Cats not expecting anything different from shorthanded Gators

Published 3:00 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2023

The Kentucky coaching staff thinks little will change regarding Florida’s approach Wednesday night in Gainesville.

The Gators (14-13, 7-7 Southeastern Conference) will be without leading scorer Colin Castleton, who broke his hand in a 79-64 win over Ole Miss last week. In its first full game without its top scorer, Florida struggled in an 84-65 loss at Arkansas.

“You can tell they were a little uncomfortable playing the last two games, but I’m sure they’ll be ready to play against us,” Kentucky assistant coach K.T. Turner said Tuesday. “But they really haven’t changed how they’ve been playing, with what we’ve seen on film.”

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In a 72-67 loss to the Wildcats on Feb. 4 in Lexington, Castleton scored 20 points and was a big part of his team’s offense in the narrow setback to Kentucky. Despite the absence of Castleton, the Wildcats aren’t preparing for anything different than what they encountered in the first meeting.

“(Castleton) ‘s a huge part of what they do. But they do bring in two bigger guys like him,” Turner said. “They play the exact same. They’re gonna play drop coverage and ball screens, at least, that’s what they did against Ole Miss and Arkansas. But they really haven’t changed how they played, just different personnel. Castleton is a really, really good player, one of the top bigs in the country.”

Florida coach Todd Golden admitted not having his top player on the court has been an adjustment.

“He was a good part of our team on both sides of the ball — a senior leader, a guy that we played through offensively, a guy that did a great job protecting us on the backside of our defense. It’ll be a little bit of a hit for us. We’re 26 games into the season, and we’ve been pretty consistent with our style of play and how we’ve gone about it.”

Kentucky (18-9, 9-5) will look for its second sweep of the season after completing a regular season sweep against Tennessee last Saturday in Lexington. Kentucky got a big lift from freshman Chris Livingston, who recorded his first double-double with 12 points and ten rebounds. Livingston played a big role for the Wildcats, who have been without senior guards Sahvir Wheeler (ankle) and CJ Fredrick (ribs).

“We knew we had to stay out of foul trouble, stay hydrated, and count on each other,” said Livingston, who was named SEC Freshman of the Week Monday. “We knew we were going to be limited with the few injuries that we got, but we knew we had to hold down the fort until our teammates come back.”

Kentucky coach John Calipari has offered no timetable on the return of his two guards.

“Both of those two are really working hard to come back,” Calipari said Monday night. “They want to play for this team. They want to play for the fans. But, they have got to be healthy. All the doctors, trainers, everybody says they’re both really working hard to come back, but you know, you trust the kids. They only know their pain. No one else does.”