Gators seek SEC perfection in showdown with Wildcats

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Updated: 3/08 12:46 pm

Gainesville, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The top-ranked Florida Gators will attempt to end the best regular season in school history on a high note, as they close out their 2013-14 campaign on Saturday afternoon in an SEC showdown with the 25th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats at the O'Connell Center.

Occupying the top spot in the national polls for the first time since 2007, the Gators have made the most of it, sporting a 22-game win streak, including a 72-46 rout of South Carolina in Columbia on Saturday. The team's win streak includes a flawless 17-0 mark in conference en route to the SEC regular-season crown. The Gators are also undefeated at home (16-0) and boast of a school- record 31 straight victories in Gainesville.

John Calipari's Wildcats found their way back into the win column this past weekend with a 55-48 win over Alabama. The victory ended a two-game skid and improved Kentucky to 22-8 overall, including a 12-5 SEC mark. A win here would give Kentucky sole possession of second place in the conference.

The Wildcats hold a 94-35 advantage in the all-time series with the Gators, but Florida is seeking the regular-season sweep after earning a 69-59 win in Lexington back on Feb. 15.

Calipari has another extremely young squad in Lexington this season, but that hasn't prevented the team from competing at the high level, averaging 76.7 ppg on .452 shooting. Four of the five starters are freshman for Kentucky and all four average double figures in the scoring column. The best of the bunch is Julius Randle. The 6-foot-9 power forward has emerged as one of the nation's premier big men, averaging a double-double with team-highs of 15.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. James Young is a close second in the scoring column at 14.4 ppg, followed by Aaron Harrison (13.6 ppg) and Andrew Harrison (10.9 ppg).

Kentucky wasn't very sharp offensively against Alabama, shooting a mere .327 from the floor, including an ugly .179 from behind the arc (5-of-28). However, the Wildcats limited the Crimson Tide to just .380 shooting and outrebounded Alabama, 41-27. Randle was the only Wildcat to finish in double figures, recording a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Young and Dakari Johnson added nine points each in the win.

Kentucky better hope it shoots the ball better against the Gators, who are among the nation's premier defensive teams, allowing just 58.2 ppg on under 40 percent shooting (.399). Florida also enjoys positives in rebounding (+5.3) and turnover (+2.6) margins. Offensively, UF averages a decent 71.1 ppg on .459 shooting, but remains dangerous with a balanced attack. Four of the team's five starters are averaging double figures, led by Casey Prather's 14.5 ppg. Michael Frazier is next in line at 13.1 ppg, followed by Scottie Wilbekin (12.9 ppg) and Patric Young (10.7 ppg).

The Gators put on another defensive show against the Gamecocks, holding USC to a mere .320 shooting performance, while forcing 19 turnovers that were converted into 27 points for the visitors. Frazier erupted for a career-high 37 points in the win, including going a ridiculous 11-of-18 from 3-point range.

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