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Small lineup gives UK spark it needs to beat Florida 66-57

Kentucky players enjoyed Saturday’s pregame but also enjoyed the finish. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky needed some kind of a spark and the Cats found it when coach John Calipari went to a smaller lineup against Florida Saturday.

Kentucky went with four guards — Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson — along with PJ Washington and went on a 15-2 run that opened a 54-42 lead with 5:41 left. The Cats went on to win 66-57 in their final regular season game.

“We have been working on that (going small),” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “(Florida coach) Mike (White) went small. We can’t have lapses like we did but the way we finished the game, the will to win …”

The victory moved UK up to second in the SEC Tournament seedings because earlier in the day Tennessee lost at Auburn. The Vols and UK both finished 15-3 in league play but UK will now play an earlier game on Friday in Nashville instead of the final quarterfinal game.

Tyler Herro led UK’s balanced scoring attack with 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting while PJ Washington went 6-for-14 and had 15 points. Both Ashton Hagans and Keldon Johnson had 14 points. Washington had a team-high nine rebounds while Johnson had seven, EJ Montgomery seven and Herro six.

“Tyler wasn’t guarding in the first half because he was going under screens because it was easier. Why would you do this?” Calipari said. “But in the second half, he did more.”

Calipari said Washington missed “five one-footers” in the first half or he could have had 25 points.

“In the second half he did it all. We need 40 minutes like that,” Calipari said.

The Gators were just 19 of 46 from the field and missed seven of eight shots in a six-minute stretch when UK’s surge put the game out of reach.

“We guarded their 3’s, but they missed some open shots. I am happy with the way we played,” Calipari said. “I told them you don’t play up to the team you are playing. You play to what we are training. We are going to stay with that.”

Florida coach Mike White said only getting six turnovers against a Kentucky team he thinks could be the nation’s best defensive team was outstanding.

“We did a lot of good things offensively but we didn’t make foul shots and some other things,” White said.

Two plays — a difficult catch in traffic and baseline fadeaway just before the shot clock expired by Washington and then a Herro drive through the lane and left-handed finish in the lane — had the Rupp Arena crowd erupt during UK’s streak. This will be the last time that over 23,000 fans are in Rupp Arena because of the seating renovations that will take place during the offseason.

Kentucky also played again without Reid Travis, who has missed five games with a sprained knee. Calipari said he’s “stayed out of” asking about Travis’ status to avoid putting any pressure on him.

“If we get him back, I will do back flips. If not, we will be fine,” Calipari said.

“With what they have right now, they are terrific,” White said. “PJ Washington is turning into one of these big shot guys, timely guys. They have good connectively offensively but defensively they are elite. We missed a bunch of altered shots.”

The Kentucky coach has never been a fan of the SEC Tournament. That has not changed going into Friday’s SEC tourney opener for the Cats.

“They say tournaments don’t really matter, so if we lose in the first round we should be whatever seed we were (for the NCAA Tournament),” Calipari said. “But it won’t be that way for us.”

19 comments

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  1. Another extremely underwhelming win. We did not look like a No.1 seed today. Hopefully Reid will be back for SEC tourney plan. He gives them a second big that has to be accounted for.

    1. But they still won. Won without a key player too. Next game please.

  2. The W feels awful good and TG for the FT line. Our record seems to be much better than our play. My back has been in spasm for last couple days, and I will go easy on this post tonight because of that but will bring my critique tomorrow. I know many of you cheerleaders won’t, as usual, be in agreement with what I will have to say but, I will challenge any of you doubters to show me where I am wrong.

  3. Nothing new Mike bring it.

  4. What a mess! We have a school that is going to win the conference season, get a number 1 seed in the SEC tournament, maybe even win it…just to vacate those wins when the FBI investigation gets to court. The league should suspend LSU from tournament play and err on the side of being responsible, ethically speaking. If it were us in the same situation, I don’t think we would get anything less than that.

  5. The way we have been playing the last 4-5 games I don’t think we can handle LSU, UT, or maybe even SC.

    1. You mean that UT team that just lost to Auburn? That LSU team that beat UK wholly due to a bad call? That SC team that UK dominated in Columbia?

