By LARRY VAUGHT
His team had won, but the coach was “exasperated” when he spent time with Chris Dortch, Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook editor, after the game.
“We have jump shooters and live and die with that,” the coach said. “We don’t guard consistently. It’s just frustrating.”
No, it wasn’t Kentucky coach John Calipari that was talking to Dortch. Instead, it was Florida coach Mike White after his team got beat by Tennessee.
Kentucky and Florida play Saturday afternoon with the winner getting the No. 3 seed in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. The loser could get the No. 4 seed — and a double bye into the SEC tourney quarterfinals — if Arkansas loses at Missouri. But if Arkansas wins to finish 11-7 in SEC play, the Kentucky-Florida loser will be the No. 5 seed at 10-6.
Florida won 66-64 at Kentucky Jan. 20. The Gators, though, had lost three straight games — including a home game to Georgia — before beating SEC leader Auburn 72-66 and then winning 73-52 at Alabama Tuesday. That was significant because the Gators lost 68-50 at home to Alabama on Feb. 3.
Florida will apparently be without freshman center Dontay Bassett Saturday. Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun reported Thursday that Bassett suffered a concussion in the win over Alabama and will not play Saturday. He had 12 points in the win over Auburn.
“It looked like Florida got it figured out at Alabama,” Dortch said. “Florida is playing with a lot of confidence again. But Kentucky is also coming in playing its best of the season.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari knows his team’s four-game win streak will be tested in a major way at Florida.
“We got to go to Florida, senior night, they’re waiting in the weeds, blue out, orange out, whatever it’s going to be, it’s going to be a hard, hard game for us,” Calipari said Wednesday after UK beat Ole Miss.
“But we’re in the position we want to be in to see if we can go do something special. But it will be hard. They’re a good team, they just went to Alabama and won by 25 or whatever they did, so they’re good.”
Calipari said beating Ole Miss “took everything off” the Cats going into Saturday’s noon game.
“ I don’t know if we’re good enough to win or not, but we didn’t need anything else on our plate. Less just go play this game. And I knew that the next game and it’s the very last game of the season and it’s all that was, it was going to be, and we have gone down there now and gotten smashed a couple times, like smashed,” Calipari said.
“I know how hard it will be and I’ll try to relay to these guys that this is going to be a hard game. Good team, good players, well-coached, in that environment. Would you want it any other way though? You’re at Kentucky, let’s go, see what happens.”