In their first of two matchups on the year with Kentucky Saturday afternoon, the Florida Gators yet again fell in crushing defeat to the Wildcats 76-58.
Despite keeping it close throughout the first half of play—entering the half 35-29—Kentucky imposed their will in the second half at both ends of the court, separating themselves from the spiraling Gators squad.
As a sloppy game all around—containing 30 turnovers between the two squads—Kentucky's near 20 percent advantage from the floor paid dividends in the end.
Losing their second straight game, the Gators have fallen from the top of the league to the middle of the pack at 2-2 in conference play on the season, with little signs of getting back on track anytime soon.
However, before looking forward to the next competition with Ole Miss on Tuesday, here are three takeaways from the poor showing Saturday in Gainesville.
Keion Brooks's return sparked Kentucky
Starting the season off slowly—dropping six of their first seven contests of the year—Kentucky has started to resurrect their season as of late.
Entering the contest with Florida on a two-game win streak, the Wildcats found ways to squeeze past conference opponents like Mississippi State and Vanderbilt to build some confidence.
Coming to Gainesville, Kentucky finally put all the tools together in a way that hasn’t been seen so far this season, with a dominant victory over the Gators.
A major reason was the timely return to action for the only scholarship player from last season in Keion Brooks Jr. Participating in his first action of the year, Brooks accounted for 12 points on 6-for-8, six rebounds, and four assists from the field off the bench, providing a much-needed spark for the Kentucky scoring attack.
With his return, the experience that John Calipari's unit has sorely been lacking to begin the season returned to the rotation. As a result, the Wildcats imposed their will on a shaky Florida defense, leading to the 18-point margin of defeat for The Gators.
Kentucky’s size was too much to handle
Equipped with incredible length throughout the roster, Kentucky is a significant matchup problem for any team they face off against.
With seven of nine players to see action against Florida on Saturday standing 6-foot-6 or taller, the shear intangibles that Kentucky contained was no match for the smaller Gators team.
Especially in the form of seven-footer Olivier Sarr and 6-foot-7 guard Brandon Boston Jr.
Combining for 23 points, six rebounds, and five assists, the lengthy duo combined for over a quarter of the Wildcats scoring on the night and proved too much for the Gators to contain.
In the end, the talent of Kentucky’s roster won the contest, but the lack of height on Florida’s roster made it a larger margin than it could have been given more length.
Tre Mann’s struggles shooting directly affect Florida’s offensive efficiency
31 minutes of action, but just 2-for-9 from the field and seven points to show for it.
All season long, Florida offensively has predominantly been orchestrated through Tre Mann in some form of fashion.
Whether it be his facilitation abilities or by way of his smooth shooting stroke beyond the three-point line, Mann’s significance to the squad’s offense remains large for a Gators team that has sputtered in its past two outings.
Leading all Gators scorers on the year with 13.6 points per game, Mann has been a consistent production piece offensively, an essential one.
However, in a game that required his increased presence due to Kentucky's length inside the arc defensively, Mann failed to show, and it was evident on the scoreboard.
In a season that UF has lost Keyontae Johnson, the epitome of consistency is no longer amongst the fold, creating a dangerous need for big performances from different players to win basketball games.
A recipe that nearly never guarantees sustained success, Mann’s shakiness needs to be fixed quickly, or the Gators could find themselves in the midst of another below-par season.