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Florida coach Mike White praises UK’s defensive awareness, closing speed

EJ Montgomery’s defense drew praise from Florida coach Mike White. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

It wasn’t hard to understand why Florida coach Mike White thought Kentucky beat his team 65-59 at Rupp Arena Saturday night.

“I thought collectively they all guarded. Their perimeter players in particular defended the 3 at a high rate and really did a good job,” White said.

The Cats harassed Florida guard Noah Locke into 0-for-5 shooting from the field and he did not score in 24 minutes against Kentucky.

“They just didn’t allow any space. They’ve got really good speed on the perimeter. They defend led by (Nick) Richards and (EJ) Montgomery the interior so well. It’s tough to score in there as well. I don’t know where you’re supposed to score against them,” White said.

Wait. He’s not finished praising the Kentucky defense.

“Closing speed on Noah’s attempts. There was a couple times where I thought he had a decent look and then one of those fast guards whether it be (Immanuel) Quickley, (Tyrese) Maxey, (Ashton) Hagans is just sprinting at him,” White said.

“Just the awareness. They’re prepared. Noah has gained a reputation as a good shooter, he’s been shooting really well as of late. But then collectively, their ability to keep us out of the paint to negate some of those collapses is a factor as well.”

Same with Keyontae Johnson who had 19 points and nine rebounds but was ineffective scoring late in the game.

“I thought EJ Montgomery did a very good job down the stretch at just keeping him out of the paint,” White said. “They forced a bunch of turnovers in the second half.

“I just thought their attention to detail and their energy level was really good defensively in the second half. I told Coach (Calipari), ‘I just thought they really guarded.’ We got a few looks in the first half, not much opportunity in the second half.”

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