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Role reversal: Cats beat Gators' long-range bombers at their own game

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Doron Lamb scored 18 points on 4-of-5 3-point shooting in UK's 78-58 win over Florida. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Doron Lamb scored 18 points on 4-of-5 3-point shooting in UK's 78-58 win over Florida. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
When Erik Murphy drained an apparent 3-pointer for the game's first basket, John Calipari's pregame warning looked like it might come true.

Florida, the nation's leading 3-point shooting team, was out to an early lead behind its floor-stretching big man. The Gators seemed like they might be on the way to the kind of hot-shooting night from deep that Calipari said could put an end to Kentucky's winning streak.

Fittingly, the officials ruled retroactively that Murphy's foot was on the line, striking the game's first shot from deep from the record.

From there, the Wildcats out-Gatored Florida, gunning down the visitors and taking a commanding Southeastern Conference lead in the process.

"We got a lot of 3-point shooters on our team," sophomore guard Doron Lamb said. "We just don't shoot as many as they shoot. Today the game plan was just eliminate 3-point shots and we did that today. Every time they shot a 3-ball, we put a hand in their face and made them drive to our bigs and get blocked. We played great defense today."

Once Murphy's shot was ruled a 2-pointer, the Wildcats completely turned the tables on the Gators, holding them to just 6-for-27 (22.2 percent) shooting from long-range, their worst such performance of the season.

"Our goal was to try to hold them to eight 3s, that's what we were shooting for," Calipari said. "We figured if we held them to eight 3s they would be middle 60s and we thought we could score a little bit more than that and that was our whole goal."

No. 1 Kentucky (24-1, 10-0 SEC) drilled 9-of-15 shots per game in a 78-58 win over No. 8/7 Florida in front of 24,389 fans in Rupp Arena, looking more like the team that was averaging 10.5 3-pointers per game. Calipari's strategy proved to be prophetic, as Florida hit two fewer shots from deep than the goal UK set, and ended up scoring in the high 50s.

Meanwhile, Lamb and his teammates were there to can long jumper after long jumper to ensure Kentucky's 16th straight win would come in blowout fashion. Lamb hit 4-of-5 3s en route to a team-leading 18 points, matching his point total from his previous outing against South Carolina.

His two big games came on the heels of an uneven start to conference play and three games in a row that saw him fail to reach double figures.

"It's going to come, you've just got to be patient," Lamb said. "Everybody has bad games. The focus is just winning games. The more you win, the better it is."

Point guard Marquis Teague found Lamb for assists on three of his four 3s, helping him to reach a cool 52-of-104 (50 percent) shooting from deep on the season. Teague had a career high with 10 assists, but he took part in UK's hot shooting as well, canning 2-of-3 3-point attempts.

His distributing and his shooting were crucial to the Kentucky victory, but his defense on Florida's Erving Walker was important too.

"He had one play where he broke down, kind of stopped on a play, they had a 3 in the corner right in front of our bench," Calipari said. "Short of that, he was terrific. You can't dribble around him."

Walker, Florida's third-leader scorer and leading passer, had a night to forget with Teague hounding him. The senior guard was held scoreless for just the second time in his Florida career and the first since his freshman season. He missed all seven of his field goal attempts and all four of his 3s, committing a pair of turnovers and dishing just one assist.

"I just wanted to contain him," Teague said. "I know he's a quick guard and he can shoot the outside shot very well so I just wanted to pressure up on him and just try to contain him and keep him in front of me and keep him out the lane to make plays for other because they got a lot of shooters."

The only of Billy Donovan's shooters to hit more than one 3 was Kenny Boynton, but three of his four treys came in the final 10 minutes as the celebration of UK's third home win over a top-10 team was already on in Rupp. The Wildcats faced a ranked opponent on Tuesday night for the first time since a New Year's Eve victory over Louisville, as UK's conference schedule is back-loaded with the SEC's top teams.

The Cats heard the talk that their unbeaten record was largely attributable to that softer early schedule, so they were out to prove the road to the conference title runs through Lexington.

"I think we made a big statement," Teague said. "We just wanted to come and show we feel like we can beat anybody that we play and we can beat them by a good amount."

After winning their last five games by an average of 23.2 points, the coronation of the Cats as not only as the SEC's top dog but an NCAA Tournament favorite is likely quick to follow, but Calipari wants to pump the brakes on all that.

UK certainly played a role on Florida's cold shooting, but so too did the Gators. Some of their 21 missed 3s were good looks at the basket, looks Calipari fully expects the Gators to hit when UK travels to Gainesville, Fla., for the regular season finale on March 4.

"It will be a different game in Florida, I promise you," Calipari said. "I know what it will be down there.  But it was a good win. I'm glad we won. I'm glad we stretched it out a little bit. But the reality of it is, you know, they're a terrific team and they're going to be fine."

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