- Wednesday, February 18 1998 -
Kentucky - 79 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 8th by AP]
Florida - 54 (Head Coach: Billy Donovan) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 41, Florida 24
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Game Writeup - Courtesy of Dr. Jeffrey Neil Burch; Dr. J's UK Newsletter, Vol. 7 No. 25. (All Rights Reserved)
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Kentucky looked about as good as they have all season as they beat the Florida Gators 79-54 in Gainesville. UK was ranked #8 by AP for this contest. Coach Tubby Smith shook up his lineup, ostensibly due to academic woes of a couple of players. Saul Smith and Wayne Turner started at guard, with Jeff Sheppard and Cameron Mills at forward spots, and Mohammed as always at center. Jason Williams, who stung Kentucky for 24 pts, 6 rebounds, and 4 steals in the teams' earlier meeting in Lexington, was suspended from the Gator basketball team for the remainder of the season by Coach Billy Donovan. Williams violated team and University Athletics Association rules, although Donovan would not be specific [JNB note - later reports said that Williams had failed a random test for marijuana usage]. It was Williams' 3rd violation of the rules in a 4 month period. Jason Williams had been a candidate for SEC Player of the Year honors. UK's Wayne Turner said of Williams, "Of all the pt guards I've played against, he was the standout." Donovan said he thought it was unlikely that Williams would return to the Gator team next season.
Mohammed started the scoring for the Cats (and was fouled, but missed his FT), after which UK got possession when Florida fumbled it. Jeff Sheppard thought he had a basket, but it was waved off due to an offensive foul (the TV replay clearly showed the Florida player moved under Sheppard while Jeff was still in the air, and the rules say you have to let an airborne player come down). Stolt made a layup to tie, but Mohammed made 2 Fts to put the Cats up 4-2. Smith was called for a foul (and again the TV replay showed he got all ball in a block attempt). Stolt hit a long 2 to tie, then Mohammed had a layup, followed by a Weaks 3 to give the Gators a 7-6 lead. Padgett was inserted into the game, and as soon as he missed, he made a ridiculous foul reaching for the ball (going all the way around his man to reach) as Florida brought the ball up court. A long 2 by Shannon gave UF their longest lead of the day at 9-6, but Sheppard quickly closed this margin by hitting a 15 footer. Maddox made 1 FT, then Anthony had a putback after 2 Kentucky misses to tie the game 10-10. Padgett hit an 18 footer as the shot clock was expiring, and the Cats led 12-10 at the next TV timeout. Williams hit a 3, to which Sheppard answered with an old-fashioned 3 to make it 15-13 Kentucky. Mohammed was given a FG even though it appeared he touched it while it bounced on the rim, then Sheppard put back an Edwards miss to make it 19-14 UK. Kentucky began to pull away as Sheppard had 2 successive dunks sandwiching a Wright FT, and Kentucky was comfortably ahead 23-15 at the next TV timeout. After this, UK blocked a Gator shot, and Edwards sped past the defense for a dunk and a 25-15 lead. Padgett hit a high bank shot and was fouled, making his FT. Wright was fouled and hit both attempts, and on the next possession, just before the shot clock expired, Mills hit a 3 for a 31-17 Cat lead. The refs had a bad time on the next Florida possession, missing a walk and a 3 second violation. Kentucky, however, was called for a walk after Florida missed a couple of shots, and Weaks followed this with a dunk. Padgett missed a lob dunk try but was fouled and hit both FTs, to give UK a 33-19 margin. After a steal, Cameron Mills passed up an open 3 to get the ball in to Magloire, who promptly missed an inside shot. Padgett similarly got the ball in the lane, hesitated, tried to dribble, and turned the ball over. But the Cats stole the ball on the next possession, and Edwards (who showed no signs of the slump he had experienced in the past several games) hit a bank shot for a 35-19 edge. Florida missed a 3, and Bradley made a basket and was fouled (missing his FT) for a 37-19 edge. Williams hit a 3, Mohammed hit a turnaround shot, Weaks put back his own miss, and Mohammed was fouled with 0.1 seconds left in the 1st half, and hit both attempts to give UK a 41-24 lead at halftime. Florida had 14 1st half turnovers and made only 3 3 pt shots.
Kentucky cruised in the 2nd half, with a Mohammed dunk past the Gator defense, a Shannon layup, a Stolt 3, an Edwards 3, and Smith steal and layup for a 48-29 lead. Shannon hit a 3, Edwards missed a shot but got his own rebound and laid the ball back in after good blocking out by UK under the basket. Magloire had an inside basket, Evans had a layup on a 2-on-1 break, and Evans had a FT. Magloire made a hook shot to give the Cats a 57-32 lead at the next TV timeout. Mohammed had a putback, Sheppard had a steal and dunk, then Maddox had a layup and Stolt hit a 3 to finally stop Kentucky's 13-0 scoring run. Mohammed hit 1 FT, Sheppard had a layup, Shannon knifed through the defense for a layup, to make it 64-39 Kentucky (Florida was attempting and missing 3 pt shots throughout Kentucky's surge). Saul Smith experienced slight cramps and was taken back to the Kentucky locker room. Anthony nailed a 3, which was answered by a Stolt 3. Then Anthony, Shannon, and Edwards missed 3 pt attempts before Parker finally hit 1, but Anthony put back a Magloire miss to make it 69-45 Kentucky. Nnaji and Bradley exchanged a single FT, Bradley missed an attempted 3, and Sheppard hit Bradley inside with a nice pass for an easy layup to make it 72-46. Sheppard added insult to injury by connecting on a 3. As time wound down, Bradley hit a couple of FTs to give the Cats their largest lead of the day at 79-48. Parker hit another 3, Magloire walked (before connecting on a 19 footer!), Wright put back a Parker miss, and Florida had a final FT to produce the final margin of 79-54 Kentucky.
Kentucky's defense was much improved in this game. In the 1st game against the Wildcats, Florida's Kenyan Weaks scored 24 pts - in Gainesville he scored 7. At Rupp Arena, Brent Wright scored 13, but at Florida he was held to 5. The Cats managed only 8 steals in their 1st contest against UF, but at Florida they managed 19, a season high for Kentucky. Cameron Mills' 4 steals and Saul Smith's 4 steals were career highs for each.
After the win, Kentucky was 8-0 in road games this season, and was undefeated in conference play on the road (6-0). Florida was 10-2 at home after the loss. The game produced Kentucky's largest margin of victory in all its SEC games thus far this season. The 54 pts scored by Florida is its lowest in the Donovan era for a home game.
Myron Anthony's 7 pts were a career high for him at UK, and his 6 rebounds tied his career high in that category.