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No. 24 Florida makes a statement in 22-point win over No. 8 Kentucky

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Kasey Hill played the best game of his collegiate career, finishing with a career-high 21 points to go along with five boards, five assists and some stellar defense on Malik Monk as No. 24 Florida landed their first marquee win of the season over No. 8 Kentucky, 88-66.

Devin Robinson added 16 points and nine boards for the Gators while Kevaughn Allen chipped in with 12 points.

De’Aaron Fox led the Wildcats with 19. Malik Monk had 11 points, but he went scoreless in the first half and finished the night 4-for-14 from the floor.

Here are three things to take away from that game:

1. It’s time to start taking Florida seriously: We’ve known that this Florida team is good. They entered Saturday sitting at 17-5 on the season and a game out of first place in the SEC. They were ranked seventh in KenPom’s ranking prior to the start of their game and slotted in with one of the nation’s top ten defenses. None of that happens by accident. But before Saturday, the Gators hadn’t actually done anything of note this season. Their best wins were Seton Hall, Miami, Arkansas and Tennessee, and there’s a distinct possibility that all four of those teams will miss the NCAA tournament.

Hell, it’s not even surprising that Florida won. They were favored. KenPom projected them to win by two.

But this wasn’t just a win for Florida. This was a statement, one that happened on national television in primetime on a Saturday night. It happened on college gameday against Kentucky. That’s not something that is easily forgotten, and it’s something that justifies their ranking and the numbers that the computers spit out.

It’s an outcome that supports what our eyes tell us: This Florida team is damn good, and, with SEC leader South Carolina coming to the O-Dome later on this season, may be good enough to win an SEC title.

It starts with their defense, where the Gators have big, tough and strong athletes at every spot on the floor. The difference in the body composition of Florida players and Kentucky players was striking. Everyone on that Florida team looks like they haven’t missed a day in the weight room since they first stepped foot on that campus, which is perfect for the way that Mike White wants to play. They pressure, they take you out of your sets, they try to force turnovers and they basically just make running an offense a living hell.

Their offense comes from that. They aren’t great, but their ability to turn turnovers into points and the fact that they play two points guards – Hill and Chris Chiozza – together makes up for the fact that they aren’t a great shooting team and that they don’t have a ton of offensive talent.

In other words, the reason Florida won this game was because they were a far better team. That said …

2. … Kentucky looked soft: That was the biggest difference in this game.

Malik Monk didn’t shoot it well, and Bam Adebayo struggled against John Egbunu, and Kentucky’s half-court offense didn’t stand a chance against Florida’s defense. All of that is true. But the reason that Florida went into halftime with a lead, the reason they were able to get so many easy baskets on runouts, was that they just played harder than Kentucky did.

That sounds like an oversimplification, but trust me, if you watched the game you know it’s true. The Gators got seemingly every loose ball. They obliterated Kentucky on the glass. They turned Kentucky’s offense into Fox driving left into traffic or Adebayo forcing a move in the post.

Florida looked like they were ready for the fight, and Kentucky didn’t have an answer.

3. Kentucky goes as Malik Monk goes: Monk played his worst game as a Wildcat on Saturday. He finished with 11 points, his lowest total since the season opener, and was just 4-for-14 from the floor, which is the worst he’s shot in a game this season. He’s averaging 18.0 points while shooting 37 percent from the floor and 30.7 percent from three in the three games Kentucky has lost in the last two weeks. He was 6-for-17 from the floor and 1-for-9 from three in the loss at Louisville, and he struggled in close road wins at Vanderbilt and Mississippi State as well.

Perhaps the best example of this came on Tuesday night, not Saturday. Monk had six points in the first half of a game against Georgia, then went for 31 in the second half an overtime to lead Kentucky back from a big deficit.

Creighton’s Khyri Thomas posterizes defender

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Creighton rising junior wing Khyri Thomas, like several of his teammates, are taking part in the Omaha Summer League this offseason.

On Thursday night, the 6-foot-3, 205-lb. Thomas eviscerated a defender with a one-handed posterization.

Thomas is coming off a breakout sophomore campaign for the Bluejays. He started all 35 games, averaging 12.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Aside from the increase in offensive production, Thomas served as one of the top defenders in the Big East. He shared the Big East Defensive Player of the Year Award with Villanova’s Josh Hart and Mikal Bridges.

Zion Williamson throws down 360 windmill dunk

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Zion Williamson added another jaw-dropping dunk in the layup lines on the first night of the second live evaluation period.

Williamson and his SC Supreme team took on Each 1 Teach 1 at the Hoopseen Best of the South at the LakePoint Sporting Community in greater Atlanta.

The 6-foot-7 power forward threw down a 360 windmill dunk during his pregame routines.

Each 1 Teach 1 would pick up a 70-67 victory over SC Supreme. Williamson would end with a monster stat line of 37 points and seven rebounds.

Appalachian State freshman shooter to transfer

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A 3-point threat became a late addition to the transfer market earlier this week.

Appalachian State rising sophomore Patrick Good informed head coach Jim Fox on his intentions to leave the program. He was granted his release on Wednesday, according to Bret Strelow of the Winston-Salem Journal.

“I was pretty shocked when he came in to tell me he was leaving,” Fox told the Winston Salem-Journal. “He was a guy who had a very good freshman season, and we’re surprised to see him go.”

