The Florida Gators basketball team dropped their second consecutive road game Saturday night losing to the Kansas State Wildcats 67-61. They arrived in Kansas City amidst the cold and snow, but when they showed up at the Sprint Center, it was their offense, defense, and rebounding that was cold. Shooting a meager 30% (8-26) from the field in the first half, the Gators fell behind early and finished the half down by ten at 33-23. It was the first time they had allowed a team to break 30 points in the first half of any game this season. Defensively, the Gators were unusually suspect as well giving up 42% (12-28) from the field in the first twenty minutes.
The Gators seemed a step slow in the first half as they were continually beaten to rebounds and a step late defending Kansas State’s screen game giving the Wildcats numerous open looks. 6-2 guard Will Spradling hit some big threes leading the way for the Wildcats in the first half. The Gators played well defending the rest of the Kansas State offense, they just forgot about Spradling and he made them pay.
The Gators came out of the locker room determined and playing with energy, choosing to get the ball inside to big Patric Young and it paid off early as the Gators dwindled the ten point lead down to one with a 12-3 run to open the second half. They could never really get over the hump, though, as Kansas State fought off every big run by the Gators with good shot selection and great offensive rebounding. While the Gators shot better in the second half finishing the game at 42% shooting from the field overall, their poor rebounding and defensive lapses as well as untimely turnovers and cold shooting spells eventually doomed them. Oddly, the Gators came in having had only twelve shots blocked in ten games, but had seven blocked in this one including five by 6-11 forward Jordan Henriquez.
Patric Young led the Gators tonight with 19 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with under a minute to go. It was Young going to the bench after his third foul early in the second half that slowed the Gators comeback bid. Donovan moved 6-7 forward Will Yeguete over into Young’s spot and threw Casey Prather into Yeguete’s small forward spot. That didn’t work as the length of Kansas State gave Yeguete and Prather fits and kept the Gators off-balance offensively allowing the Wildcats to build their second half lead back up to as many as ten points at stretches.
When Young came back in, he did help settle the offense down some, but it was too little too late for the Gators who simply couldn’t provide enough defense or timely rebounds to overcome the Kansas State ball screen offense which allowed guards Rodney McGruder and Spadling to take easy open shots in rhythm. Spadling led the Wildcats with 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists while McGruder chipped in with 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists.
For the Gators Kenny Boynton finished with 11 points but he shot only 4-11 (36%) from the field. He also had 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals on the night. Scottie Wilbekin continued his run of good play for the Gators chipping in 11 points with 7 assists. Mike Rosario, who had been playing at a high level the last few games had, arguably, his worst game of the season finishing with only 5 points on 1-9 shooting with no rebounds and only one assist. Forwards Will Yeguete and Casey Prather combined for as many turnovers (4) as points on the night on 1-6 shooting. Overall, it was a less than stellar effort for the team combined except for Patric Young who was aggressive on the boards and on offense the entire game.
Overall the Gators had their worst defensive game of the season and poorest rebounding game as well. They came in 8th in the nation in rebounding margin at over ten per game but were dominated on the boards in this one 35-25 as Kansas State was quicker to the boards and more disciplined. Defensively, the Gators came in ranked third in the nation in scoring defense averaging only 50 points per game allowed and giving up under 36% opponent field goal percentage. The Wildcats finished the game shooting 41% (20-48) and 41% (7-17) from the three point line. Kansas State was very effective getting to the free throw line finishing with 14 more attempts than the Gators as the Gators seemed to be a step late defending the Wildcats motion offense and they seemed to drive the lane way more than Donovan was comfortable with.
The Gators drop to 9-2 on the season while Kansas State improves to 9-2 with their first win against a ranked opponent this season. The Gators will return to action next Saturday December 29 in Sunrise, Florida as they take on the Air Force Academy. Tip off for that one is set for 4:30 pm eastern and will be broadcast on FSN.