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Takeaways From Kentucky’s Comeback Victory At Florida

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky went down to Gainesville and ripped a victory from the Gators’ teeth by erasing an 11-point deficit to win by 11 points. It was one of the most impressive games of the entire season, considering the resiliency shown by the Cats against a great defensive team playing in front of arguably its best home environment of the year.

Florida’s defense was successful in disrupting Kentucky’s offense, but it couldn’t do enough to outplay Kentucky for an entire 40-minute game. In the end, the better team won the game because the better team wouldn’t quit.

Takeaways from the game…


Tyler Herro was Kentucky’s only weapon in the first half.

After back-to-back ice cold shooting performances against Kansas and Vanderbilt, Tyler Herro found his hot hand to open the game in Gainesville. It’s a good thing he did, too, because everyone else couldn’t hit the broad side of a Liquor Barn (Kentucky’s favorite beverage store for more than 30 years! #ad).

At one point in the game, right at the under 8:00 timeout, Herro was 4-for-4 from the field with 10 points, while the rest of the team was 2-for-16 from the field with a grand total of six points. Herro had the only made three-pointers when he went to the bench with his second foul, while his teammates missed their first 11 three-point tries (many on wide open looks) until Immanuel Quickley finally got one to fall, on his fifth attempt, in the final minute of the first half.

Without Herro, Kentucky’s first half shooting numbers would’ve been 8-for-30 from the field and 1-for-13 from outside.

The start of the second half was ugly.

Trailing by four to start the second half, Kentucky needed a hot start to gain control of the game and avoid falling into a larger deficit, but it was more of the same right out of halftime. Kentucky turned the ball over four times in five minutes to start the second half, allowing Florida to get out on a 9-0 run, which is the exact opposite of what we wanted to see. Kentucky had only one made basket in the first seven minutes as the Gators extended its lead to 11 points. Things were looking bleak, but then things got awesome.

Kentucky looked adversity in the face and kicked its ass.

One of the traits of a championship team is it keeps fighting when things aren’t going its way. When Kentucky wasn’t making shots, it could’ve checked out and started thinking about the flight home. Many teams would’ve done that; Kentucky did not. Kentucky only played harder when it got down by double digits and then eventually the shots started to fall. When that happened, it was night-night for Florida. UK’s defense kept the Gators from counterpunching and the Cats closed out the game with a 34-12 run.

PJ Washington shined yet again.

The light came on for PJ Washington a couple games ago, according to his head coach. Calipari said he noticed it first in practices in how Washington competed in drills and committed to conditioning, and it’s made him a completely different player on the court.

Washington was a fighter from the moment the ball was tipped down in Gainesville and he played his heart out the entire game, no matter the situation or the score. The shot wasn’t falling early, but he kept battling and kept fighting for balls and the end result was a win and yet another double-double, his third in a row.

He’s one of the best players in country right now and only he can get in his way.

Like Brad Calipari’s jacket, we saw two different versions of Keldon Johnson.

First Half Keldon Johnson was not fun to watch. In the opening minutes of the game, he took it to the rack on three straight possessions, only to have all three shots swatted a different direction. He also missed two deep balls and went to the half with only two points and little impact on the game.

Second Half Keldon Johnson, though; he was a blast. Second Half Keldon Johnson was much more active on the glass — he finished with eight rebounds — and involved in the game. He also hit two big three-pointers, one of which gave Kentucky the lead for the first time in the second half and for the final time in the game.

It silenced the home crowd.

Johnson said, “We had to get settled down, calm down, and play basketball. That’s what I did in the second half and I got things going a little bit.”

Or as Kenny Payne would say, he woke his ass up.

EJ Montgomery made quiet plays that won the game.

In his return to his home state, Montgomery played only 10 minutes against the Gators, but it was a big 10 minutes. Calipari went as far to say Montgomery changed the game in limited action. He said, “I’m so happy for EJ Montgomery because I thought he was the difference in the game. We needed one more big guy to do something, to go get balls, to come up off the floor, to be active defensively; he guarded the ball.”

