The Wildcats enter their regular season finale against Florida in a pretty healthy spot. The team seems to have fully moved on from its mid-to-late season slump and this is once again a team that few will want to see on their side of the bracket in any kind of tournament play. Before we get to that point though, Kentucky has to take care of business against the Gators and keep the good vibes flowing.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Try to play a cleaner game
When a team is on a roll like Kentucky has been for the last couple of weeks, one way to stop their threat is by muddying up the game and making it a mess. While Ole Miss probably had less to do with this than they intended, it was true that the Wildcats were knocked out of their scoring and attacking groove in the early going because of the various sideshows on display.
The first 3:24 of the game took over 24 points of real time to be completed. This was because of a couple of lengthy video reviews, three technical fouls, and a multitude of arguments. Against Florida, Kentucky has to find a way to keep in rhythm if the game goes off the rails in this way.
Play like there is something on the line
This may be the last game of the regular season, but for Kentucky, it is also the first game of the postseason. Sure, this one isn’t quite win or die as most of the games will be in March, but it is a game that has higher stakes than anything that the Wildcats have played in over the course of the 2017-18 season.
The deal here is pretty simple. If Kentucky can beat the Gators – a team that beat Kentucky 66-64 in the middle of the Wildcats January slump – then Kentucky will secure the third seed in the SEC Tournament in St. Louis. The double bye here would be massive, especially as it would drastically reduce the Wildcats chances of slipping and losing to a much lower ranked team. Throw in the good vibes that would come with avenging the loss to Florida t Rupp and you have a game that Kentucky needs to win.
Be ready to play badly and win
As much as 80-percent of the performance against Ole Miss – and this is a bad Ole Miss side remember – was poor, it is worth noting that Kentucky still roared away over the last eight minutes to win by 18 points. The 96-78 win is important because this was a game that the ‘Cats would either have won by the odd basket (or even lost) just a few weeks again.
Instead, the Wildcats turned things around and wound up shooting 50-percent from the floor and went 8-of-18 from behind the arc. While leaving the Rebels behind on the scoreboard proved to be more difficult than most would have expected coming into the contest, it is a sign of the Wildcats recent evolution that they can play below par for 30 minutes and still win by a large margin.