No. 13 Kansas Turns It Over to No. 19 Florida, 67-61
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A career-high effort from freshman guard Andrew Wiggins overshadowed the Jayhawks’ rough start, but couldn’t save No. 13 Kansas from a 67-61 loss at No. 19 Florida Tuesday night inside the O’Connell Center.
Facing a Florida (7-2) squad with a 20-game home win streak on the line, Kansas (6-3) got its biggest boost from Wiggins’ first career double-double. He broke out for personal-bests in points (24), rebounds (11), three-pointers (4), free throws (8-for-8), blocks (2) and minutes (37), and while he led the floor in scoring, Wiggins was the only Jayhawk in double figures.
Fellow freshman guard Frank Mason was the closest to KU’s scoring leader with nine points, which were tarnished by a game-high five turnovers. Mason wasn’t the only one plagued by miscues on Tuesday. For the first time in the Bill Self era, the veteran coach put four freshmen in his starting lineup. Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, the youth showed as they tripled Florida in the turnover column, committing 24 errors to the Gators’ eight. That resulted in a lopsided 28-4 points-off-turnovers advantage for the home team, which ultimately led to the Jayhawks’ downfall.
The top-20 Gators had plenty to do with that as four different players scored in double-digits, led by 18 points and six assists from senior guard Scottie Wilbekin. Sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith checked in behind him with 15 points, including a career-high four three-point field goals.
For the evening, Kansas out-shot (43.2 to 37.0) and out-rebounded (40 to 30) Florida, and even tallied season-highs in three-pointers (8) and free-throw percentage (78.9). Yet, the numbers couldn’t offset a season-low 19 field goals and a season-high 24 turnovers – the most by a Kansas team since giving up the ball 24 times against Missouri on March 5, 2011.
An 8-0 run highlighted by three-pointers from freshman guard Wayne Selden, Jr. and Mason saw Kansas surge forward, 10-3 in the early moments of the game. From there, however, the Jayhawks fell off the map. Kansas missed 11-straight shots and turned the ball over six times, watching the first half spiral out of control on a 21-0 Florida run. For almost nine minutes, Kansas couldn’t score, couldn’t rebound and couldn’t find rhythm. When sophomore forward Perry Ellis banked in back-to-back layups, the Jayhawks were looking up at a 24-14 deficit.
It would get worse before it got better. For the last seven minutes of the opening frame, Kansas scored just nine points, falling behind by a season-worst 18 points at the 3:26 mark. Despite a last second jumper from Wiggins, halftime’s arrival saw the Gators take a 36-21 lead to the locker room.
Back-to-back turnovers looked as if Kansas was equally doomed to start the second half, but the Jayhawks started showing signs of life. Mason converted a quick layup in transition and Wiggins came through with a long three-pointer to cut the Florida lead to 10 points, 38-28. Still chipping away, a layup from freshman center Joel Embiid, who made his first career start, trimmed the Florida lead to single-digits. Turnovers continued to haunt the Jayhawks, but their made shots started to ease the blow. Mason stepped back from the top of the key and drained a three, forcing the Jayhawks back into it, 47-39, with 12:15 to play.
Kansas found its way to the bucket much more often in the second half than the first, but Florida always had an answer – primarily by the name of Finney-Smith. The sophomore forward drained his career-high fourth three-pointer to push the Gator lead back to double-digits. When freshman Brannen Greene answered with one of his own, UF proved the point by driving in for a layup and keeping the Jayhawks at a distance.
Under pressure, Wiggins knocked down a three with 2:20 on the clock to drop the Gator lead to seven. Sixty seconds later, he nailed another, pulling Kansas within six – and another with 55 seconds to play. Down 60-55, Florida used a timeout to halt the momentum the Jayhawks fought all game to obtain. Sophomore forward Jamari Traylor scored four points in the last 20 seconds dwindle the Gators’ lead to four, but KU would get no closer as Florida claimed the victory 67-61.
