Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:00 AM

Kentucky at Florida

Florida finds itself in dire need of a victory Saturday afternoon when Kentucky (17-3 straight up, 11-8-1 against the spread) visits Exactech Arena at the O’Connell Center in Gainesville. UK is alone in third place in the SEC standings with its 6-1 record, trailing the unbeaten co-leaders, Tennessee and LSU, by one game.

Florida (12-8 SU, 9-11 ATS) has won three straight conference games to improve to 4-3 in league action. This has UF in three-way tie for fifth place with Alabama and Ole Miss, one game behind fourth-place South Carolina with its 5-2 SEC record.

Mike White’s team needed a desperation 3-pointer from KeVaughn Allen with 2.5 seconds remaining to erase a three-point deficit, and the senior guard produced from deep on the right wing with a hand in his face to force overtime Wednesday vs. Ole Miss. From there, the Gators controlled the extra session and beat the Rebels 90-86 as five-point home ‘chalk.’

Ole Miss took the cash and the 176 combined points soared ‘over’ the 132.5-point total. OT didn’t create a Bad Beat for ‘under’ supporters, however, as the 152 combined points in regulation had already gone North of the tally.

Freshman guard Noah Locke scored a team-best 22 points by draining 6-of-11 launches from 3-point range. Allen finished with 21 points and five assists, making all eight of his free-throw attempts. In fact, Allen has buried 40 consecutive FTAs at home, a streak that goes back to Jan. 24 of 2018 (hat tip to Chris Harry, long-time UF beat reporter).

Freshman forward Keyontae Johnson added 15 points and six rebounds on 7-of-11 field-goal attempts. Andrew Nembhard contributed 12 points four steals, three boards and had a 6/2 assist-to-turnover ratio. Kevarrius Hayes had nine points and eight rebounds.

UF is 7-3 SU but just 3-7 ATS at home, while UK is 4-1 both SU and ATS in five road assignments.

Allen paces UF in scoring (13.2 points per game) and steals (1.6 SPG), while Hayes (7.0 PPG) leads the Gators in rebounding (6.2 RPG), FG percentage (65.5%) and blocked shots (2.0 BPG). Locke is averaging 11.7 PPG while knocking down 42.9 percent of his 3-pointers. Nembhard (7.2 PPG) has a 119/45 assist-to-turnover ratio.

UF is ranked No. 31 at KenPom.com, No. 38 in the NCAA’s new NET Rankings and in Joe Lunardi’s latest edition of ‘Bracketology’ filed to ESPN.com on Friday morning, the Gators are IN the field as a First-Four entry against Seton Hall for the right to advance from Dayton to Hartford to play sixth-seeded Maryland.

Florida owns a 4-7 record against foes in K-Pom’s Top 100. UF’s best wins have come at Georgia, at Arkansas and at home over Ole Miss and Butler. Seven of UF’s eight defeats have come against opponents ranked in the Top 51 at K-Pom with one exception – a home loss to South Carolina (#109).

Kentucky has won seven straight games since losing its SEC opener at Alabama. The Wildcats have covered the number in five consecutive contests, including Tuesday’s 87-52 win at Vanderbilt as 8.5-point road ‘chalk.’ The ‘Cats raced out to a 45-15 intermission lead and coasted to the easy victory.

P.J. Washington dominated with 26 points, 12 rebounds, three steals and a pair of assists. Nick Richards added 14 points and four blocked shots, while Tyler Herro finished with 12 points. Keldon Johnson was also in double figures with 11 points, and Ashton Hagans contributed seven points, six rebounds and eight assists compared to only one turnover.

Kentucky is No. 7 in the NET Rankings and No. 9 at K-Pom. UK has posted a 7-3 record against the K-Pom Top 100, including home wins over Kansas, Mississippi St. and UNC Greensboro. The ‘Cats have a neutral-court victory over North Carolina, in addition to road scalps at Auburn, at UGA and at Louisville. Their three defeats have come at Alabama and on neutral floors vs. Duke and Seton Hall.

Johnson is averaging a team-best 14.5 PPG and has made 42.6 percent of his shots from 3-point land. Washington (13.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG) is draining 41.5 percent of his 3-balls and has 24 blocked shots., while Herro (13.2 PPG) is burying a team-best 91.1 percent of his FTAs. In fact, Herro is 22-of-22 at the stripe during SEC play. Reid Travis, the grad transfer power forward from Stanford, is averaging 12.2 points and 6.8 RPG.

Hagans (7.6 PPG) has a team-high 43 steals and an 85/45 assist-to-turnover ratio. Richards has a team-best 32 blocked shots.

UK is a 1.5-point favorite with a total of 128 late Friday afternoon. However, in less than 90 seconds, that number was adjusted to -2.5 and the tally moved up to 129.5. I won’t be surprised if it moves higher, as 3.5 or four was my thinking on the side (obviously in UK’s favor).

UF has been a home underdog twice, going 0-2 ATS in a four-point loss to Michigan St and a 78-67 setback vs Tennessee (misleading final as it was a one-possession game with less than two minutes remaining). UK has been a road favorite four times, compiling a 3-1 record both SU and ATS.

