Friday, December 15, 2017
Sports

No. 8 Florida Gators lose to Kansas State Wildcats

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas State kept chasing down loose balls, kept taking away passing lanes on defense and generally made life miserable for Mike Rosario and the rest of the No. 8 Gators.

One of the nation's best defensive teams was out-defended, and Florida coach Billy Donovan knew it.

"I thought they were just a step ahead of us, a step quicker," Donovan said after Saturday night's 67-61 loss. "We gave up some offensive rebounds. We had just a couple plays there where we were just late on some things, particularly our guards getting over screens."

Florida's Patric Young had 19 points and 10 rebounds despite foul trouble, but he didn't get a lot of help against Kansas State's in-your-shorts defense.

Rosario, the Gators' leading scorer, had five points on 1 for 9 shooting. Scott Wilbekin scored 11 but made 0 of 3 3-pointers; the Gators were 5-of-19 as a team beyond the arc.

"When a guy like (Rosario) goes 1-for-9, probably a third of his shots were blocked," Donovan said. "When you're getting your shot blocked, it's not a good night.

"Our guards made some very poor plays in the first half in terms of our ball movement. We were very insistent on driving the ball and taking runners and floaters in the lane. … We had guys open all over the place. All we had to do was make the extra pass."

Will Spradling had 17 points, six rebounds and five assists to lead the Wildcats.

"Whenever you're shooting it well — you see the ball go through the net — it brings confidence to you and for your team as well," said Spradling, a sophomore guard who didn't have a turnover in 39 minutes. "This is probably my best all-around performance that I've had."

Rodney McGruder added 13 points, and Jordan Henriquez had nine points and five blocks for the Wildcats (9-2), who watched a 10-point halftime lead evaporate before clamping down on the Gators and pulling away in the final minutes.

"We were in tune with one another. We wanted this game," McGruder said. "Our preparation for Florida was great, tremendous. The past couple practices guys were getting after one another."

Young's two free throws with just more than 2 minutes left got Florida (8-2) within 58-53, but Spradling found Shane Southwell in the corner for an open 3-pointer and the Wildcats put the game away from the line down the stretch. They ended up shooting 21 free throws in the second half.

"If you're looking at the game, I'd think everyone would say Kansas State's energy was much better than ours," Donovan said. "The reason they got the lead they did, it was because their energy was much better."

The Wildcats have been struggling in new coach Bruce Weber's motion offense, and it showed in sloppy, lackluster losses to No. 2 Michigan and No. 14 Gonzaga. But they finally managed to get it clicking just enough.

"Just a heck of an effort by our guys," Weber said. "The thing I challenged them with is, we had to compete for 40 minutes just to give ourselves a chance. Against Michigan, against Gonzaga, we only competed for 20."

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