Kansas State played in-Florida’s-face defense to upset the No. 8 Gators 67-61 on Saturday night. It was the Wildcats’ first win against a top-10 team since 1961.
It was Florida’s second loss in the past three games after falling 65-64 at Arizona a week ago. The Gators (8-2) next play Air Force on Dec. 29 in Sunrise, Fla.
The Wildcats (9-2) used relentless man pressure to prevent Florida (9-2) from getting many open looks at the basket, resulting in the Gators’ second lowest offensive output of the season. They shot just 24 of 57 (40.1 percent) from the field, including 5 of 19 (26.3 percent) from three-point range.
“Clearly from start to finish, Kansas State outplayed us,” Donovan told the Gator IMG Sports Network after the game. “I thought we were out-hustled, outworked … We had a lot of guys that didn’t show up ready to play. When you don’t come to play against a BCS school, I don’t care who it is on the road, it’s going to wind up this way.
“Offensively, we really made some poor decisions.”
The game was played on a “neutral” court, although the Wildcats clearly had the home-crowd advantage in Kansas City, which is less than two hours away from KSU’s campus in Manhattan, Kan. It was a return trip from Kansas State’s game against Florida on a neutral court a year ago in Sunrise.
KSU’s defensive pressure affected Florida’s perimeter shooting the most. Guards Kenny Boynton, Scottie Wilbekin and Mike Rosario combined to go 2 of 12 from beyond the arc.
To make matters worse, Kansas State consistently worked the ball inside to get UF center Patric Young into foul trouble. He only played 26 minutes and missed nearly eight crucial minutes during the second half. He picked up his third foul at the 13:48 mark and his fourth when trying to take a charge at 6:53 before fouling out with 17 second remaining in regulation.
Still, it was Young’s effort while he was on the floor that kept the Gators in the game as he finished with 19 points on 8 of 10 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds and two blocks. He scored 10 of his team’s 12 points during one span late in the game, including back-to-back jump hooks that cut the deficit to six points (57-51) with 3:30 remaining.
Following a free throw by Jordan Henriquez, Florida had a chance to cut into the deficit even more. Wilbekin actually got one of Florida’s few wide-open three-point looks, but his attempt from the left wing rimmed out with 2:41 remaining.
Young hit a pair of free throws to make it 58-53 with under two minutes to go, but that was as close as the Gators would get.
Erik Murphy won the opening tip and Wilbekin swished a running one-hander from six-feet out to begin the game. However, it was shots like that by UF’s guards that irk Donovan the most as he said his team did not play with much “basketball intelligence” on offense. In fact, it was the only one of those kinds of shots the Gators would sink in the first 20 minutes.
“They are running out there and trying to jump out at our guards and our guards are insisting on taking these running, floating shots in the lane,” Donovan said.
“We’ve charted it and our guards are shooting over those big mens’ outstretched arms this year about 12 percent. We were 1-for-8 on those shots in the first half.
“We’ve got to find a way to look at the tape and try to get better and improve. But I felt all around our offense and our defense was poor.”
After outrebounding opponents by an average of 10 boards through the first nine games, Kansas State was able to outrebound Florida 36-27. Donovan said the Wildcats simply were more physical.
The Gators trailed by as many as 11 points late in the first half and were down 33-23 at the half. They hit their first five field goals on the second half and put together a 12-3 run to get back into it.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Murphy and Boynton evened the score at 41-all with more than 13-minutes remaining. From there, however, Donovan said his team “sabotaged itself” with several bad possessions and bad decisions that resulted in the team’s second loss of the season.