Three Takeaways From Florida’s 65-59 Loss To Kentucky
Turnover after turnover, No. 10 Kentucky (22-5, 12-2 SEC) made enough mistakes late to almost choke a commanding lead.
It seemed that Florida’s contest against the Wildcats was well in hand, until UK coughed it up a few times to allow UF to claw back to within two with less than a minute to play. However, Kentucky hit its free throws and got a key stop late to eventually sink the Gators (17-10, 9-5 SEC), 65-59.
Florida played perhaps better than most expected. Here are three things we learned:
Kerry Blackshear Jr. just isn't what we thought
The graduate transfer from Virginia Tech has to have regressed at the fastest pace as anybody in the nation.
Thought to be Florida’s go-to guy a few months ago, he’s a liability now. Constantly in foul trouble and unable to dominate the paint, he’s not the difference-maker he once seemed to be.
He had 18 against the Wildcats on 6-14 shooting, but it felt off. He had a few bone-headed turnovers late and the thought-to-be double-double machine only cranked out six rebounds.
It felt like he would run the show for the orange and blue before the season. It felt like he was the missing piece. That is clearly not the case now.
Keyontae Johnson needed to be more aggressive down the stretch
The sophomore forward had an excellent first half. Eleven of his 19 points came in the first twenty minutes of action.
His 4-7 field goals felt so smooth. It felt like he could get whatever he wanted with every drive to the hoop.
While he still had eight points in the second half, it was a much clunkier eight points. Kentucky made some defensive adjustments to clog the paint and not allow him to slash to the hoop the way he did in the first half. That was the key difference in this game.
Johnson had the best game of any Gator, but the tough finish allowed UK to prevail. Even still, his performance was easily the most promising part of the night for the orange and blue.
Noah Locke picked a bad game, to have a bad game
The biggest X-factor of this team is Noah Locke. When he shoots well, Florida usually wins. His floor spacing gets Johnson and point guard Andrew Nembhard open lanes to beat teams inside off the dribble.
But 0-5 from the three-point line is not going to spread the floor.
That just won’t work. Locke has to shoot better than that. In one of the biggest games of the season in Lexington, he had his second-worst game of the year.
Since he is really the only shooter in a Florida uniform that ever has the chance to get lethally hot, teams obviously focus in on him. This means that if teams are up in his grill early on in the game, it is up to Johnson, Nembhard and everybody else to play inside-out basketball to work Locke open shots.
But when you take five and miss five, that doesn’t really matter at all. The Gators can just mail in the idea of sinking rapid threes if they aren’t falling for Locke.