UF's road woes continue with loss to K-State


Published: Saturday, December 22, 2012 at 10:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 24, 2012 at 8:16 a.m.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Florida played well for 38-and-a-half minutes in its heartbreaking one-point loss to Arizona more than a week ago.

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Kansas State forward Thomas Gipson beats Florida guard Mike Rosario, left, to a rebound during the first half on Saturday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

It’s fair to say that the No. 8 Gators played just 20 good minutes in their second loss of the season, a 67-61 defeat to Kansas State before 16,303 at the Sprint Center.

The Gators (8-2) couldn’t recover from a 33-23 halftime deficit that included lax defense and poor shot selection.

“I’m not sure if we came ready to play tonight,” said Florida junior center Patric Young, who led the Gators with 19 points. “They gave us every opportunity to come back even though we weren’t playing that great. We didn’t execute. We just didn’t get the job done.”

Young added 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season before fouling out with 17.7 seconds left. But it wasn’t enough for the Gators to overcome a myriad of poor shots.

Afterward, Florida coach Billy Donovan called it an “uncharacteristic” game from his guards because they weren’t looking to make the extra pass.

“I thought our guards made some really, really poor choices driving down the lane,” Donovan said.

Florida had seven shots blocked in the game. Kansas State forward Jordan Henriquez had five blocks.

“Anytime you get a shot blocked, it’s not a good shot,” Donovan said. “Patric Young being open like he was in the second half, that was there the entire game. I just think we didn’t do a good job of finding him.”

Will Spradling led Kansas State (9-2) with 17 points. Spradling scored 13 of his 17 points in the first half, helping the Wildcats build a 10-point halftime lead.

Senior guard Rodney McGruder added 13 points for Kansas State.

Kenny Boynton and Scottie Wilbekin added 11 points apiece for the Gators.

The Gators went with a smaller starting lineup, replacing Will Yeguete with Wilbekin in an effort to match Kansas State’s three-guard starting lineup.

Florida tried to work the ball inside early against Kansas State’s undersized frontline. But Yeguete was called for a questionable offensive foul and was unable to finish on an easy basket inside.

There were five first-half lead changes before Kansas State pulled away on a 15-3 run. Spradling scored five points during the run on his third 3-pointer of the first half and a pair of free throws.

During the stretch, Mike Rosario missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Casey Prather had an inexplicable turnover, fumbling away an in-bounds directly to McGruder.

Florida trailed 33-23 halftime, giving up the most points it had in the first half all season while scoring the fewest points in a half. The Gators shot just 30.8 percent from the field and 22 percent (2-of-9) from 3-point range.

Donovan felt the offensive struggles in the first half were due to UF’s guards taking too many runners in the lane.

“We made nine of those plays in the first half and we made shot, and those are possessions you don’t get back,” Donovan said. “We had guys open all over the place if we just made the extra pass.”

But Florida fought back by working the ball inside early in the second half. Erik Murphy scored UF’s first basket of the second half with a hook shot. Back-to-back hook shots from Young and a steal and layup from Boynton cut Kansas State’s lead to 35-31.

Boynton tied the score at 41 with a 3-pointer, just the fourth make in his prior 30 attempts. The Gators trailed 50-47 on a Wilbekin runner, but Martavious Irving answered with a 3-pointer to put Kansas State up 53-47.

From there, Florida struggled on its next four offensive possessions. Wilbekin threw up an air ball on a drive in the line. Mike Rosario and Boynton had shots blocked and Wilbekin threw the ball away on a pick and roll.

During the offensive struggles, Kansas State extended its lead to 57-47 on four free throws from Spradling and Henriquez.

Florida cut Kansas State’s lead to 58-53 on a pair of free throws from Young with 1:58 left. But Kansas State forward Thomas Gipson came up with a big offensive rebound off a Spradling missed 3-point attempt. Out of a timeout, Shane Southwell then hit a big 3-pointer to put Kansas State up 61-53 with 1:26 left.

“Our energy level just wasn’t where it needed to be,” Donovan said. “We were a step slow all night.”

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or brockwk@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway’s blog at Gatorsports.com.

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