In the 146th meeting between the Kentucky and Florida basketball programs, the Gators took care of John Calipari’s Wildcats to improve head coach Mike White’s record against UK to 4-8.
Despite times of turmoil, the Gators once again showed the resiliency that has defined their season on and off the court to overcome a hot streaking Kentucky team.
Producing a back-and-forth battle that saw the Gators take a game-high ten-point deficit in the first half, 14 lead changes (Florida for 13:51 and Kentucky for 22:09), 9 ties (4:01) and a small margin of victory of just four, the historical SEC powerhouse of Kentucky fell in defeat to the Gators to drop their 14th game of the year while UF improved to 13-6 (9-5 SEC).
As a high-scoring contest that saw Kentucky fail to reach their sweet spot of 76 points, the Gators delivered a devastating loss to the Wildcats snapping their three-game winning streak.
Here are three takeaways from the contest.
Tre Mann can take the Gators far
I don’t think it’s too much to say that Tre Mann is the unquestioned best player on the Florida squad. When he’s at his best, the Gators significantly improve upon their play.
Seen as one of the most improved players in the nation from the 2019-20 season to 2020-21, Mann played at a level that supported those claims.
Producing a team-leading 21 points in 63.6% from the field (100% from beyond the arc) and eight rebounds, Mann once-again put together a performance that showcases the skillset that has been highly regarded throughout the year.
Seeing himself as the primary option in the offensive game plan, especially in the second half, Mann capped off his incredible evening with two clutch free throws to put the contest to rest with just 10 seconds left.
If Mann's efficiency starts to find more consistency going forward, Florida will be in an ideal position to make noise in the SEC tournament.
Anthony Duruji: The Energizer Bunny
The Gators needed momentum in Rupp Arena and it was delivered in a huge way.
Likely the most athletic player to walk the court each and every game he plays in, Anthony Duruji provided the Gators with the juice needed to overcome a motivated Wildcats team.
Punching through four emphatic dunks in the first half at the time markers of 14:38, 12:49, 5:57 and 2:56, Duruji showed off his vertical leap at multiple points to aid the Gators' efforts of keeping up, culminating in an incredible alley-oop slam from Tyree Appleby.
Accounting for 10 points, three rebounds and two assists, the production for Duruji dropped off at the half. However, when the team needed the energy, Duruji provided and deserves recognition for sparking the Gators unit to triumph.
Turnovers, turnovers and more turnovers
The Florida Gators' early efforts resulted in what looked to be a contest that was slipping out of their grasp by the second.
Seeing the deficit on the scoreboard continuing to build as the Kentucky offensive attack began to click, Florida was in desperate need of a momentum-shifting sequence.
Two straight triples by Noah Locke and Scottie Lewis followed by an emphatic slam by Lewis, first-half turnovers for Kentucky kept the Gators within striking distance going into the half.
Trailing throughout the longevity of the first half with their last lead of the period being 5 to 2, Florida entered the break down just one point after trailing by ten.
Turning over the rock in four straight possession when up 26-16 midway through the 1st half, Kentucky gave UF the opportunity to go on an 8-0 run, scoring 12 points off turnovers in the first half.
This rally was sparked by Kentucky's self-inflicted wounds, accounting for a multitude of turnovers throughout the contest. Totaling 15 turnovers (nine of which in the first half), Kentucky returned to their inefficient ways that have led to their worst season in quite some time.
Meanwhile, on the Gators' side, the TOs heated up in the second half (16 total) but had a limited impact on the game compared to Kentucky’s.
Carelessness with the basketball was a norm throughout from both sides, which had its lasting effect. Ultimately, the lack of ability to control the rock sat as the main factor in Kentucky’s heart-wrenching loss.
Florida will close out the year with matchups against Missouri and Tennessee with an opportunity to solidify their standing in the SEC prior to conference tournament play starting on Mar. 10.