Rushed Reactions: Kansas State 67, #8 Florida 61Posted by Brian Goodman on December 22nd, 2012
Brian Goodman is an RTC editor. He filed this report from the Hy-Vee Wildcat Classic in Kansas City, where Kansas State held off Florida for an important non-conference win.
Five Key Takeaways.
- Kansas State Scores Crucial Non-Conference Win: Nabbing an important non-conference victory on Saturday was important for Kansas State, which came up short against Michigan and Gonzaga earlier this season. As time passed, Saturday’s game became even more crucial for the Wildcats’ Tournament resume as the Big 12 has revealed itself to be lacking in marquee competition beyond the top tier. Though the calendar hasn’t yet turned to 2013, Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber acknowledged the dwindling number of opportunities his team had as a significant part of his team’s preparation. Saturday’s outcome may be for naught if the Wildcats struggle in league play as the team continues to embrace Weber’s system and evolve, but credit is due to Kansas State in the moment for capitalizing on the opportunity and realizing the impact tonight’s game could have come Selection Sunday.
- Wildcats, Led By Henriquez, Dominate On Defense: The main discussion point entering Saturday’s game was how Kansas State’s stout defense would fare against the versatile, potent Florida attack. The Wildcats’ muscle turned out to be the difference in KSU’s victory, with forward Jordan Henriquez swatting five shots and altering several others in 18 terrific minutes off the bench. Rodney McGruder and Will Spradling hassled the Gators’ three-point shooters into a season-worst 26.3% performance beyond the arc, accentuated by Mike Rosario and Kenny Boynton’s combined 1-of-9 mark from deep. The Gators clawed back from a double-digit halftime deficit, but made just two shots over an eight-minute stretch, buying time for Kansas State to climb ahead for good. Patric Young’s double-double (19 points and 10 rebounds) may look good on a stat sheet, but it would be remiss to not acknowledge that a handful of Young’s points came after the game had been decided and Kansas State focused its defensive effort on the perimeter to prevent a late comeback.
- KSU Shows Development On Offense: Guard Will Spradling, playing 20 minutes from his hometown of Overland Park, Kansas, had a huge role in the first half, contributing 13 points, including three threes, on his way to a team-high 17 points. While early exits from the Big 12 Tournament have kept Spradling from playing as much as he’d like in front of a hometown crowd, he made tonight count. His effort Saturday is right up there with a 13-point effort against Gonzaga as a freshman two years ago in the CBE Classic. Following the game, Spradling said the confidence to get hot early on Saturday came from his coach, who had implored him to shoot more in the days following the Wildcats’ blowout loss to Gonzaga in Seattle last weekend. As a whole, Kansas State showed more versatility and range in its offense, receiving 13 points from senior Rodney McGruder and relying less on the team’s more physical but less skilled big men. Florida head coach Billy Donovan repeatedly cited a significant gap in energy level between his squad and Kansas State’s that allowed the Wildcats to jump out to an early lead and withstand a second half Gator run to hold on.
- Gators Again Fail To Assemble A Complete Effort: After scoring blowout wins against Marquette, Florida State and Wisconsin in its home state, Florida has failed to put power foes away on the road in two straight games. Despite being the better team for the majority of last Saturday’s game against Arizona, the Gators came up short when it failed to execute at the end of each half. A similar setback hampered the Gators at the end of the first half, as Florida made just one basket over the last 8:50 before intermission, and the drought allowed Kansas State to build a ten-point lead heading into the locker room. The Gators came out hot in the second half with a 12-3 spurt and went on to tie the game at 41, but another scoring drought prevented Florida from keeping up with Kansas State. Following the game, Donovan insisted that the end of the half isn’t any worse a time to struggle than any other point in a given night, but one has to wonder whether the Gators will step up when the team needs a basket or a stop late in a close game.
- Upset Completes Banner Day For Kansas City-area Teams: Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri have firmly-entrenched alumni bases in Kansas City, and on Saturday, all three schools scored wins against top ten teams. Earlier in the day, Kansas toppled #7 Ohio State in Columbus and Missouri won the annual Bragging Rights game against #10 Illinois. Kansas State’s win was its first victory over a top ten opponent in a non-conference regular season setting since 1981 and tied a nice bow on the day for a proud and frenzied hoops town.