/Kentucky vs. Florida score: Wildcats bounce back from sluggish start to year for third straight SEC win
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Kentucky vs. Florida score: Wildcats bounce back from sluggish start to year for third straight SEC win

USATSI

Kentucky’s first two SEC victories came by narrow margins against teams that are expected to finish in the league’s bottom half. They could be dismissed as insignificant by those wanting to believe the Wildcats are destined for disaster following a 1-6 start. But what Kentucky did on Saturday might start to change the narrative surrounding what these Wildcats are capable of accomplishing after their dismal start.

With sophomore forward Keion Brooks in the lineup for the first time this season after missing the first nine games with a calf injury, the Wildcats throttled Florida 76-58 on the road and improved to 3-0 in conference play. Kentucky entered the day at No. 129 in the NET rankings and still faces an uphill climb to make the NCAA Tournament with an overall record of just 4-6. But Brooks’ return ignited the team’s most impressive showing of the season, as the 6-7 sophomore looked like the spark the Wildcats were missing during their historically bad start.

A five-star prospect who played a bench role for last year’s 25-6 team, Brooks finished with 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting and contributed six rebounds and four assists in 24 minutes against the Gators. He is the only player on this year’s Kentucky roster who was part of last year’s rotation, and coach John Calipari has lamented his absence at times this season.

Kentucky’s win sets up a huge conference showdown on Tuesday with Alabama, which improved to 4-0 in SEC play with a win at Auburn on Saturday. The Wildcats, Crimson Tide and South Carolina are the only remaining teams unbeaten in SEC play. But the Gamecocks have played only one league game due to COVID-19 issues.