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February 7, 2012There was a defender between Marquis Teague and the basket, and then there wasn't.
The Kentucky point guard had driven into the teeth of the Florida defense in the second half of the Wildcats' game against the Gators Tuesday night at Rupp Arena and had met no resistance. A path had cleared. He had an easy layup.
It was that sort of night for No. 1 UK against No. 8 Florida. Easier than expected.
The Cats cruised past the Gators 78-58, winning their 16th straight game, their 49th straight at home and their first against a ranked opponent since December.
"I think we made a big statement," Teague said. "We just wanted to come in and show that we feel like we can beat anybody that we play and we can beat them by a good amount."
That easy layup Teague got was part of a double-double - he had 12 points and 10 assists - and it was the result of the versatility that's made Kentucky (24-1, 10-0 Southeastern Conference) all but unbeatable of late.
The Florida defender who backed off was big man Patric Young. The reason was to keep Teague from throwing a lob pass to teammate Anthony Davis for a dunk.
"When we were running back on defense, (Young) actually told me, 'Man, I thought he was going to throw that to you, so I was staying on you, and I gave him a layup,'" Davis said. "I was telling Marquis, 'They're doing that every time. Just go in thinking layup first, and then if you see him, just throw it.'"
The Wildcats are a pick-your-poison opponent.
"They are very, very good," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "There is not one thing you do necessarily against them that is a formula to win."
All the math was bad for Florida (19-5, 7-2) on Tuesday.
Kentucky made 52.7 percent of its shots. The Cats scored 38 points in the paint and 27 from behind the three-point line, making 9-of-15 three-pointers. UK held Florida, the SEC's best three-point shooting team, to six threes in 27 attempts.
That added up to disaster for the Gators, who jumped out to a 6-0 lead but trailed by double digits for the last 18:14 of the game.
"I was happy with how we played," UK coach John Calipari said. "We scored the ball pretty well, a good percentage. We made threes, we made free throws. We had 13 turnovers."
The Wildcats got 18 points from Doron Lamb, and Davis added 16, six rebounds and four blocked shots. Teague and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (13 points, 13 rebounds) added double-doubles.
On a night like that, Kentucky's hard to beat.
It's fair to wonder: Can anyone do it?
"Nah," Lamb said. "No way. It's impossible."
Calipari wasn't going that far. He said Florida's chilly three-point shooting kept the game from being much of a measuring stick for the Wildcats, who have won their last four games by an average of 23.2 points per game.
"What we need to do is have a team come out and go nutty on us and have us have to respond to that and then hold on to win a tight game," Calipari said.
Maybe they'll get that game on Saturday at Vanderbilt. Maybe it'll come at Mississippi State or in the Wildcats' regular-season-finale rematch with the Gators in Gainesville, Fla.
For now, though, the Cats are looking like a juggernaut.
"You got the lob, the person who's driving has the layup, the floater, and you've got people who can kick out for the three," Davis said. "We've got a lot of different weapons. It's really hard to guard when we play like we played tonight."
Hard to guard.
But when Kentucky plays that way is it impossible to beat?
"I don't want to say that nobody can beat us," Teague said. "I just want to say it would be tough. Real tough."