vanderbilt will need to bring big performances. The two seem to have a basketball bond like no other, shown by the amount of chemistry the two have when on the court together.

Quade Green is the other standout in this game for the Cats. In the last four games, Green has scored in double figures, producing 18 points in the team’s latest matchup versus Ole Miss.

Florida is coming into the game after a 73-52 win against Alabama on Feb. 27. Junior guard Hudson had a big night, posting 27 points shooting 9-13 from field and 3-5 from the 3-point line.

If the Gators hope to come out with a win against Kentucky, they will rely heavily on their guard play. Hudson (15.4 ppg), Egor Koulechov (13.7) and KeVaughn Allen (11.3) average the bulk of the team’s points.