Kansas State senior forward Keyontae Johnson embraced his former Gators teammates at center court.
The happy reunion came to an end as tip-off began. Florida’s chances in the game were just as short-lived.
Florida (12-9, 5-3 SEC) lost to No. 5 Kansas State (18-3, 6-2 BIG 12) 64-50 at the Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas, Saturday. Florida held the Wildcats to 38% shooting from the field but couldn’t move the ball to create scoring opportunities. UF shot 31% overall and shot 18% from 3-point range.
Graduate student forward Colin Castleton fouled KSU junior forward Nae’qwuan Tomlin on the fastbreak in the opening seconds.
The No. 5 team in the nation immediately went to work after the foul. Kansas State put the pressure on the Gators’ defense early into the game.
Kansas State's first 11 points were scored in the paint.
Florida freshman guard Riley Kugel scored the Gators’ first points with a pull-up triple after opening the first three minutes of the game scoreless.
The Gators held Kansas State to only 2-8 in the first 20 minutes from beyond the arc in the first half.
UF sophomore forward Alex Fudge was a game-time decision after he suffered a head injury against Mississippi State Jan. 21. He returned to action Saturday; his first shot attempt ricocheted off the side of the backboard.
Florida’s defense held Kansas State scoreless through three minutes of play with 11 minutes left in the half. However, the Gators couldn’t capitalize on Kansas State’s scoreless stretch as they went on a scoring drought of their own.
A layup inside by Wildcats senior guard Markquis Nowell ended KSU’s streak of misses. UF’s drought lasted for five minutes.
The Wildcats took advantage of Florida’s struggles and went on a 7-0 run. Gators head coach Todd Golden called a timeout to try to find an answer, down 22-8 with 8:09 remaining in the half.
UF senior guard Myreon Jones put Florida back on the scoreboard and ended the drought with a corner 3-pointer.
The Gators turned the ball over six times in the first half, including a backcourt violation called against graduate student guard Kyle Lofton.
Florida went scoreless through the last five and a half minutes before halftime. In that same time, it also went 0-2 from the free-throw line — both attempts coming from Fudge.
The 6-foot-9-inch forward wedged the ball between the rim and the backboard on his first shot from the line. He followed it with another miss.
The Wildcats scored 11 unanswered points during Florida’s scoring drought.
Lofton sent Tomlin to the free-throw line when he fouled him in the air with three seconds left before halftime. He drained his two attempts at the line to give KSU a 37-16 halftime lead.
Gators sophomore guard Will Richard began the second half with a step-back 3-pointer, which started a 10-0 Florida run.
KSU head coach Jerome Tang called a timeout after Kugel found Richard mid-air for an alley-oop to the basket for two.
The Gators held Kansas State scoreless through the first four and a half minutes of the second half. A jumper by Nowell — who finished with 13 points — ended the streak.
KSU exchanged shots with UF to keep its double-digit lead. A deep triple in front of the logo by Nowell extended the Wildcats’ lead to 46-32 with 12 minutes remaining.
Golden didn’t find much offense from the second unit in the half. Florida’s bench scored three points in the entire game.
UF went through a dry spell and turned over the ball four times through four and a half minutes.
The Wildcats went back to playing full-court defense. KSU’s lead reached 23 points after a slam by Johnson.
Castleton ended Florida’s seven-minute-long scoring drought from the floor with a layup in front of the basket.
The Gators outscored the Wildcats 12-4 in the last three and a half minutes, but the lead was insurmountable. Kansas State defeated Florida 64-50.
Florida will head back to Gainesville to play the No. 4 Tennessee Volunteers at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
Contact Brandon Hernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BranH2001.
Brandon Hernandez is a student at the University of Florida studying journalism. He is a writer for The Alligator, Gator Country and for PlugTalkSports. You can find most of his work on his Twitter (BranH2001) and on his podcast, “The Courtside Podcast,” on Spotify.