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No. 6 Kentucky focused on rebounding as SEC play opens at Florida

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Although No. 6 Kentucky boasts one of the most explosive offenses in the nation, coach John Calipari still thinks his team has room for improvement.

Calipari will look for the Wildcats (10-2) to clean things up on the glass when they tip off Southeastern Conference action on Saturday afternoon against Florida in Gainesville, Fla.

It also will be the SEC opener for the Gators (10-3).

Kentucky averages the third-most points per game in the country (91.1) and has averaged 89.8 during its current four-game winning streak. The Wildcats most recently knocked off Illinois State 96-70 on Dec. 29, getting 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field from Antonio Reeves, who was going against his former team.

Reserve Rob Dillingham supplied 16 points and D.J. Wagner added 14 as Kentucky shot 57.1 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range vs. the Redbirds.

But one thing that stood out to Calipari was his team’s effort on the boards, where the Wildcats were outrebounded 45-40.

“They blocked us out. We didn’t go get any balls,” Calipari said. “We got a few, but not like they did. That will concern me, but we’ve got time.”

Calipari was most upset about the 24 offensive rebounds that Kentucky permitted, and he realizes another performance like that could spell danger in SEC play.

“Twenty-four offensive rebounds, you’re not gonna win games in our league,” Calipari said. “I think anybody and … every coach that watched the game, cause no one else played (on Dec. 29), they’re going to say we’re just shooting it and running four guys at the rim.”

The Wildcats have had plenty of time to think about how they can improve that part of their game, with a seven-day layoff ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Florida.

Like Kentucky, the Gators have caught fire, too, rattling off six straight wins, including last Saturday’s 97-72 drubbing of Quinnipiac.

Will Richard led five Gators scorers in double figures with 22 points, while Zyon Pullin netted 16. Tyrese Samuel recorded an 11-point, 10-rebound double-double, reaching 1,000 career points.

Florida coach Todd Golden believes his squad is starting to click at the right time.

“I think we’re just getting more comfortable,” Golden said. “It’s a lot of new guys playing together, right? We only had two guys that really played last year that returned, and everybody that’s in the program has a different role than last year. …

“It’s going to take a little bit to get to our potential, but I do feel like we’re slowly getting there.”

Walter Clayton Jr. averages a team-high 15.2 points per game for the Gators, and Reeves leads the Wildcats with 19.0 per contest. Both teams have five players with scoring averages in double figures.

Saturday will mark the 151st meeting between the teams, with Kentucky leading the all-time series 109-41. Florida is 0-2 against the Wildcats under Golden.

With a victory, the Gators would record their first seven-game winning streak since putting together a nine-game run during the 2016-17 season.

–Field Level Media

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