NEW ORLEANS - Kentucky's strong showings against Florida have inspired some strong feelings in the Gators' Patric Young.
Despite two blowout losses to Kentucky, Young isn't scared of a third meeting. The Gators (23-9, 10-6) still have plenty of confidence.
"I think we know exactly what to expect out of these guys," Young said after Florida's 66-63 win over Alabama on Saturday. "I don't think they give us much respect. But we're going to go out and play hard and hopefully the result will be different this time."
Young had one of his best games of the season when he finished with 21 points and nine rebounds in Florida's 74-59 loss to Kentucky (31-1, 16-0 SEC)in Gainesville on Sunday. He entered the game with a little extra motivation.
"I think they said after the first game that somebody said they knew they were going to beat us, they weren't worried about us," he said. "That kind of fired me up a little bit."
The Wildcats steamrolled the Gators in their first meeting, a 78-58 win in Lexington on Feb. 7. Florida entered the game ranked No. 8 in the nation. But that game was the first in a stretch in which Florida lost five of nine games. Florida had lost just four games all season before that point.
The Gators were able to pull a little closer in the second meeting than they were at Rupp Arena. But Saturday's atmosphere isn't likely to be as friendly to the Gators as it was in the teams' second meeting.
"Obviously, it will basically be a road game," junior center Erik Murphy[db] said. Kentucky should have a sizeable advantage in crowd support at New Orleans Arena.
Young will have perhaps the toughest matchup of any of his teammates when he squares off against Kentucky's [db]Anthony Davis for the third time. But Young, who is averaging 10.5 points and 6.5 rebounds on the season, has found a measure of success against Kentucky's star freshman.
In addition to his big performance on Sunday, he had 12 points, four rebounds and two blocks in the Gators' first meeting with Kentucky. He shot a combined 15-25 from the field in the first two games against Kentucky. A third meeting with Davis will challenge him, but he believes he's found a way to attack the SEC's Player of the Year.
"Everyone knows he has great length," Young said. "The key is, when you get the ball in the post, go straight up into his body and then go make your move and shoot it. He plays straight behind you and tries to time your shot so he can block it every time. The few times I did try and make a move, he was able to block it. The time I got it and went straight up, he wasn't able to.
"When you go into his body, it neutralizes his jumping ability. He doesn't even have to jump high because he's so long. I think he showed different aspects of his game last time we played him. He drove to the basket a few times. He still does his alley-oop thing every game. There's a little more to worry about."
The rest of the Gators will have their hands full as well. Florida coach Billy Donovan said that because of the short turnaround from Friday's games, the Gators probably won't be able to make any major adjustments from their usual game plan.
That means Florida will likely use the same plan of attack against the Wildcats that they used without success in the first two meetings.
"They're really, really good at looking at just basically when you sub, matchups where they think they have got an advantage," Donovan said. "And in those situations, of their five guys, there's going to be somebody on the other team that they fell that they have got an incredible matchup on."
A third win over the Gators would put the Wildcats in the SEC championship game. Young said Kentucky acted unconcerned in their first two meetings. It's that feeling of disrespect he's hoping to stamp out.
"Just the way they act around us," Young said. "The way a few of the guys have commented on us that they know they're going to beat us. Just certain things. You can tell by the way a guy walks on to the court like 'Oh, we're going to kill these guys. We don't care about them. We're not scared.'
"I want them to feel that way so hopefully we can come in tomorrow and give them a run for their money."