Kentucky took care of business in ruthlessly aggressive fashion on Tuesday as they downed Vanderbilt 87-52 in Nashville. The Wildcats next outing is another road game, this time in Gainesville against Florida.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys:
Continue the momentum
The Wildcats are hot right now as they have done the usual John Calipari thing by ramping up their game as SEC play began.
Kentucky’s seven game winning streak matches it’s longest of the season so far, but it is not just that the Wildcats went into Nashville and won that was so impressive. What really set this game apart was the way that Kentucky took the game to Vanderbilt from the very first moments, rattling in bucket after bucket while locking things down on the defensive end.
It is unreasonable to expect a repeat performance in Florida, but the Wildcats had a 37-point lead at one point against Vandy which shows just how dominant they can be when shots are falling and when momentum is on their side.
Expect Kentucky to come out fast against and to try to have Florida down double-digits by half time.
Continue to ride PJ Washington
One of the interesting aspects of this Wildcats team is that individual players seem to have stepped up for stretches during the season one after the other. The most recent to do so is one of the guys that has been around Rupp for the longest, with Washington seeming to have flipped the switch to become a truly dominant player.
Over the last three games Washington has averaged a double-double as he has scored 22.3 points and grabbed 10.3 boards per game. Against Vanderbilt, Washington outscored the entire Commodores team in the first half by himself, showing he can be the man counted on to lead the Kentucky scoring charge.
He is a big body, a player who has flashed lottery pick potential in the past but never for an extended period of time. If Washington can continue to produce numbers in this range, something that seems likely if his motor stays running, then Florida (and the rest of the college basketball world) is in big trouble.
Guard the three-point arc
The Kentucky defense has been going from strength to strength over the last month. Ashton Hagans continues to be a nightmare to bring the ball up the court against, while nick Richards brings immediate shot altering productivity from the bench.
Vanderbilt played for 40 minutes, and could probably have played for 40 more, without getting a single good look or clean shot off against the Wildcats. Florida is going to have the same problem, but the Gators do have the ability to score from range and they have averaged over nine three-pointers made per game this season.
We know how the three-point shot can be a great equalizer in terms of bridging a talent gap. Florida is a team that has been improving of late and they will be game planning around hurting Kentucky from deep. The three-point defense has to be on point.