Kentucky can be ‘impossible’ to beat — just ask Florida

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Florida got a good view of what Kentucky can do. Poor Florida.

The No. 8 Gators watched as the No. 1 ‘Cats shot, swatted, slammed their way to an impressive 78-58 win Tuesday night, cementing the notion that Kentucky is the team to beat in March. When a team hits 60 percent of its 3-pointers, and harasses an opponent into making just 35 percent of its shots, there isn’t much to argue about.

“They’re very, very good. There’s not like necessarily one thing you do against them that is a formula to win,” Gators coach Billy Donovan said.

“They’re playing at very, very high level. That’s not to say they’re going to win ‘em all. That’s not to say they couldn’t win ‘em all.”

Donovan obviously means the rest of Kentucky’s games. But given that a Christian Watford buzzer-beater is the only thing that’s keeping Kentucky (24-1) from an unbeaten season, he has a point.

Tuesday was UK at its best, too. A slow start was erased when Anthony Davis started blocking shots (he finished with four), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist started hustling (13 points, 13 rebounds), Doron Lamb started hitting 3s (4 of 5 from deep) and Marquis Teague started running the show (10 assists).

It wasn’t a flawless performance, but it was an example of what Kentucky can do when it’s clicking. Just ask Lamb. Brett Dawson of Rivals did:


Now the trick is to balance that confidence with continued performance. Every championship team walks onto the floor knowing it’ll win, but it’s easy to slip into complacency. Kentucky hasn’t hit that.

“The one thing I like about their team is I love their disposition on the floor,” Donovan said. “There’s a certain disposition you have to have and I’m not talking about an arrogance or a cockiness, but there’s like a focus level in terms of what really goes into winning at that level. There’s a mentality there.”

The ‘Cats are young – they start three freshmen and two sophomores – but this point isn’t lost on them. They still have several tests remaining, starting with Saturday at Vanderbilt and the regular-season finale at Florida, but at this rate, they look as good as they should be.

“We have this little swagger,” Davis said. “We just want to go out there and play hard and win. We’re very capable of winning a national championship if we keep playing how we’re playing.”

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

No. 23 Xavier makes statement, blows out Dayton

Chris Mack
Associated Press
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With in-state rivals No. 23 Xavier and Dayton meeting for the first time since 2013, there was a lot of anticipation for Sunday’s AdvoCare Invitational title game in Orlando. But after 20 competitive minutes the Musketeers removed any doubt, blowing out the Flyers by a final score of 90-61.

The depth, talent, experience and toughness of Chris Mack’s team was on display throughout the event, most especially Sunday evening. Eight players scored at least eight points against Dayton, and as they had throughout the tournament Xavier dominated on the boards. The Musketeers grabbed 37.1 percent of its offensive rebound opportunities and limited Dayton to just four offensive rebounds, turning that into a 17-2 edge in second chance points.

Add in 27 Xavier points off of 22 Dayton turnovers, and it was clear who dictated the terms of engagement in this much-anticipated meeting.

The offensive rebounding and turnovers issues took their toll on the Flyers, who managed to keep the game close until late in the first half. But Xavier was able to stretch out the margin to eight by the intermission, and a 21-0 run pushed the margin out to 29 with just over 12 minutes remaining in the game. Dayton’s gotten off to a good start, despite not having the suspended Dyshawn Pierre, and they’re going to win a lot of games this season.

But there was a clear difference between these two teams Sunday night, with the deep Musketeers looking like one that can not only build on last season’s Sweet 16 run but exceed it.

On the season six players are averaging at least 9.7 points per game, which makes it hard for the opposition to focus its defensive efforts on one or two players. Jalen Reynolds and James Farr can take control of games in the paint. Trevon Bluiett has the ability to score from just about anywhere on the floor, and this team doesn’t lack for perimeter shooters either. Add in a redshirt freshman point guard in Edmond Sumner who’s hit the ground running in filling the role left vacant by the graduation of Dee Davis, and this is a team capable of being a factor nationally.

Xavier’s reached the Sweet 16 in five of the last eight seasons, so success is to be expected from this program. And if their start to this season is any indication, this group of Musketeers is more than capable of not only challenging Villanova atop the Big East but adding to that recent run of success.

POSTERIZED: Xavier’s Jalen Reynolds dunks on two defenders

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Sunday’s AdvoCare Invitational title game between No. 23 Xavier and Dayton was the first meeting between the two in-state rivals since 2013, the year in which the Musketeers moved from the Atlantic 10 to the Big East. Of course the game was highly anticipated, and Xavier forward Jalen Reynolds made a powerful statement early in the first half.

What did he do? A rip-through and one dribble around Dayton’s Steve McElvene, then a one-handed dunk over Kendall Pollard with McElvene attempting to challenge the finish from behind.

Video credit: ESPN