Sunday , Mar , 05 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

SEC rivals collide as Florida battles Kentucky

(Sports Network) – The 17th-ranked Florida Gators and the Kentucky
Wildcats will close out the SEC regular season today in Lexington. The stakes
are quite high this afternoon, as the winner of this clash will claim the
East Division’s second seed in the upcoming SEC Tournament and the opening
round bye that goes along with it. Florida hasn’t won at Rupp Arena since
1998, and its 5-4 road record this season is much less impressive than the
16-2 mark it has managed at home. The Gators carried a three-game losing
skid into Wednesday’s clash with Georgia, but that tilt resulted in a much-
needed 77-66 victory.

As for Kentucky, it has struggled to find consistency for most of this
season, but the team has won four of its last five games to tie Florida in
the standings. Wednesday’s 80-78 victory over nationally-ranked Tennessee on
the road sent a message that the Wildcats are peaking at the perfect time.
Kentucky owns an 84-27 advantage in the all-time series with Florida, but
the Gators have won the last three meetings.

Florida is a team that typically features a balanced offensive attack, but one
player stole the show for the Gators in the win over Georgia last time out.
Joakim Noah tallied 37 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field and 19-of-22
from the foul line. He finished with six more free throw attempts than the
entire Georgia team and added 11 rebounds to his point total. The only other
Florida player to reach double figures in scoring was Corey Brewer, as he
posted 13 points in 32 minutes of action. The Gators played strong
defensively, as they limited the Bulldogs to 39.4 percent shooting from the
field.

Overall this season, Florida is scoring 80.4 ppg while surrendering 65.2
ppg to opponents. Noah now leads the club with 14.1 ppg on 65.8 percent
shooting from the field, and he adds 6.4 rpg and 59 blocks to the mix. Taurean
Green is netting 13.8 ppg, and he has racked up 149 assists. Brewer checks in
with 12.6 ppg, Al Horford is posting 11.4 ppg and 7.3 rpg, and Lee Humphrey
rounds out the double-digit scorers with 10.1 ppg.

Kentucky big man Randolph Morris regained his eligibility earlier this season
after declaring for the NBA Draft a year ago, and it appears that the standout
is finally playing up to his potential. In the victory over Tennessee, Morris
poured in 22 points in only 23 minutes off the bench. He shot 8-of-9 from the
field and also pulled down nine rebounds. Rajon Rondo also shot 8-of-9 from
the floor and finished with 16 points to go along with eight assists. Joe
Crawford rounded out a trio of double-digit scorers with 11 points for the
Wildcats, who connected on 60.4 percent of their field goal attempts.

Morris is averaging 13.5 ppg on 62.9 percent overall shooting, and Rondo
checks in with 12.2 ppg on 51.2 percent efficiency. Far from just a scorer,
Rondo adds 6.1 rpg, 133 assists and 57 steals. As for Crawford, he is posting
10.1 ppg.

FLORIDA KENTUCKY