Florida prepares for K-State star McGruder
Published: Saturday, December 22, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 21, 2012 at 11:59 p.m.
Florida has faced its share of high-caliber players in its first nine games this season.
Who: No. 8 Florida Gators (8-1) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (8-2)
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo.
Gainesville TV: ESPN2
Gainesville radio: AM-850, 103.7 FM
On Thursday, Florida coach Billy Donovan rattled off some of the big names — Michael Snaer of Florida State, Vander Blue of Marquette, Mike Bruesewitz of Wisconsin, Mark Lyons of Arizona.
But Donovan had high praise for Kansas State senior shooting guard Rodney McGruder, whom the Gators will face Saturday night.
“McGruder may be the best player individually that we've faced this year,” Donovan said.
Stopping McGruder will be one of the keys when No. 8 Florida (8-1) meets Kansas State tonight at the Wildcat Classic in Kansas City. With a pro-Kansas State crowd expected at the Sprint Center, Florida will be dealing with its share of adversity.
“I hear their fans are pretty crazy,” Florida junior center Patric Young said. “It's just going to be something where we're going to have to push through that adversity.
“It's probably going to be really loud, and we're going to have to, no matter what the situation, stay together as a team and get through.”
A Big 12 player of the year candidate, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound McGruder is coming off a season-high, 26-point performance Tuesday night in Kansas State's 78-69 win over Texas Southern. McGruder made 12-of-17 shots from the floor.
“He's played a lot of games from day one,” Donovan said. “Very, very talented. Very, very gifted. He can really, really score in a lot of different ways. They run a lot of different kind of screening action for him, so he's a terrific player all the way around.”
A Washington, D.C. native, McGruder played high school basketball at Arlington Country Day School in Jacksonville. Young, a Jacksonville native, recalled watching McGruder score 41 points in a high school playoff game.
“He can light it up,” Young said.
Kansas State is going through a coaching transition this season, with first-year coach Bruce Weber replacing Frank Martin, who left for South Carolina. Weber was let go from Illinois after failing to make the NCAA Tournament for the third time in nine seasons.
Under Weber, Kansas State is off to an 8-2 start, with its lone losses coming against Michigan and Gonzaga. Donovan is expecting another tough defensive challenge for the Gators. Kansas State is holding opponents to just 57.4 points per game.
“They've got a veteran group and a group of guys that have been around,” Donovan said. “So I'm sure they've got some things they've kept in place from Frank, probably some things Bruce has added.
“Their defense, Bruce Weber is a terrific defensive coach, Frank Martin is a terrific defensive coach. They are both terrific coaches so no question I think for that older group their foundation defensively has been built over a period of time.”
FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS
G Kenny Boynton 6-2 Sr. 12.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg
G Mike Rosario 6-3 Sr. 12.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg
F Will Yeguete 6-7 Jr. 7.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg
F Erik Murphy 6-10 Sr. 11.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg
C Patric Young 6-9 Jr. 10.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg
KANSAS STATE PROBABLE STARTERS
G Will Spradling 6-2 Jr. 8.7 ppg, 3.0 apg
G Angel Rodriguez 5-11 So. 10.7 ppg, 4.4 apg
G Rodney McGruder 6-4 Sr. 13.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg
F Nino Williams 6-5 So. 5.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg
F Thomas Gipson 6-7 So. 7.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg
Notes: Florida is traveling to Kansas State in a return game from a matchup between the two schools in 2010 in Sunrise. Florida downed Kansas State in that game 57-44. … Florida is 18-12 against current teams in the Big 12 conference. … Florida ranks first in the nation in scoring defense, holding teams to 49.6 points per game. … Mike Rosario is averaging 16.3 points over his last three games. … Kenny Boynton will be looking to break out of a shooting slump. Boynton is just 3 of his last 27 from 3-point range. … Kansas State is holding opponents to just 26.5 percent shooting from 3-point range. … The Wildcats enter the game with a plus-8.8 rebounding margin, while Florida is at plus-10.7.
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