“I enjoyed being around the team and the experience that I got from the first year,” Good added. “I don’t think I would change that for anything. I just felt like moving forward, there is just so much more that I was capable of.”

Good appeared in 29 of 30 games, all of the bench, for the Mountaineers. The 6-foot guard averaged 7.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. His biggest asset to his newest team will  be in his ability to shoot from deep, connecting on 41 percent of his attempts during the 2016-17 season.

If Good plans to remain in at the Division I level, avoiding a year spent at a junior college, he will need to sit out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer regulations. He will have three years of eligibility remaining.

Iowa State adds graduate transfer Zoran Talley

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Iowa State added a scoring option on Thursday night, one who is eligible immediately.

Zoran Talley, who spent his first three seasons at Old Dominion, will join the Cyclones as a graduate transfer this season.

“We are excited to add Zoran to our program,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said in a statement issued by the athletic department. “He has had great success, both personally and as a team, at ODU and will be an asset for our team. Zoran brings versatility on both ends of the floor and his ability to play and guard several positions will benefit us. He can score and make plays and with him being immediately eligible, that is great for us.”

Talley, a 6-foot-7 wing, averaged 11.3 points for the Monarchs last season as a sophomore. However, he was dismissed from the team in April for a violation of team rules. This was preceded by two separate suspensions during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, according to Ed Miller of the Virginia Pilot.

He redshirted the 2014-15 season, leaving him two years of eligibility remaining at Iowa State. He is set to graduate in August.

Talley and fellow graduate transfer Hans Brase (Princeton) provides a boost in scoring, as well as in experience, in a frontline that returns Solomon Young, the rising sophomore big man.

Ex-NCAA scoring leader Daniel ready to return for new team

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee guard James Daniel III finally has the chance to deliver a follow-up performance to his 2015-16 NCAA scoring title, an opportunity that essentially eluded him last season.

After an ankle injury caused Daniel to play just two games last season at Howard, the 6-foot graduate transfer brings experience and offense to Tennessee’s backcourt.

“I wanted to go on the biggest stage for my last year and try to pursue my hopes and dreams since I’ve been a little kid, which was to get to the NBA,” Daniel said.

Daniel likely won’t be shooting or scoring as much as he did at Howard, where he averaged 27.1 points per game to lead all Division I players in 2015-16. He’s more interested in getting to the NCAA Tournament, something he hasn’t done and Tennessee hasn’t accomplished since 2014.

“At this point in my career I’m ready to win,” Daniel said. “That’s pretty much what I have to do. I feel like if we win, my personal goals will be met.”

Daniel believed that NCAA berth would come last season as Howard was favored to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

Those plans quickly went awry.

Daniel was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain that caused him to miss the first 14 games of the season. After returning and playing just two games, Daniel learned he had a chipped bone in his ankle. With Daniel out for the rest of the season, Howard finished 10-24.

That injury allowed Daniel to redshirt the 2016-17 season, giving him one more year of eligibility. He decided to spend that season in a bigger conference and considered Michigan, Ohio State and DePaul before selecting Tennessee.

Daniel remembered watching Tennessee games when he was younger and appreciating prolific guard Chris Lofton, who starred for the Volunteers from 2004-08. When Daniel visited Tennessee, he bonded with the team and sensed a family atmosphere.

“They’re competitive,” Daniel said. “They all want to win. That was the most intriguing part.”

Although Daniel’s ankle leaves his status uncertain for Tennessee’s three exhibition games next month in France and Spain, he’s expected to be ready in plenty of time for the start of the season.

Tennessee is counting on the additions of Daniel and Vincennes University transfer Chris Darrington to solidify a backcourt that struggled with inexperience last year.

“With Chris Darrington and James Daniel, we felt like we could get guys who liked to score and were not afraid to go make plays,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “I think that’s going to help these younger guys because they were put in situations they’d never been put in before.”

Barnes cited the maturity Daniel brings as Tennessee’s lone senior. Daniel will turn 24 on Jan. 29, about a month after Tennessee begins Southeastern Conference play. Nobody else on Tennessee’s roster is older than 20, though juniors Kyle Alexander and Brad Woodson will have their 21st birthdays before the season starts.

“He’s older than all of us, so I think I can learn some things from him,” Darrington said.

Daniel’s teammates will learn plenty about his knack for drawing fouls. Not only did Daniel lead all Division I players in scoring during that 2015-16 season, he also topped the nation in free-throw attempts with 331.

They’ll also learn about his work ethic. Daniel’s father, James Daniel Jr., remembers how his son used to take about 200 jump shots every morning before his classes started at Phoebus High School in Hampton, Virginia.

“He’s just been a workaholic,” James Daniel Jr. said. “Well, we’d call it a workaholic, but he’d probably say it was something that he loved doing.”

All that practice helped Daniel overcome his lack of height at Howard to become an NCAA scoring leader. Now he’s ready to compete at a higher level.

He got an idea of what to expect from Quinton Chievous, who made the move in reverse by leading MEAC program Hampton to the NCAA Tournament after starting out at Tennessee. Daniel said Chievous told him he “should do really well here.”

Daniel agrees.

“I don’t think they would have brought me here if they didn’t think I could compete at this level,” Daniel said.