BBL: Ramping it up for Cats-Gators

Big Blue Links for Saturday:

ESPN’s College GameDay is in town — no Jalen Rose, however; he’s at the NBA All-Star game — and that means Kentucky and Florida tonight at 9 o’clock. Jerry Tipton’s advance says UK is ready to unleash its thoroughbreds as the Cats face off against a Florida team that has yet to lose a game in conference play.

Experience isn’t everything. Calipari has frequently noted how he’d take talent over experience, generally speaking. UK players downplayed any advantage experience might give Florida.

“Once the ball tips, all that goes away,” said Dakari Johnson, the fifth freshman to join UK’s starting lineup. “All their experience goes away. We just have to play for 40 minutes. Whichever team plays the hardest will come away with the win.”

Here’s Florida coach Billy Donovan previewing the game:

Kyle Tucker of the Courier-Journal previews tonight’s game, writing that Calipari is looking for “the will to win” as the Cats face the third-ranked Gators.

The University of Kentucky basketball team will have watched much more video of Florida by the time the third-ranked Gators visit Rupp Arena tonight for the Wildcats’ biggest game of the season. But on Thursday, coach John Calipari just wanted them to see one clip: Florida center Patric Young diving for a loose ball that helped clinch a victory at Tennessee two nights earlier.

“Well, because what are you willing to do to win a game?” Calipari said. “I know what he’s willing to do to win a game. I saw it. Now you look at it. His feet are off the floor and he’s diving … and I said, ‘Now look at the Tennessee guy as he runs by him.’ He made sounds; I don’t know what the sounds were, but as he dove by: ‘Ahhhhhhhhhh!’ Well, are you going to make the sound or are you going to dive with him?”

Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun says this Florida basketball team reminds him of another successful Gator group.

As I watch this Florida basketball team play, I can’t help but compare it to the 2004 greatest class of players at UF. Maybe the four seniors on this team need a catchy nickname. The Oh-Tens?

The four seniors who have carried this team to 22 wins, an 11-0 conference record and a No. 3 national ranking heading into Saturday night’s hornet’s nest at Kentucky have the same kind of chemistry as the players who — as sophomores and juniors — took Florida to the land of confetti rain. These guys have the guts, they have the clutch genes and they have the moxie.

Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel writes that this will be the toughest test of the season for the third-ranked Gators.

Yet, Saturday night will tug at — if not tear — the Gators’ fabric.

After all, Kentucky is Kentucky and Rupp is Rupp.

The SEC’s most-storied arena with be packed — 23,000 strong — and a national TV audience with tune in to watch the biggest game left on the schedule for the league’s top two teams.

Kentucky is 14-0 at home this year and a three-point favorite.

Jay Williams is ready for GameDay.

 

The Kentucky baseball team opened its season in a big way, knocking off No. 1 Virginia 8-3 on Friday.

Junior left-hander A.J. Reed pitched five strong innings, and the Wildcats put together a four-run fourth inning to beat Virginia 8-3 in the Hughes Brothers Challenge at Wilmington, N.C.

Eight different batters drove in Kentucky’s eight runs as the Cats overcame an early 1-0 deficit. Austin Cousino, Max Kuhn and Thomas Bernal had two hits apiece to pace Kentucky’s 11-hit attack.

Gary Smits of the Florida Times-Union says it is youth vs. experience tonight.

Patric Young and Wilbekin each have played in more games than UK’s entire lineup. Young’s career starts (92) are only eight behind the combined career starts for the Wildcats first five.

Will this be the time when Florida’s experience means more than Kentucky’s talent?

“Each team is going to go through adversity in this game,” Young said. “With our experience, we can handle it better than a lot of teams.”

Deb Moore and Thomas Beisner are reporting early this morning.

 

David Jones of Florida Today says the Gators are preparing for a Cat-fight.

The University of Florida is unbeaten in SEC play going into tonight’s game at Kentucky. But it’s Rupp Arena. For Gators senior Patric Young, enough said.

“It would be really special to finally get one (a win at Rupp) and not go my whole career not winning there, especially with how well we’re playing right now,” the senior center said. “We’ve been achieving a lot of goals, but that doesn’t mean anything. But it would just be nice to come away with another win.”

Kentucky will be wearing special Nike uniforms tonight.

uknikeunis529

Kentucky football signee Mikel Horton is expected to bring power element to backfield, reports the H-L’s Ben Roberts.

Horton is the biggest of UK’s backs — at 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds — and that’s a trait that might help him get on the field early.

Scout.com analyst Josh Helmholdt described Horton as a bruising back who punishes defenders as the game goes along. Helmholdt also said to look beyond Horton’s size and consider his all-around talent.

“He’s a better athlete than people give him credit for,” he said. “He’s a great receiver out of the backfield. I think people have this mind-set that he’s just a between-the-tackles, bruising-type of a running back. He’s much more dynamic than that.

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