No. 6 Kentucky carries SEC title hopes into Florida finale
On Senior Day, No. 6 Kentucky will be looking for continued contributions from a pair of freshmen when it hosts Florida on Saturday at Rupp Arena.
Freshmen wing players Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro combined to score 42 points in UK's 80-76 win over Ole Miss on Tuesday after struggling in Kentucky's 71-52 loss at Tennessee last Saturday --a game that put a dent in UK's SEC regular-season title hopes. But the duo bounced back in a big way in a road win at Ole Miss, with Johnson scoring 22 points and Herro adding 20.
"They want to do well," Kentucky coach John Calipari told reporters.
UK will need Johnson and Herro to stay playing at a high level because Calipari said starting forward Reid Travis will likely sit out his fifth straight game with a sprained knee. Travis hasn't played since injuring the knee on Feb. 19 at Missouri.
"I'm not going to count on him for Saturday," Calipari said. "I'm just not. If he says 'I think I can go,' and he practices a couple days, maybe shove him in a little bit. Get his feet underneath him. See how he does. Maybe not."
Sophomore forward PJ Washington has led the Wildcats (25-5, 14-3 SEC) all season, averaging 14.9 points and 7.4 rebounds to emerge as an SEC Player of the Year candidate. Kentucky needs to beat Florida and for Tennessee and LSU to both lose Saturday to clinch a three-way share of the league regular-season crown.
For Florida, it will serve as another just chance to pick up a statement win. A win over Kentucky would revive Florida's fading NCAA Tournament hopes.
"They are playing about as well as anybody in the country," Florida coach Mike White said of Kentucky. "You know, a golden opportunity."
The Gators (17-13, 9-8) have lost two straight are coming off an emotional 79-78 overtime loss on Wednesday night at home against No, 10 LSU. Florida had a chance to beat the Tigers as overtime expired, but off a broken play coming out of a timeout with 6.6 seconds left, senior guard KeVaughn Allen was unable to get a shot off before the buzzer.
The play was designed for senior guard Jalen Hudson, who scored a season-high 33 points in the loss. But Hudson slipped and nearly traveled before dishing the ball teammate Keyontae Johnson, who found Allen alone on the baseline. Allen tried to drive along the baseline and said after the game he lost track of time in failing to get a shot up before time expired.
Hudson, who has struggled for most of the season, is finally starting to heat up. The 6-foot-6 guard from Richmond, Va., has scored in double figures in five straight games, averaging 17.8 points per game during that span.
Florida will be looking to avenge a 65-54 home loss to Kentucky on Feb. 2. The Gators led by as many as 11 points in the second half but were unable finish the Wildcats off.
"One more opportunity," Hudson said. "Another Top 10 team. A really good team. Played them well here, a couple of bad plays down the stretch that went their way so, one more opportunity. Hopefully everybody can give it everything they have."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 8, 2019