Mike White says Kentucky won SEC title because of its defense

Kentucky players celebrated after forcing a late Florida turnover. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Florida coach Mike White knows how it easy it is to overcome a big deficit or lose a big lead. His team had beat Alabama when it was down 21 and downed Georgia after falling behind by 22. But it has also blown a 16-point lead to Mississippi State.

On Saturday Florida had a 57-39 lead over visiting UK with about 12 minutes to play in a game it needed to win to get a double-bye in the SEC Tournament and also help its shaky NCAA Tournament resume.

“We had every opportunity and didn’t take advantage. And (UK) was terrific down the stretch.”  White said after his team got just four field goals in the final 12 minutes.

“We’re not the toughest team. Championship-level teams can go on a scoring droughts and not have a drop-off defensively; and they can make eight straight shots and not have a drop-off defensively. My team doesn’t have that and it starts with me. I haven’t found out how to get that done with this team.”

White pointed out to his team that Kentucky knew how to do things like that — even if  UK fans might have wondered after the Cats blew a 17-point lead to Tennessee Tuesday and then came to Florida without Ashton Hagans because of “personal reasons” that were not really explained by anyone.

“I told our guys that Kentucky won a (league) championship — whether they’ve cut nets down or not, I don’t know, since they’ve won a bunch of them — because of the way they executed down the stretch defensively. They defended without fouling. They got defensive rebounds. They altered shots at the rim,” White said.

“The guys who were supposed to go to the offensive glass went every time and made every one of those big plays at the end, but especially defensively.

“We’ve shown it in spurts. Our last game (at Georgia]) we were terrific defensively. Just the awareness, focus, discipline, the toughness. Hopefully, in Nashville (at the SEC Tournament), we can take another step in that direction.”

Just like Kentucky did with its heroics the last 10 minutes of Saturday’s game.

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