Brooks returns leads to best Kentucky game of the season in 76-58 victory over Florida
Defense was spot on. Shooting was deadly. Rebounding was strong.
THIS was the UK team that fans were expecting all season. They stand 4-6 for the season and 3-0 in SEC play, in 2021 and since Dontaie Allen began to receive significant minutes.
"We needed to let them know that you defend, you execute, you pass to each other, you will beat some people," said Calipari before adding, "by twenty."
With Keion Brooks Jr. returning from a foot injury that had kept him sidelined the first nine games, the Cats were running on all cylinders.
"You saw the kind of athlete he is. You see that he’s way physically stronger than he was. Way more patient mentally. The game has slowed down for him. But it’s a good deal," said Calapri.
Four players were in double digits led by Brandon Boston Jr and Davion Mintz who both had 13 points, Brooks with 12 and Sarr with 10 points. Eight Wildcats scored for the blue and white.
“You hit the nail on the head, my leadership. I just try to bring energy and hopefully my energy is infectious to my teammates. My leadership was really dependent on them and them allowing me to be a leader. It went well tonight," said Brooks about what he brings to the team.
Allen hit two quick three-pointers in the first half that kept Florida spreading the floor when he was in the game which opened up lanes for his teammates to operate. The red-shirt freshmen continued his mistake-free play with almost 22 minutes played without a turnover.
"Dontaie did not make all of his shots. He plugged one then he past up one because everyone has got him thinking he has to be this guy. Please leave him alone and let him be that guy that we are begging to shot balls. Not like he is going to have to make eight threes a game. The ones he made gave us the burst to lead at halftime. I am happy with him," said Coach John Calipari about Allen's play.
Trailing 10-5, UK got a 10-0 run that was sparked by a pair of Dontaie Allen 3-pointers.
Allen's two bombs were two of six that UK made in the game. Mintz was 2-4, Askew hit his only try and Boston hit a three. It was Boston's first made three-pointer since the Notre Dame game. Kentucky went 6-13 for the game for 46.2 percent.
Allen's six points were part of a huge advantage for the Wildcats as their bench outscored Florida 31-18.
The Cats shot 55.8 percent (29-52) from the field while holding Florida to just 37.5 percent (21-56) from the field. They blocked seven shots led by Isaiah Jackson with 4 and Allen having one.
Even with Florida pressing, Kentucky committed 14 turnovers with Florida committing 16. The Big Blue turned the miscues into a 25-14 advantage in points from turnovers.
“That’s something we prioritize. We do a drill, we dive on the ball every day. Earlier in the year, there were some guys who were a little hesitant, which is understandable, you’re not always asked to do things like that when you’re in high school. Here, we have a different standard that we’re going to win those 50/50 balls every single chance we get. We mixed it up a little bit and we got a couple of them," said Brooks about the team diving for loose balls during the game.
After games they have struggled from the charity stripe, they were perfect (11-11) in the second half when they built a 25-point lead. For the game, they missed one in the first half and shot 12-13 for the game.
During the three-game winning streak, Kentucky has made 22 of 47 on 3-point shots, 46.8%. In the first seven games, UK shot 25 percent from long range. UK has made 41 of 53 free throws, 77.4%. In the first seven games, the Wildcats shot 66.2% at the charity stripe. Kentucky has been plus or even in assist/turnover ratio all three games. UK was plus or even in assists/TO in only two of the first seven games. UK has blocked 26 shots, an average of 8.7 rejections. In the first seven games, UK averaged five blocks per contest. Kentucky has 26 steals, an average of 8.7 thefts. In the first seven games, UK averaged 5.9 steals. Four players have scored in double figures each game. That happened only once in the first seven
Kentucky leads the series 105-40 and has won the last five vs. the Gators. It was UK’s largest margin of victory at UF since a 79-54 win in 1998.