It took over a month for Kentucky to win back-to-back games. But now that the Wildcats have some feel for winning, more help is on the way as they head to Gainesville to take on the Florida Gators on Saturday.
Sophomore forward Keion Brooks Jr., Kentucky’s only returning scholarship player from last season, has been medically cleared from a left leg injury and is expected to play against Florida (5-2, 2-1 in SEC).
Brooks, who played in 31 games as a freshman, averaged 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds but shot 47.2 percent from the field. He could provide another spark for Kentucky (3-6, 2-0), which beat Mississippi State and Vanderbilt after starting the season 1-6 for the first time since 1926, according to ESPN.
“We have all been patient with this but obviously we all wanted Keion out there with us, no one more so than him,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said.
The Gators remember Brooks well from his role in Kentucky’s 18-point second-half rally last season in Gainesville, which resulted in the Wildcats’ fourth consecutive victory in the series.
Florida has been on its own emotional rollercoaster since star forward Keyontae Johnson collapsed on the court during a game Dec. 12 against Florida State. Johnson, the SEC Preseason Player of the Year, reportedly will miss between three to six months as he recovers from what The Gainesville Sun reported as acute myocarditis. The Gators are 2-1 since losing Johnson.
“Right now he’s really eager to help with scouting and doing some coaching, doing some officiating, talking a little trash on the sideline,” coach Mike White said.
Colin Castleton has picked up the slack in his absence, shooting 24-for-34 (70.6 percent) and averaging 19.0 points and 6.3 rebounds per game over the past three games. Tre Mann remains the Gators’ top scorer (14.6 points), rebounder (5.6) and leader in assists (4.3) among active players.
Kentucky’s recent surge began with a 23-point game from Dontaie Allen against Mississippi State. Allen has helped offset the struggles of freshman guard Brandon Boston Jr., who is averaging a team-best 12.8 points, but has shot a dismal 15.2 percent from 3-point range. Davion Mintz (10.0 points, 2.8 assists per game) hit the game-winning trey against Vanderbilt and Olivier Sarr (11.3 points, 6.0 rebounds per game) scored 24 points.
The Wildcats made only 25 percent from 3-point range in their first seven games, but in the two victories, they sank 16 of 34 (47 percent).
–Field Level Media