Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

UF Eager to Avenge Rupp Rout

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

UF Eager to Avenge Rupp Rout

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael DiRocco, Times-Union sports writer

GAINESVILLE -- It happened 32 days ago, but not for Anthony Roberson.

The embarrassment and the shame Roberson felt on Feb. 4 after Kentucky routed the Gators, stopped Florida's 14-game winning streak and ruined the program's first No. 1 ranking still hurts just as much today as it did then.

"It's still fresh in my mind," Roberson said. "I still see the blue jersey.

"We remember what they did."

What Kentucky did was totally outplay the Gators in Rupp Arena on national television. The Wildcats' defense was so stifling that the Gators were just 17 of 50 from the field, missed 21 of their final 23 shots in the first half, and trailed 45-22 at the break. Kentucky closed out the first half with a 23-4 run, and made the Gators look like a confused youth-league team.

Coach Billy Donovan criticized his frontcourt players for either not driving to the basket enough or for not finishing drives, and said his backcourt did a poor job of setting up the offense.

It was, Donovan said, possibly the worst offensive performance in his tenure in Gainesville.

That makes today's rematch with the second-ranked Wildcats (25-3, 15-0 Southeastern Conference) at the O'Connell Center -- meaningless in the SEC standings because UK has clinched the regular-season title and third-ranked UF (24-5, 12-3) is locked into the Eastern Division's No. 2 seed -- an emotional one for the Gators.

"We were embarrassed up there," guard Brett Nelson said. "We've kind of got an ax to grind."

And history to avoid, too. Kentucky is trying to become the second team in league history to go through a 16-game schedule unbeaten (the 1995-96 Wildcats did it first), the significance of which isn't lost on UK's players.

"It would be [a significant accomplishment] because it hasn't been done that often," Wildcats coach Tubby Smith said. "Certainly it'll be something this team will be identified with for years to come, and they would appreciate it."

UF may have to try to keep Kentucky from staying unbeaten without its best player. Forward Matt Bonner, who is suffering from plantar fasciitus (an inflammation of the connective tissue on the bottom of the foot), is questionable for today's game. …

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