      1. Pup….Yes I am talking about the UT team that Kicked our ass in K-ville. They have still played at a higher level thru the season and Auburn has the talent to beat any team when they are on their game. I am still talking about a LSU team that is 9-0 on the road and has also equal or better talent than us and has also played with more consistently than us thru season. Remember we are only winning 1 half of a game, and yes I am also talking about a USC team that has played more consistently dpwn the stretch than we have. We still have inconsistency in many aspects of our game and have been very consistent with that last 4-5 games.

        1. Mike you were saying tbe cats were playing inconsistent back when the cats won ten in a row and now your still saying the same line. I just don’t get your negative thoughts through the season. It’s a long grinding season for these players to be playing compare our younger days. The way it is now I think they are pushing there body’s to far

            • Mike on March 10, 2019 at 5:58 pm

            Cats79..I had decided to not post the inconsistencies of the team after all but will change with your invitation. Negatives are not bad if they are truthful. If we continue to play as we have been lately, we will not close out SEC tourney or possibly even make Sweet 16 in big dance because…we have too many lapses during games both collectively and individually, we give more turnovers than we get, we are not a real good passing team, we are not a good in-close shooting team..dont’t remember a UK team missing this many shots at the rim, we have a hard time defending at the rim because we have guys that easily leave their feet and are foul prone, and we may have the 2 most over rated 5* bigs in all of college ball that have zero offense and mental toughness. One can only score at FT line and one has no confidence shooting at all. The latter did have some nice and timely boards and showed some good passing but also played 20 some mins. and zero points. I am very happy that we still find a way to win though. Now tell me where I am wrong.

        2. But UK keeps winning hoss. This UK team with Travis Reid whipped UT’s A$$ all over Rupp. Did you forget about that? Let UT lose Grant Williams or the Admiral and let’s see how they play then. My goodness the Cats beat USC by almost 30. If they win it don’t really matter does it?Oh you mean Will Wade’s LSU team that cheated recruiting? Losing Travis has hurt this UK team, but they have found ways to win without him. Mike you are going to complain no matter what they do. You count UK out before games are even played.

            • Mike on March 10, 2019 at 6:08 pm

            I am not trying out for the cheer leading team and are quite satisfied with just being arm chair “wanna be” coach. I do try and emulate some refs though by calling them as I see them and are probably too old to change. Am I being overly critical..probably yes but tell me where I am wrong.

          1. I just did. They don’t score games on inconsistency. They keep score. Whichever team scores the most points in the allotted time wins. Nobody is a cheerleader on this site. There are times to complain, but when they keep winning, and without a key player?
            Come on.

  6. We have to win the Friday game first. Whether we have Reid back or not, PJ has to come ready to play without fouling from the opening tip to the final horn. These last 4 games have hurt his draft stock. Let’s see if Reid is back on Friday and how much and how well he plays…if he plays. If he is ready, he needs to play Friday to get the rust off. There is no point in holding him back for a game that might not happen.

    1. PJ is playing ok. When you get double and triple teamed all game long it tends to slow the best of them down. His daft stock will be fine. Besides, this season is far from over.

  7. Were not world beaters like some people think we should be, but I like this group the way they have handle through out the season. Now the fun begins let the March madness begin. Go Cats!!

  8. This team is kinda pick your poison team someone has off night , but it seems someone else picks up the slack that’s how this team has won most of there games this season. Thats why I like our chances of going deep in March madness. That being said PJ doesn’t have to score 20 plus to win and we have done that withoutTravis being unable to play . But i will say we need Travis playing in order to win no. 9

  9. The winner of the UK-UT semi-final will win this tournament.

  10. http://bigbluefans4uk.com/2018-19DataandWritings/SEASON_WRITINGS/32A%20Has%20Kentucky%20Been%20Inconsistent%20This%20Season.pdf

    Consistency/inconsistency is relative. All teams play games that are off the charts good and all teams play games that and so poor that you wonder how it could be the same team. Check out a comparison of the consistency of the top 12 (Pomeroy) teams in the 2018-19 season.

    The most consistent have been Virginia, Tennessee, and Wisconsin and the least consistent have been North Carolina, Michigan State, and Gonzaga. Kentucky was the 5th most consistent in this group of 12 teams.

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