Florida’s head coach, Mike White, said Montgomery’s rebounds were “deflating” to Florida’s efforts. Tyler Herro said he and his teammates fed off Montgomery’s energy. It was a quiet but important performance from the freshman big guy.

Kentucky’s defense is elite. 

Remember when it sucked? Now it’s one of the best in all of college basketball.

(And defense wins championships, ya know.)

A No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament is still up for grabs.

With eight straight wins, including four impressive road victories, Kentucky’s resume is looking as good as anyone’s right now. If the Cats can defend home court the rest of the season and win three of the four remaining road games, it will likely earn a top seed in the tournament and all will be forgotten from that dark November night in Indianapolis. Speaking of that, if you’re like me and you completely eliminated the Indianapolis game from your memory, Kentucky is 18-2 with the two losses coming by a total of three points. How’s that for a season????


Kentucky’s really good, folks. Like, really, really, really good. The next two months are going to be an exciting ride.


Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

44 Comments for Takeaways From Kentucky’s Comeback Victory At Florida

  1. 72uksprinter
    8:42 pm February 2, 2019 Permalink

    “Every picture tells a story, don’t it?”
    PJ has been doing it all for the past month or so.
    The most important of all his contributions?
    That SMILE.
    We keep seeing it, we know he is enjoying the game and his team and he knows how good he can and should be.
    Keep smiling, PJ, and your Cats will keep winning.
    All the way!

    • ibescootch
      12:32 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      All of your comments read like haikus 😉

    • henderblue
      6:54 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      I don’t want him smiling until the end of the game. I want to see him focused, with a little bit of a snarl.

    • ClutchCargo
      11:36 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      PJ used to snarl as he told everyone he was a badass. Now he smiles while he SHOWS that he’s a badass. See the difference?

    • henderblue
      12:27 pm February 3, 2019 Permalink

      As long as he’s focused and playing hard Clutch..

    • ClutchCargo
      12:01 am February 4, 2019 Permalink

      Focus + playing hard = PJ being a badass. He’s been doing it for a few games now.

  2. Han
    8:43 pm February 2, 2019 Permalink

    Michigan and Michigan St go down, Gonzaga in a close one right now.

    Looking good for a spot in the top 5 again.

    • Ridge Runner
      8:50 pm February 2, 2019 Permalink

      Yes sir…

    • 72uksprinter
      8:51 pm February 2, 2019 Permalink

      MSU was a really bad L; exposed them.
      Cal has made it clear to the Cats what that 1seed would mean.
      I get the feeling they are hungry to get it.
      That drive will come in handy at Kville and when things get close.
      They grew up again today.
      I think they have plenty of room to continue growing.
      And… I think they know that.
      Gotta be Top 5 by Monday.
      What a team!

    • mashburnfan1
      11:45 pm February 2, 2019 Permalink

      MSU 8-22 on free throws in an OT loss. If they are 50% they win in regulation {probably}, just 50%. Hard to believe a group of people can be at a major program and can’t make an unguarded shot from that distance. What the hell do High School and AAU coaches teach these kids? Look at Moses Brown at UCLA, highly ranked prospect and dude is lucky to hit rim on a ft. WOW.
      I guess Shaq made millions not being able to make an unguarded shot from ft line. And people try to argue he is one of the best ever….lol. He was just a freak athlete for his size but little bball talent.

    • catsarerunnin
      11:14 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      I bet bashburn is a real hoot at a party…

    • 4everUKblue
      7:16 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      Here we go with the excuses. Did MSU win?

    • CATandMONKEY
      9:19 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      Mash’s Season Tix are wasted on someone who will never enjoy one moment of UK Basketball or Football.


    • bigbluebanana
      9:44 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      At least you can count on him showing up here and making sure every miserable comment he makes let’s us know he’s a season ticket holder.

