The No. 19 Florida Gators (7-2) held on for hard-fought 67-61 victory over the No. 13 Kansas Jayhawks (6-3) on Tuesday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL in the final game of the Big 12-SEC Challenge despite facing heavy resistance from the visitors in the second half. Head coach Billy Donovan met with the media following the game to discuss Florida’s most notable victory of the young season.
HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS
» Florida is now 2-1 against Kansas under Donovan, though the Jayhawks still lead 3-2 in the all-time series against the Gators.
» UF improved to 5-4 against top 25-ranked opponents dating back to last season with all five wins coming inside the O’Dome.
» Florida has now won 22-straight non-conference games in the House of Horrors and 21 consecutive home games overall, the second-longest streak in school history.
» The Gators are now 61-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» Florida is already 3-2 in single-digit decisions this season after going 0-6 in contests decided by fewer than 10 points in 2012-13. Six of UF’s eight losses last year were by six points or less, a constant black mark on the campaign.
» Tuesday night’s game was sold out with a listed attendance of 12,423.
» Despite the Gators’ thrilling victory, the SEC had already lost the Big 12-SEC Challenge before the game even started. The Big 12 held a 6-2 advantage heading into Tuesday’s contest and now leads 6-3. Oklahoma and Texas A&M will play the final game of the challenge on Saturday, Dec. 21.
» According to The Gainesville Sun, UF and KU may have a return showdown next season in Lawrence, KS.
» About two dozen scouts were in attendance at the game.
The Gators played their best half of the season in the first 20 minutes of Tuesday’s game, and it just so happened to be the first time that both of their point guards – senior Scottie Wilbekin and freshman Kasey Hill were able to play in the same rotation and on the court simultaneously.
Wilbekin posted a career-high 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting in 36 minutes but what he did elsewhere was even more impressive. He played lock down defense at times, much of it in the frontcourt (more on that below) while dishing six dimes and picking up four steals. It was quite a turnaround from his lackluster performance in the second half at UConn, a game in which he shot 6-of-14 and committed three costly turnovers.
“He always plays really hard. He gives me great effort all the time,” explained Donovan. “I didn’t think he played very well at UConn. He really, really struggled, had some turnovers late when we had a seven or eight-point lead, made some poor decisions, missed some shots. I thought he struggled in that game. I think having a week off and maybe missing a couple days and having three days to get ready for this game, I think he was eager to play well and knew that maybe the UConn game was a game that we had every opportunity to win and maybe it slipped away there a little bit from us at the end. I think, for him, he was pretty focused on wanting to come back and play better [Tuesday].”