By MARK LONG
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - No. 16 Florida is the only thing standing between top-ranked Kentucky and perfection.
With a victory Sunday in Gainesville, the Wildcats would become just the third team since 1956 to go unbeaten in Southeastern Conference play.
It's definitely on Kentucky's radar, but far from the team's top goal. After winning 21 consecutive games, being ranked atop the polls for the last six weeks and appearing to be a lock for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, the Wildcats have much loftier aspirations for the rest of the season.
For now, though, they will gladly settle for that undefeated mark.
"It means we're one step closer to the goals we set," forward Terrence Jones said. "It's a special thing to happen and I think this is a special team with a lot of great players. I think it just shows how much hard work we've been putting into every practice, executing each game plan and just listening to coach and doing everything he says."
Kentucky (29-1, 15-0) is the only SEC program to accomplish league perfection since Alabama in 1956.
The Wildcats went 16-0 in 1996 and went on to win the national championship. They did it again in 2003, but lost in the regional finals.
Coach John Calipari has downplayed the significance of going undefeated, even as the final game approaches.
"Every game has its own importance for this program," Calipari said. "We treat every game the same, so it doesn't matter who we're playing, it's treated the same way. We'll approach this game like every other game. And again, one way you look at it, it has no bearing on anything.
"Will we show up and play or will we let go of the game? We're going to find out about our guys. My thing is I just want them to compete. If that's not good enough, you know, Florida could make 25 3s on you. They come in and make 20 3s, all right, we go on to the (SEC) tournament as the 1 seed."
Having dropped two in row since losing versatile forward Will Yeguete, Florida would like nothing more than to play spoiler, especially with the game at home and on Senior Day.
The Gators (22-8, 10-5) will honor guard Erving Walker before the game. Walker was held scoreless (0-for-7 shooting) in Florida's last game against Kentucky, a 20-point loss that exposed Florida for being undersized on the perimeter and out-muscled in the post.
"Hopefully this time it will be a little different," Walker said.
Donovan said his players are confident they can beat anyone, but he also lauded the Wildcats for what they've already accomplished this season.
"It's always challenging regardless of any league, to be able to go undefeated," Donovan said. "Obviously they've got a terrific team. They've played very, very well. They're gifted, they're talented, they have good chemistry, they have length, they have size, they have shot blocking, they have guys that can shoot. They really have a lot of answers at just about everything that gets thrown at them."
Donovan coached against the two previous Kentucky teams that went undefeated, and having spent two decades in the league - 16 as Florida's head coach and four as an assistant at Kentucky - he knows as well as anyone how difficult it is to run the table.
"It's happened before, but it's not like it's something that's happening on a regular basis," Donovan said. "I think it's a real hard feat and an impressive feat."
The Gators, who are 14-1 at home this season, have never hosted a No. 1 team at the O'Connell Center. The last time Florida faced the top-ranked team at home was on Feb. 4, 1978, an 88-61 loss to Kentucky at Florida Gym.
Florida is 0-8 all-time against top-ranked Kentucky teams.
The Gators would love to snap the streak.
Keeping the streak alive might mean more to the Wildcats.
"That'd be a great accomplishment to go undefeated in conference," guard Marquis Teague said. "So we're going to go on the road, compete and try to get a win."
Updated March 3, 2012