Florida 67, Kansas 61: First half, free throws fuel Gators in win

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A 21-0 run rocked Kansas in the first half, but Florida had to roll with Andrew Wiggins's punches late to prevail.

All eyes were on Gainesville Tuesday. And the Gators made the most of the spotlight, as the 19th-ranked Florida Gators took down Andrew Wiggins and 13th-ranked Kansas, 67-61.

Coming into the game, the Gators were yet to be tested by a legitimate Final Four contender, but scrappy defense and efficient shooting helped the Gators hand the Jayhawks their second straight loss.

Kansas burst out of the gate to a 10-3 lead, but the slow start didn't phase Florida, as the Gators' defense ignited a 21-0 run and 36-21 lead after the first half. Scottie Wilbekin may have played his best game as a Gator, as he led the way with 18 points, four steals, and six assists.

And the cherry on top may have been Patric Young's intensity and focus in the paint.

Florida fans have been searching for answers after Young's inconsistent junior campaign, but Young answered the bell on Tuesday, with 12 points and six rebounds. Young displayed a variety of offensive moves in the post, dominated on the boards, and was the centerpiece of post defense that held Joel Embiid and Perry Ellis to just 10 points. Dorian Finney-Smith, off the bench, also had a big game with a solid 15 points and 5 rebounds.

Andrew Wiggins, the number one overall player in last year's recruiting cycle, did not disappoint. Wiggins led Kansas with 26 points and 11 rebounds, but was contained enough for the Gators to take advantage of Kansas' offensive imbalance. Kansas committed 23 turnovers (16 in the first half), and shot a measly 44.2 percent from the field.

The Gators now look forward to playing 16th-ranked Memphis at Madison Square Garden before beginning SEC play on January 8 against South Carolina. With an already impressive resume, one can only wonder what this Florida team can accomplish with an experienced Young, polished Wilbekin, and improved Kasey Hill.

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