John Calipari has won an average of 30.5 games per season in his first nine years on the job, racking up a stellar 292-67 record. UK and UF have met 140 times, with the Wildcats emerging victorious on 100 occasions. Mike White has a 3-3 record against the ‘Cats since taking over for Billy Donovan.

Florida swept the season series last year, winning 80-67 as a 5.5-point home favorite in the regular-season finale. Jalen Hudson, who is ensuring a nightmare senior campaign, dropped 22 points on the ‘Cats with Allen adding 11 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Washington had 13 points and seven boards in the losing effort.

UF, which is 3-1 both SU and ATS in the past four games in this rivalry, won 66-64 at UK as a two-point road underdog on Jan. 20 of last year. Hudson had a team-high 17 points in the victory at Rupp Arena. Richards had eight points, nine rebounds and two blocks in defeat.

In Lunardi’s latest projections, Cal’s club is listed as the East Region’s No. 2 seed with a first-round date with Lehigh. The No. 1 seed in the East? UK’s bitter rival, Duke! Alas, unlike in 1992 for “The Last Great Game,” the East Region finals aren’t in Philadelphia but Washington D.C. instead.

The ‘under’ is 12-8 overall for UF, but the ‘over’ has hit at a lucrative 7-3 clip in its home games. The ‘over’ is on a 4-2 run for the Gators in their last six outings.

The ‘under’ is 11-9 overall for the ‘Cats, but they’ve seen the ‘over’ go 3-2 in their five road assignments. The ‘under’ is 4-2 for UK in its past six contests.

The ‘under’ is on a 6-2 run in the past eight games between these SEC adversaries. The home team is 7-2 ATS in the last nine encounters, and the ‘Cats have limped to a 2-5 spread record in their seven most recent trips to The O-Dome.

ESPN will have the broadcast at 4:00 Eastern.

B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets

-- Jon Rothstein tweeted Friday that Ben Howland told him that starting Mississippi State guard Nick Weatherspoon will play in Saturday’s revenge game at Ole Miss. Weatherspoon injured his knee in Tuesday’s loss at Alabama, but the MRI came back clean. Nick Weatherspoon averages 10.1 PPG and has hit 43.5 percent of his 3-pointers. MSU is 2-3 both SU and ATS in five road assignments, while the Rebels are 8-2 both SU and ATS at home. However, Kermit Davis’s squad has dropped three games in a row and four of its past five since rallying to win 81-77 as a five-point underdog in Starkville last month. The ‘over’ is 6-2 in MSU’s past eight games, but the ‘under’ is on a 7-3 run for the Rebels in their last 10 outings. Books had Ole Miss as a 2.5-point home favorite with a total of 150.5 early Friday night. This is a 3:30 p.m. Eastern tip on the SEC Network.

-- The books made Duke an 18.5-point home favorite vs. St. John’s for their noon Eastern tip on ESPN. The Blue Devils are 10-1 SU and 6-5 ATS at home, while the Red Storm is 3-3 SU and 4-1-1 ATS on the road. The ‘under’ has cashed in three straight for Duke to improve to 13-5-2 overall and 7-3-1 in its home outings. St. John’s is 5-1 ATS with a pair of outright victories in the past six games of this rivalry, including last year’s 81-77 win at MSG in NYC as a 10.5-point underdog. Chris Mullin’s team is 3-1-1 ATS with one outright win in five underdog situations this year. The richest ‘dog spot St. John’s has seen this season was catching 6.5 points in a 76-71 loss at Villanova.

-- Kansas will host Texas Tech on CBS at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. Most books had KU favored by four points early Friday evening. The Jayhawks are undefeated in 11 home games with a 4-7 spread record. Meanwhile, the Red Raiders are 2-2 SU and 1-3 ATS in four road assignments. Bill Self’s squad is mired in a 0-5 ATS slide and has lost outright in back-to-back contests and three of its past four. The ‘over’ is 7-3-1 for KU in its home games.

-- North Carolina comes to KFC YUM! Center to take on Louisville at 2:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. Most books had U of L favored by one early Friday night. This is a big revenge game for the Tar Heels, who were run out of their own gym by Chris Mack’s squad in an 83-62 shellacking on Jan. 12. The Cardinals blew UNC out as 11-point road underdogs. U of L, which is 12-1 SU and 6-5 ATS at home, has won six consecutive games while going 5-1 ATS (lone non-cover by the hook). Since the humbling defeat to U of L, UNC has won four games in a row and covered in three straight. The Tar Heels are 6-1 both SU and ATS in seven road outings.

-- LSU will put its 10-game winning streak on the line at 6:00 p.m. Eastern vs. Arkansas on the SEC Network. Most books had LSU installed as an 8.5-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 155. Will Wade’s club is 8-2 ATS during its 10-game surge. The Tigers are undefeated in 11 home games with a 5-6 spread record. They’ve won three games in a row over the Razorbacks both SU and ATS. Mike Anderson’s squad has responded to a four-game losing streak both SU and ATS by winning two of its last three games. The Hogs are 3-0 ATS with the only defeat coming in a 67-64 loss last Saturday at Texas Tech as 10-point underdogs.

-- LAST CALLS! Loyola-Chicago at Illinois State (10:00, ESPN) and New Mexico at Fresno State (10:00, ESPNU).

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.

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