By LARRY VAUGHT
After struggling to beat Georgia in overtime at Rupp Arena Tuesday, Kentucky has to play at Florida Saturday night when an ESPN GameDay stop will probably energize the Gator fans even more.
“I would say it’s probably the hardest place to play in. I mean, the environment is so humid. You get in the gym and the fans are right on top of you,” UK senior Derek Willis said Friday. “It’s just a hard environment to play in. With College GameDay too being there, I mean, it’s going to make it that much more tough. We’ll see.”
Florida is on roll with three blowout wins, including one at Oklahoma — a team that won at West Virginia.
“Just gotta be prepared, take the fight to them right from the jump. They’re going to be ready for us. I think they’re a top-25 team. They’re good. They can beat you. Just gotta show up,” Willis said.
Willis remembers his freshman season when UK could not beat Florida in three tries.
“We came close the last time, but that was probably the toughest I remember Florida being,” Willis said. “The fans like literally are right on top of you. Their bench is on the court and the stands are like that. It’s super close. I don’t know, sometimes you hear stuff and sometimes you don’t. But you just play the game and you’ll be alright.”
Kentucky assistant coach Joel Justus isn’t worried about the Florida fans.
“I think it’s a tough place to play because of the guys that are in the uniforms. That has a little bit more to do with it than the fans or arena. They have very good basketball players and are very well-coached. That’s something that presents a bigger problem at times rather than however many thousand folks that are there for that game,” Justus said.
“They’re a very good team. They have experience. They have athleticism. They have size and they present problems for their opponents because of those things I just mentioned. I mean, when you have experienced guards in college basketball that always helps you. When you have guys that have been through the wars of the SEC, that helps you. And you can tell (they’re) well coached. They’re disciplined. (They) play very hard. They are doing what they do well, and that’s something as a coach you – I would imagine for them – they feel good about.”