Florida Gators chase rare sweep of Kentucky Wildcats

GAINESVILLE — The last time Florida coach Mike White was in Rupp Arena, UF found itself losing 42-18 to Kentucky with just under six minutes remaining.In the first half.“It wasn’t a great experience,” White said on Friday.But after the Gators’ 88-66...

Florida Gators chase rare sweep of Kentucky Wildcats

GAINESVILLE — The last time Florida coach Mike White was in Rupp Arena, UF found itself losing 42-18 to Kentucky with just under six minutes remaining.

In the first half.

“It wasn’t a great experience,” White said on Friday.

But after the Gators’ 88-66 home win against the Wildcats on Feb. 4, it’s safe to say White and his players have washed the bad taste from last year’s loss out of their mouths.

Still, Florida isn’t expecting a repeat performance of that win against Kentucky.

“We’re not 22 points better than them,” White said. “We know that.”

When No. 13 Florida (23-5, 13-2 SEC) plays No. 11 Kentucky (23-5, 13-2) at 2 p.m., hoping for its first regular season sweep of UK since 2014, the game will hold more meaning than usual.

The Gators can earn their 10th consecutive victory and extend the program’s longest win streak in the past three years.

They can take sole possession of the top spot in the SEC with just two more games remaining.

And they can inch one step closer to securing the SEC regular season title for the first time under White and the second time in the last four years.

Despite all of that, White hasn’t discussed the possibility of winning the SEC once with his team.

“Our guys, they’re on social media. They read the Internet. I wish they’d read it less,” White said. “They know it’s a big game.”

Mike Bianchi credits University of Florida athletic director for not hiring Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze

Mike Bianchi credits University of Florida athletic director for not hiring Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze

Mike Bianchi credits University of Florida athletic director for not hiring Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze

Mike Bianchi credits University of Florida athletic director for not hiring Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze

The Gators are ranked No. 15 and riding a seven-game winning streak. But coach Mike White's team suffered a major blow Tuesday at Auburn when center John Egbunu tore his left ACL to end his season.

The Gators are ranked No. 15 and riding a seven-game winning streak. But coach Mike White's team suffered a major blow Tuesday at Auburn when center John Egbunu tore his left ACL to end his season.

UF men's golf coach J.C. Deacon had high hopes entering the 2016 postseason. But the Gators fizzled. Deacon and his players feel like they are a closer and better team because of this experiences. 

UF men's golf coach J.C. Deacon had high hopes entering the 2016 postseason. But the Gators fizzled. Deacon and his players feel like they are a closer and better team because of this experiences. 

UF PG Kasey Hill's improvement and consistency has been a big key to the Gators' success. Hill looks to bounce back from an uncharacteristically poor outing vs. Texas A&M (three points, five turnovers).

UF's five-game winning streak was in jeopardy. But following a timeout the Gators came alive against Texas A&M and rode the play of some of the team's veteran players to a 71-62 victory.

Coming off a double-digit win against South Carolina on Tuesday, White’s players are confident.

The Gators will likely have a slightly healthier version of guard Canyon Barry available, UF’s second-leading scorer who injured his ankle Feb. 18 against Mississippi State and logged just nine minutes against the Gamecocks.

They’ll have a confident Kevarrius Hayes, the sophomore center who has filled in for injured starter John Egbunu after Egbunu tore his left ACL against Auburn on Feb. 14. During the past two games, Hayes has put up an impressive 16 points, 16 rebounds, four blocks, three steals and made five of his seven shots.

And the Gators will have a surging KeVaughn Allen. The sophomore guard is coming off one of his best performances of the season, when he scored 26 points on 71.4 percent shooting during UF’s win over South Carolina. It was also one of Allen’s best defensive games of the season — he collected a season-high seven defensive rebounds to go along with two steals and a block.

“He was flying around; he was focused,” White said. “We’ve challenged him for a long time and he’s embraced it.”

And just like UF’s win against Kentucky earlier in the season, Allen hopes a second victory against the Wildcats will give the Gators more positive momentum heading into the postseason.

“That gave us a lot of confidence,” Allen said. “Knowing that just playing hard and just staying together, we could accomplish anything and beat one of the best teams in the country."

White and Allen said one of the keys will be limiting Kentucky’s leading scorer Malik Monk, just like UF did during its first win over the Wildcats this season. During that meeting, Monk scored 11 points, down from his 21.1 points-per-game average, and missed 10 of his 14 shots.

“It’s very tough guarding him. You never know what you’re going to get,” Allen said.

“They're all hard to guard.”

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