    • IrishCat
      10:13 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      My girlfriend just started watching basketball, but is really into learning more. Last week we went over what the 5 positions were and what they do (at least traditionally) She officially knows the game better than MashburnFan.

    • 4everUKblue
      10:14 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      banana, mashburnfan is neck and neck with BigolSlaterMedic for troll of the year award.

    • BigolBlue
      1:03 pm February 3, 2019 Permalink

      Nooo contest. Im gonna have to up my game then. No way mash has me beat

    • catsarerunnin
      3:39 pm February 3, 2019 Permalink

      I’m sure you would love to “beat” bashburn….

  3. Wade
    9:00 pm February 2, 2019 Permalink

    Good tough hard fought win! This is off topic but I just had a thought! How about the lakers trade lebron straight up for ad and put annoying ass lebron in no! Then lakers sign boogie and have rondo ad and boogie back with a decent supporting cast and sign some shooters ! I loved watching all 3 cats in no! Let’s do it again but upgrade it n la!

  4. Wade
    9:07 pm February 2, 2019 Permalink

    Can you imagine if all 5 starters and a few bench players have good/great games! We would be lethal! I hope when cal talks about peaking that’s what he’s trying to develop in each individual! I like the emergence of ej and time to shorten the bench by dropping bucks minutes.would that mean nick leaves next yr? Next yr would be his yr and we need him seeing we have no bigs signed for next yr… yet? Baker has a role quickley and I think now ej has earned the minutes? Sorry nick! Cal has a tough call but one that needs to be made.

    • michaelb
      9:52 pm February 2, 2019 Permalink

      We can’t write nick off that quick lololol. There is still games to be played where he will be instrumental. When we play teams with tall slasher/scoring type guys – we’re gonna be glad we have him. Have you not seen the games where he gets 4/5 blocks in minutes? Those times are coming again . We’re gonna need every big man we have vs Tennessee

    • Wade
      10:05 pm February 2, 2019 Permalink

      In March one bad game is it ,and he is inconsistent. Time to raise up ej. I love nick but blocks don’t get the ball just gives them a shorter clock. He can change the game for us but isn’t. I wish it wasn’t so bc he can alter shots and has a great shot but he has to want it!

    • jakew60
      1:44 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      Give the kid time and if he ain’t playing solid enough for the rest of the guys level then sit him unless needed but down the stretch he will be needed so instill confidence in him for the tournament, things will click even when he isn’t blocking he alters shots in the middle because teams won’t drive hard on him

    • IrishCat
      10:15 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      We need both Nick and EJ, and they can both deliver. Who gets the time will depend on situation. I’m still focused on this season, but those two can be an elite front court in 2020.

    • Wade
      2:45 pm February 3, 2019 Permalink

      True but he fouls, has no effort,weak hands,and is a head Case! He got slammed on if I remember on a put back he should of had! I’m not trying to be a hater bc I want nick to succeed but I have to speak the truth!He had good numbers against vandy because we blew them out and they were still defeated from that tn game they should have won! Vandy doesn’t even have a chance at the nit imo. If nick would just play, but I don’t think he knows. After a mistake he just waits to be pulled. HAve the attitude that if you make a mistake it was bc you gave your all and look at cal and say I’m good I got this and I know cal will let him play if….. and only if he gives 100% heart and effort. If not SIT! Too much what are you doing with nick!

    • Aar
      7:21 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      In the prior two games, Richards delivered three of the four things he needs to do to help his team – block, score and defend without fouling. He has the ability to clean the glass and needs to add it to his game consistently.

    • Wade
      9:40 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      Can ej be better in March?

    • satcheluk
      8:55 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      I like Nic off the bench situationally. He laters shots and gets enough blocks to be useful in doses.

  5. dhard
    9:17 pm February 2, 2019 Permalink

    When they were down, I think we found out this team had grit. The last 8 minutes were special.

