UK-Florida: Things to watch

Three things to watch for as UK (16-5, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) travels to play Florida (17-5, 6-2 SEC) Saturday 9 p.m. on ESPN:

1. The bounceback factor — UK went to Mississippi Tuesday to play a team that had won a single conference game and lost by two points. The upperclassmen who head coach John Calipari has been urging to take control of the team didn’t do so, failing to score a single point between them in the second half.

“The schedule only gets tougher,” Terrence Jones said after the loss.

He’s right. Florida is up next, and it’s a night game during ESPN Gameday (first 500 students into the arena get free breakfast, along with a free look at former college basketball coach Bob Knight). Then it’s Tennessee and Vanderbilt consecutively after that, as UK stares down a crucial three-game stretch.

The good news: Teams coached by John Calipari haven’t dropped back-to-back games since 2004-05.

Standing in the way of that streak, however, is Florida. The Gators were picked to win the SEC in the preseason because they were returning all five starters from last year. Losses to Central Florida and Jacksonville cast doubt on that prediction, but Florida is on top of the East. A UK loss would drastically alter its chances of climbing back to the top of the conference standings.

2. The Depth Difference — UK is running what is essentially a six-man rotation, with a dash of Eloy Vargas thrown in from time to time as needed. Fatigue has been mentioned as a possible source of UK fading late in games, although Calipari and the players say it isn’t an issue. Still, Calipari talked before the Ole Miss game about cutting Darius Miller’s minutes to ensure he’s at full force at all times when on the court. Regardless, those six players are always counted on to play the vast majority of the minutes.

Florida, on the other hand, has a deep rotation. The Gators have eight players averaging at least 13 minutes a game, and two more play seven minutes a game. Additionally, Florida is very balanced; it has seven players who use between 19 and 25 percent of the team’s overall possessions. UK has three.

“We’re playing six, seven guys,” Calipari said after the Ole Miss game. “If a couple guys don’t show or play poorly, we’ll struggle.”

3. The End Game — Darius Miller passed on a three-pointer in the closing seconds of the loss to Ole Miss, a decision that has been examined enough. And DeAndre Liggins looked unaware of the dwindling shot clock. Calipari wants more fight out of his team and better execution at the end of games.

Florida has the experience at the end of games to make a difference if this game comes down to the final minutes. The Gators have played in four overtime games, and won three — beating Tennessee, Georgia and Vanderbilt in extra periods while losing to Jacksonville in OT earlier in the year. Florida is 6-3 in game decided in either extra periods or when decided by five points or less, while UK is 0-3.

What the stats say: gives UK a 61 percent chance of winning.

What Florida does well: Offensive rebound (grabbing 39.4 percent of available offensive rebounds, 10th in the nation), avoid fouling (opponents attempt 26.4 free throws out of 100 field goal attempts, sixth in the nation).

What Florida does not do well: Create turnovers (force a turnover about one in five possessions, slightly below the national average) and shoot free throws (64.7 percent shooting).