Will Spradling scored 17 points and Rodney McGruder added 13 as Kansas State got its first big win of the season by knocking off Florida 67-61.
Playing in front of a de facto home crowd at the Sprint Center in Kansas City on Saturday night, Kansas State (9-2) amassed a 33-23 halftime lead by keeping Florida (8-2) off the glass and thus preventing second-chance shots.
The Wildcats lost the handle a bit after halftime, allowing a 12-3 run by the Gators, but they tightened down after Florida’s initial offensive burst. The Gators shot 48.4 percent from the floor in the second half after shooting just 30.8 percent in the first, and they outscored the Wildcats 38-34 after halftime. Nevertheless, the Wildcats weathered Florida’s halftime adjustments and held on for the first Kansas State victory against a nonconference top 10 opponent since 1981.
Overall, the teams shot equally well from the floor, but Kansas State was better from behind the arc, converting on 41.2 percent of its attempts from long range while the Gators managed to hit just 26.3 percent of theirs.
As mentioned earlier, the Wildcats’ work on the boards did wonders. They outrebounded Florida 35-25, and Kansas State’s big men avoided foul trouble – Thomas Gipson and Jordan Henriquez each had just one – while the Gators’ posts struggled. Though mammoth Florida center Patric Young scored 19 points and snagged 10 rebounds, he only played 26 minutes and fouled out near the end of the game. Forward Erik Murphy finished the game with four fouls.
Another reason the Wildcats prevailed was the play from their bench. Between Henriquez, Nino Williams and Martavious Irving, close to a third of Kansas State’s scoring (21 of 67 points) came from subs. Being able to depend on eight or nine guys instead of just five for baskets as well as defensive energy is huge. If those players keep contributing like they did Saturday, this team will continue to surprise people going forward.