    • henderblue
      7:47 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      True grit. Great to get a win in a hostile environment, when most of the game we didn’t play well. On a side note, I see a decline in American civilization from the literary comments from some of the posts above. Punctuation seems to be a thing of the past these days. Anyway..Go Cats!!!

  6. michaelb
    9:45 pm February 2, 2019 Permalink

    Super slithery sponsor speak there Dru

  7. michaelb
    9:49 pm February 2, 2019 Permalink

    Drew , our defense seen another Lil tweak today . Whoever switched EJ out to guard the perimeter late in the game was genius . He was giving the gators fits on the post entry passes . I loved seeing that wrinkle pay dividends .

  8. CatsandPats
    6:04 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

    Love how this team takes their time and feels out the first half to see exactly what they need to do in the 2nd half to win and win convincingly. These 2nd half’s on this run have been amazing. We have a team that is comfortable on the road and that’s so much fun to watch. I’m proud of our team more today than ever.

  9. wildcat74
    7:22 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

    I love this team’s heart and defensive effort. That’s what makes a team special. They are fun group to watch.

  10. Aar
    7:43 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

    Surprised there was no mention of Baker’s play. His defense was huge, especially down the stretch. On ball, off the ball, help the helper, help the helper’s helper – he brought it all last night. Got a few hockey assists, too. He also hit a timely shot. Surprised his +/- was so weak.

    Quickley also was excellent as demonstrated by his team leading +/-. Wish his shot was falling.

    Montgomery’s defense, especially on guards, was a big difference maker as called out by Drew.

    Travis may not have had good stats in this one and it wasn’t his best game. He’s doing the leadership and “glue guy” things that prove his value. Dakich made a great point when he pointed out that he called a play that resulted in a Hagans layup. I’ve noticed that the team plays more cohesively when he’s on the floor, on both ends. His “Old Head” is becoming a little bit of Cal on the floor. Not the yelling motivator that every other player has been at times. Rather, he’s like a floor general in the post.

    Even though I didn’t call out each player, I love what each Cat is bringing to this team. Beat Gamecocks!

    • henderblue
      8:20 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      All good points Aar.

    • J. Did
      8:24 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      Jermarlboro Man.

    • makeitstop
      8:37 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      Agreed – they actually are all getting better. Keldon still in a little funk and those three drives that were blocked almost cost me a new remote but hopefully that finish signifies the end of the funk. They need EJ to make that jump; I’ve said it for two months. He’s close, and those boards were huge. Now drop some 10-12 footers and show offensive finesse. They’re jelling faster than I thought, and it’s fun to watch.

    • Aar
      10:32 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      makeitstop, IMHO, Johnson still needs to get lost in the team more often and stop trying to chest bump the player he’s defending. It impedes his ability to stay in front. Much better than before, though. Love that Montgomery and Richards are getting minutes. This team will need 10+ quality minutes per game from each of them in order to beat the best 2 teams in the country. The road to number nine will go through at least one of those two teams. Go Cats, beat South Carolina!

  11. BLUEDOUG65
    9:49 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

    Try shooting a tennis bal into the goal from 15 ft shaq was a good basketball player but size of his hands limited his ability to hit free throws masburn 1

    • RealCatsFan
      10:13 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      That’s why I have been so impressed with Nick’s FT shooting this year.

  12. rainman
    9:59 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

    I just hope the team has accepted, that they will only get where they want to go, by playing ELITE defense?

    • CatsandPats
      10:38 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      Defense first and finding your teammate second. The more this team plays for each other, the more successful they will be

    • Aar
      10:41 am February 3, 2019 Permalink

      Did you notice that the Gators only attempted 18 threes, 10-12 less than they average? They also only hit 28% of them. Looking back to the Auburn game, they’ve been doing that consistently. I think they’re bought in to playing elite defense. They’re bound to have a slip up along the way, though.