Florida at Kansas State score, takeaways: Gators outclassed by No. 5 Wildcats, Keyontae Johnson

By OnlyGators.com Staff
January 28, 2023
Florida at Kansas State score, takeaways: Gators outclassed by No. 5 Wildcats, Keyontae Johnson

Image Credit: KSU Athletics

In the midst of one of the toughest stretches of the season for any Division I program, the Florida Gators were simply outclassed on the road by the No. 5 Kansas State Wildcats in the 2023 SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Kansas State led early and never trailed with a thorough 64-50 win over Florida, which was held to its fewest points in a game this season.

The Gators went through numerous scoring droughts and were unable to achieve any of the success they found in recent games, such as taking high-percentage shots, defending in transition and sharing the ball with extra-effort passes. The Wildcats simply out-talented the visitors, shooting 44% from the field in the first half and never seeing their advantage fall below 11 points after a shot run by the visitors in the second half.

What went wrong on Saturday night in UF’s final appearance in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge (which is concluding this season)? Let’s take a look with some Fastbreak Takeaways.

It was over when … Kansas State completed an 11-1 run to jump ahead a game-high 23 points with 5 minutes to play. This despite Florida opening the half on a 10-0 run of its own, cutting its deficit in half and looking like it might make the game competitive through the finish. While the Gators did hang around, they went without a single basket for 7:29 as the Wildcats put together their scoring stretch that effectively ended the game.

First half focus: It was another ice-cold start for Florida, which opened 3 of 18 from the field as its deficit ballooned to 14 points with 8 minutes until the break. The Gators then allowed the Wildcats to piece together a 11-0 run to end the half, which pushed the hosts ahead 21 points as the visitors missed six straight shots. Florida shot just 20.7% from the floor with redshirt senior guard Myreon Jones scoring nine points (3/7 FG), while the rest of the team posted only seven (3/22 FG).

Exceptional efforts: Johnson started for Kansas State with a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds, though he shot just 5 of 16 from the field in an inconsistent effort. Redshirt senior F Colin Castleton got an exceedingly slow start with just a single basket in the opening game, but he still finished as Florida’s leading scorer with 13 points on 6 of 12 shooting with eight boards. Though Jones kept the Gators in the game early, he was silent in the second half, finishing with 11 points and five rebounds.

Odds and ends: Florida fell to 1-2 all-time against Kansas State, 12-27-21 against Big 12 opponents .. the Gators finished with a 6-4 mark in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, which concluded play this season … Florida fell to 0-2 against top-five opponents and 1-2 against AP Top 25 opponents this season … this marked the third time in program history UF faced two top-five nonconference opponents (both this year in the regular season) … against top-five opponents, the Gators are now 22-63 all-time, 2-31 on the road, 5-19 vs. nonconference teams in the regular season and 0-10 vs. nonconference teams on the road … Florida has not defeated a top-five opponent on the road since 1988 … the Gators’ 50 points were a season-low … Florida was dominated inside, losing the rebounding battle 49-36 and scoring battle 32-24 … UF never led, trailing for 38:53 of the 40-minute game … Florida fell to 2-6 when trailing at halftime, 0-8 when trailing with 5 minutes left, 4-7 when being outrebounded, 3-8 when shooting worse than 45%, 1-7 when being outshot by an opponent … sophomore G Kowacie Reeves looked to break out of his funk Wednesday only to fall right back into it Saturday going 0 of 5 from the floor with no points

What it means: The Gators were simply outclassed by a far more talented opponent with a head coach in Jerome Tang that brought in better players from the transfer portal than Florida head coach Todd Golden did this offseason. Of course, one of those players was Johnson, who quickly regained his position as one of the top talents in the nation through the midway point of the season. Florida were wholly unable to score early, struggled to defend Kansas State in transition all game, completely faltered late and simply never had a shot in the game. It was Golden’s first loss to another first-year coach this season — he entered 5-0 in such matchups — and the Gators fell to 1-7 in Quadrant 1 games as they continue to seek notable wins to build their potential NCAA Tournament resume.

What’s next? The toughest stretch of schedule for any team in the nation continues as Florida hosts No. 4 Tennessee on Feb. 1 on Wednesday. The Gators will then travel to Kentucky on Saturday before visiting No. 2 Alabama on Feb. 8. The Bama game will end a stretch in which Florida plays five of seven games on the road.

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