The No. 19 Florida Gators (7-2) scored their most prominent win of the young season on Tuesday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL, holding on for a hard-fought 67-61 victory over the No. 13 Kansas Jayhawks (6-3) in the final game of the 2013 Big-12 SEC Challenge.
OnlyGators.com breaks down the Gators’ seventh win with The Fastbreak.
It was over when: Kansas committed its 24th turnover of the game with 45.3 seconds remaining, giving Florida the ball back with a six-point lead. Senior forward Casey Prather got fouled on the ensuing offensive possession, headed to the line and hit two free throws to put UF up eight with 37.1 seconds left. Though KU cut its deficit to four points, Prather hit 10-of-12 free throws in the second half to propel his team to victory. He scored 12 points and grabbed a team-high eight boards.
Prominent player: Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin was a firecracker for the Gators all night, playing superb basketball in the first half and seemingly finding a way to put the ball in the basket every time the Jayhawks threatened in the latter 20 minutes. He handled the rock like a dream and played terrific defense, too, finishing with a team-highs of six assists, four steals and, oh yeah, 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting.
Standout stat: Florida dominated all phases of the game in the first half, leading by 18 at one point and taking a 15-point advantage into the break. The Gators accomplished this by outrebounding their opponents 11-4 on the offensive glass. Florida also forced Kansas to commit 16 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, matching a season-high the visitors had registered in an entire game. KU fought back in the second half by “only” coughing it up eight times and grabbing four more offensive rebounds than UF.
Check out the second half of The Fastbreak after the, well, break.
Significant stretch: After starting 1-for-9 from the field and finding themselves down 10-3 early, the Gators took off on an explosive 21-0 run including a pair of three-pointers from redshirt sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith. Florida led 24-10 while holding Kansas scoreless for 8:42, eventually stretching its advantage to 18 points just a few minutes later. Finney-Smith scored 12 of his 15 points in the first half, hitting 4-of-6 threes and picking up five boards.
Perfect play: Midway through the first half, Prather missed a relatively easy layup but senior center Patric Young was right behind him to grab the rebound off the rim with one hand and slam it home for a thunderous dunk. The O’Dome erupted in response. Young scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds but went just 2-for-7 from the line.
Exciting ending: Young missed the front end of consecutive one-and-ones with less than three minutes to play, and Jayhawks freshman guard Andrew Wiggins took advantage by draining two treys to cut his team’s deficit to six points. Wiggins hit one more three a few seconds later to drop the Gators’ lead to five, and UF saw it dip to four points with just 11 seconds left. Wiggins finished with a double-double including 11 boards and a career-high 26 points on 7-of-14 shooting (4-of-8 from downtown).
What it means: Florida improved to 5-0 against top-25 opponents at home over the last two seasons while winning their 21st consecutive game in the O’Dome against a non-conference opponent (22 in a row overall inside the House of Horrors). The Gators also made a statement nationally that it should undoubtedly be considered one of the best teams in the country despite losing its previous two games against ranked competition.
Next up: UF got its best decision of the young season and now has a full week off before it goes up against another top 25-ranked opponent, No. 16 Memphis, in the Jimmy V. Classic on Dec. 17 at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY.