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Goodwin confident heading into Florida showdown despite recent slump

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Archie Goodwin is averaging 8.3 points on 33.3 percent shooting over his last three games. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Archie Goodwin is averaging 8.3 points on 33.3 percent shooting over his last three games. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Archie Goodwin went from a high-school star in Little Rock, Ark., to a McDonald's All-American to scoring in double figures in 11 of his first 12 college games, so he is unaccustomed to struggling.

Southeastern Conference play, however, has been a challenge for the talented freshman guard. Five times since the calendar flipped to 2013, Goodwin has scored fewer than 10 points. During that time, he's seen his scoring average dip from 16.5 to 14.2.

He has had some big games along the way, but opponents have begun to adjust. Goodwin, however, is trying to keep it all from affecting him.

"If I let things like this frustrate me, I'll never be the player I want to be," Goodwin said.

Goodwin is just 8 for 24 from the field over his last three games, including a 1-for-6 performance on Saturday against Auburn during which he played a career-low 17 minutes. In trying to diagnose the reason for his recent woes, Goodwin mentioned his tendency to "overthink," an understandable problem given that the college game has forced him to completely alter the way he plays. His confidence hasn't waned though.

"A lot of great players have stretches where they don't play the games that they expect," Goodwin said. "It's just something they work through and that they get over."

It's good that Goodwin isn't short on self-belief, because Kentucky is going to need him and its other guards in top form come Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET. The Wildcats (17-6, 8-2 SEC) - who returned to the AP Top 25 for the first time since November by coming in at No. 25 in Monday's poll - will take on No. 7 Florida (19-3, 9-1 SEC) then with a chance to pull into a tie atop the conference standings.

"These are the type of games I feel like I was made for and I know this team was made for," Goodwin said. "I feel like we're going to go out there and get a win."

The Cats have already showed some of that big-game worth. In two matchups with top-10 opponents this season, UK took No. 9 Duke and No. 4 Louisville all the way to the wire despite the fact that John Calipari's February team is much better than the November/December version.

This test is still a unique one. Outside of a loss last week at Arkansas, Florida has won nine conference games by double digits. Seven times the Gators have won by 20 points or more, four times by 30 or more while piling up an average margin of victory of 26.3 points. Florida is also a perfect 11-0 at the O'Connell Center on the season.

"They play well in their building," Calipari said. "It'll be a hard game for us to win. They defend. Let's put it this way: They were an Elite Eight team last year that should have been in the Final Four, one game short of that. And they got everybody back."

UK swept three games against Florida last season, but each was closer than the one before it. The last was in an SEC Tournament semifinal, when UK came back from an eight-point first-half deficit for a 74-71 victory. Calipari watched that game as a refresher on how Billy Donovan's team will play, but something else jumped out at him, and it had everything to do with Goodwin even though he was months removed from arriving on campus at the time.

On that afternoon, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had been unusually quiet as UK trailed 56-51. But when his team needed him most, he ignored his own struggles and came through with four points, three rebounds, a block and a steal over the final 10 minutes. That's really all Coach Cal wants out of Goodwin.

"He played awful," Calipari said of Kidd-Gilchrist. "He played as bad as Archie played last game, but he fought and tried and came up with the two winning rebounds. He turned it over, missed every shot, missed free throws, but he had lost himself in the team, like Anthony (Davis) did. You don't worry about it, you just keep playing."

Goodwin is still trying to reach that point.

"That's where he's not yet," Calipari said. "Anything that he does out there, it's him doing it versus you're doing this for the team. Lose yourself in the team. If you turn it over, run the guy down and block it. If you miss a shot, don't worry about it."

To Goodwin's credit, he is trying. Despite the fact that Goodwin has played some of his worst basketball, his team is playing better than it has all season. Goodwin is saying the right things and working as hard as ever in the practice gym.

"I just try to find different ways that I can improve myself and help get a win," Goodwin said. "As long as we're getting wins, that's the only thing that really matters at this stage, just getting wins."

Getting another win against the Gators won't be easy, but the Cats aren't going to be star-struck. They're appropriately impressed by what Florida has accomplished, but there isn't anything to suggest they will blink on the big stage.

"I could care less that they're beating other people by 30 and 20 because we're not the team that they beat by 30 and 20," Goodwin said. "We're a different team. And if we let something like that intimidate us then we wouldn't be that confident in ourselves and that would be a thing we'd do. So we don't worry about that. We just go into the game with our game plan, try to execute the best that we can."

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