A double-digit underdog without a top-25 victory yet this season, the Kansas State Wildcats (9-3) outworked the No. 8/9 Florida Gators (8-2) on both ends of the court on Saturday night as they pulled off an impressive 67-61 upset victory in a neutral site game at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO.
Kansas State completed its first non-conference win against a top-10 team since 1981 by dominating Florida on the boards (36-27) and holding the visitors to a paltry 26.3 shooting from beyond the arc.
The Wildcats also got plenty of help from their bench as reserves scored 21 of their 67 points. Though the Gators dominated paint scoring by posting 32 points including 19 from junior center Patric Young, KSU played solid post defense throughout the night and had C Jordan Henriquez finish with five blocks on the evening.
Young was 8-of-11 with 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season and was one of two UF players (junior forward Casey Prather) to foul out.
Tied at 14 with 10:51 remaining in the first half, Kansas State took it to Florida on both ends of the court. The Wildcats outscored the Gators 16-4 heading into halftime and jumped out to a 33-23 lead at the break.
Florida only connected on one field goal over the final 8:50 of the period, and the 33 points given up in the first half was the most UF has allowed so far this season.
It only took a few minutes for the Gators to get right back in the game. Florida opened up the second half on a 12-3 run to get within one of Kansas State and knotted the contest at 41 with 13:21 to play on a big three-pointer by senior guard Kenny Boynton.
The Wildcats did not waste time regaining their lead, putting together an 11-2 scoring stretch to retake a 10-point lead with five minutes left in the game. The Gators cut their deficit to five points on two free throws by Young with 2:14 left but were unable to pull closer than that as KSU held on for the big upset.
Kansas State guards Will Spradling and Rodney McGruder combined for 30 points and 12 rebounds. Each went 4-for-12 for the field but combined to make 11-of-14 free throws. KSU took 14 more attempts from the charity stripe than UF.
Boynton and junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin each added 11 points for Florida. Boynton’s cold streak continued as he went 4-for-11 from the field and 1-for-5 from downtown. He is 13-of-51 on field goals and 4-of-32 on threes over the last five games.
The Gators have now lost at least two non-conference games every year since 2006-07 and will likely fall out of the top 15 when the new top-25 polls are released on Monday.
Florida will play one more game before 2012 ends as it travels to Sunrise, FL to take on Air Force in the 2012 Orange Bowl Basketball Classic next Saturday at 4:30 p.m.