The focus of Florida’s 64-50 loss to Kansas State on Saturday — or of the broadcast, anyway — was, predictably, Keyontae Johnson. And while he had a relatively quiet game, and Markquis Nowell was more of an all-around performer than a scorer in the Wildcats’ win, there’s no question that he deserved the spotlight.
The game itself probably deserved a better showing from Florida’s punchless offense.
The Gators shot 31 percent from the floor and an icy 18 percent from three in the game, sputtering to just 16 first-half points, letting the Wildcats build a lead that never shrank to single digits after a strong start, and failing to turn their reunion with program fixture Johnson for the first time since his transfer to much more than a rout for the home team.
Johnson had 13 points and 11 rebounds to go with an assist and two steals, but was more consistently impactful on the boards than as a scorer, making just five of 16 shots from the field. And his best chance at a highlight moment was unfortunately thwarted by the rim, as he caught iron on a windmill dunk attempt midway through the second half.
Still, Johnson was able to extend a hang on a less showy dunk later on, and then spent much of the final few minutes of the game rooting on Kansas State walk-on Nate Awbrey from the sideline. He, Nowell — who had a great shot at the Wildcats’ first triple-double after stuffing the stat sheet in the first half, but finished with 13 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, and two steals — and the three other Wildcats starters who had nine or more points had all done their jobs by then.
Florida’s offense barely clocked in, by contrast.
The Gators struggled through their first several minutes, as usual, falling behind by larger and larger margins as the first half went on: 5-0, 11-3, 22-8. A brief spurt allowed the Gators to shave the lead to 26-16, thanks largely to two Myreon Jones threes, but K-State would score the half’s final 11 points and enter the locker room up 37-16.
And Florida’s now-customary surge to start the second half did only so much, as the Gators’ 10-0 salvo before the first TV timeout of the period was answered by an 11-2 segment by the Wildcats that extinguished all hope of a colossal comeback.
Colin Castleton had 13 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks for Florida, but he was taken out of the game early on by tight coverage and some double-teaming, and the Gators only briefly got him activated against Kansas State’s smothering matchup zone.
Poor distance shooting also permitted that zone to remain impermeable and immutable, and a mostly woeful day at the line — Florida’s 10-for-16 performance reflected a good rebound from an awful 2-for-7 start — meant the few foul shots the Gators earned barely harmed the victors. And Florida’s 14 turnovers included 10 steals, which fueled a strong transition effort from the Wildcats.
Taken together, it was a comprehensively inferior effort — and against a team that was good, connected, and hungry, but far from as sharp as it has been for much of Big 12 play. The Wildcats’ 64 points were their fewest in 2023, as Florida’s defense added another fine performance to its season full of them.
Their offense is going to have to show up for the Gators to have any chance of continuing their own story through late March.
Without that, this team will assuredly be watching more of Keyontae’s latest chapter get written from afar.