UF BASKETBALL

Notebook: Florida-Kansas rematch may be in the works


Florida guard Kasey Hill (0) fights around a screen by Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) while guarding Jayhawks guard Frank Mason (0) during the Gators' 67-61 win at the O'Connell Center on Tuesday.

Matt Stamey / Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 10:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 11:26 p.m.

The Florida-Kansas matchup at the O’Connell Center wasn’t just a boon for Gator fans.

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Florida guard Kasey Hill (0) fights around a screen by Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) while guarding Jayhawks guard Frank Mason (0) during the Gators' 67-61 win at the O'Connell Center on Tuesday.

Matt Stamey / Staff photographer

For the Southeastern Conference, the marquee game between the two schools in the inaugural SEC-Big 12 Challenge was a good fit as well.

“A game like tonight, with Kansas and Florida, really puts the conference as a focal point in the college basketball world,” SEC associate commissioner Mark Whitworth said before Tuesday night’s matchup. “That’s what we’re trying to get accomplished to position the SEC as one of the prominent basketball leagues.”

Whether the pairing will carry over into next season remains to be seen. Whitworth said the SEC has not decided on its pairings with Big 12 teams next season. But a source close to Florida said the two schools have had initial discussions about a rematch next season at Allen Fieldhouse in Kansas.

“This year, the 2013 challenge is a bit of a hybrid,” Whitworth said. “It’s kind of a combination of games that we made and then existing games that we had in place between SEC and Big 12 institutions. Next year, it will be more concentrated over a three-day event and we’ll make all the matchups.”

Entering Tuesday night, the Big 12 had a 6-2 advantage in the series. It’s been a tough early season for the SEC. Missouri’s 80-71 win over then-No. 18 UCLA last Saturday was the first win for the SEC against a ranked team this season.

Whitworth, who was appointed by SEC commissioner Mike Slive to oversee men’s basketball this season, said he thinks the league will pick up more signature wins.

“You obviously want to win every game you play, but in some of those cases, we’ve had very close losses and just recently Missouri had a really quality win over a nationally ranked UCLA team on CBS, national television,” Whitworth said. “This is a tremendous opportunity for us tonight.”

On the mend

With DeVon Walker (sprained foot) and Kasey Hill (high ankle sprain) both available, the Gators had a rotation of eight fully healthy scholarship players available for the first time this season.

Only four UF scholarship players (Patric Young, Casey Prather, Michael Frazier II and Will Yeguete) have appeared in all nine of UF’s games this season. The rest of UF’s players have missed time due to injuries and suspensions.

“It’s always good when you’ve got a lot of depth in your backcourt, especially with all the foul-calling going on throughout the whole season,” Young said. “That’s been the theme of this year, with the no-hands-on-guys. Our team has been dealing with foul trouble every now and then.”

Vitale in O’Dome

Veteran college basketball analyst Dick Vitale called the Florida-Kansas game for ESPN. It’s the first of two straight Gator games in which Vitale will be behind the mic. Vitale also will call next week’s Florida-Memphis game at Madison Square Garden in the Jimmy V Classic.

Vitale came away impressed with UF’s effort against Kansas in the first half.

“Just a supreme defensive effort,” Vitale said at halftime. “Their press, 1-3-1 zone, man. And Patric (Young) played like a man inside and dominated the boards. You play good defense and you dominate the glass, you are going to win most games.”

Vitale will host his 9th gala to benefit the V Foundation for Cancer Research on Friday, May 16. Keynote speakers will include Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey, Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean and Alabama football coach Nick Saban. Ticket information on the gala can be obtained by calling 941-350-0580.

Etc.

Scouts from 20 different NBA teams attended the game. … No. 13 Kansas was the highest-ranked opponent the Gators have faced at the O’Connell Center since falling 74-59 to No. 1 Kentucky on March 4, 2012. … Young and Yeguete shared a few hugs pregame with Kansas assistant coach Norm Roberts, who was an assistant with UF during the 2011-12 season. … Former Gator and NBA point guard Jason Williams sat courtside for the game. Former Gator guard Mike Rosario also was at the game sitting next to Florida coach Billy Donovan’s wife, Christine. Major League Baseball player A.J. Pierzynski, a Gator fan, was also in attendance.

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