Kansas concludes its six-game stand away from Lawrence when it plays New Mexico on Saturday, Dec. 14 in the Kansas City Shootout at Sprint Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2. The Jayhawks return to Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 21 to host national power Georgetown. ESPN will televise the 11 a.m. game between the Jayhawks and Hoyas.
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KU STARTERS (Season/Career Starts): Fr. Frank Mason (3/3), Fr. Wayne Selden, Jr. (9/9), Fr. Andrew Wiggins (9/9), So. Perry Ellis (9/12), Fr. Joel Embiid (1/1)
SERIES INFO: Kansas leads 3-2
ATTENDANCE: 11,064 (Capacity: 11,064)
–Made KU 6-3 on the season
–Made Kansas 0-2 in true road games this season and 3-3 away from Allen Fieldhouse
–Made the all-time series 3-2 in favor of KU and 1-1 in Gainesville
–Made Bill Self 306-62 while at Kansas and 513-167 overall
–Made KU 2,107-815 all-time
–KU’s losses at Colorado and Florida mark back-to-back losses for just the seventh time in head coach Bill Self’s 11 years.
–Self started four freshmen on Tuesday: Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden, Jr., Frank Mason and Joel Embiid – the first time in the Self era that four freshmen were in the starting lineup.
–Kansas started the game hitting its first two three-point attempts, from Wayne Selden, Jr. and Frank Mason, to spark an 8-0 run and a 10-3 early lead.
–From there, KU went silent for the remainder of the half, missing 11-straight shots over an 8:44 time span. Meanwhile, the Gators went on a 21-0 run to completely shift the game. During the scoreless streak, the Jayhawks committed six turnovers.
–By halftime, KU had committed 16 turnovers, tying the most that the Jayhawks had made in an entire game in 2013-14. The Jayhawks finished with 24, marking the most KU’s given up since also committing 24 turnovers at Missouri (3/5/11).
–Florida’s 36-21 halftime lead marked KU’s largest deficit at the break since trailing Oklahoma State by 16 points in Stillwater, 45-29 (2/27/11).
–The Jayhawks fell behind by 18 points (34-16) with 3:24 left in the first half, for its largest deficit of the season and their biggest since trailing Baylor by 23 (2nd half, 3/9/13).
–The Gators finished the night with a staggering 28-4 points-off-turnover advantage.
–Despite the lopsided halftime score, Kansas was actually out-shooting Florida at the break (42.1 to 37.1). KU went on to out-shoot Florida for the game, as well, 43.2 to 37.0.
–KU’s 19 field goals were a season-low.
–For only the second time this season, Kansas’ bench was outscored (21-12). The other was by the same margin (26-17) to UTEP.
–Freshman G Andrew Wiggins was the only Jayhawk with more than five points by halftime (8). He went on to score a KU season-high 26 points and record his first career double-double with 11 rebounds.
–Wiggins also recorded career-highs in: three-pointers (4), minutes (37), free throws (8-for-8), blocked shots (2) and field-goals attempted (15).
–Freshman C Joel Embiid made his first career start, playing a personal-best 30 minutes.
–Sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith finished the evening with a career-high 4-of-7 from three-point territory, the second player this season to tally four treys against KU this year (Jabari Parker, Duke).
–Freshman G Frank Mason drilled a career-high two three-pointers.
–Freshm an G Brannen Greene tallied a career-high five points and 14 minutes.
–Senior F Tarik Black did not start for the first time this season.
–Sophomore F Jamari Traylor tied his career-high with nine rebounds and four free throw attempts. He also tied his season highs with four offensive and five defensive rebounds.
Head Coach Bill Self
On jumping out to a 10-3 lead:
“I think we should have had an electrical shortage and cancelled the game after that. No, we actually made a couple of shots and played pretty well the first four or five minutes, but we were awful after that. (Florida) played great. They played great, but we were awful. That was not a good team playing there at all, and then when things started to go bad, we didn’t do anything to stop it; that was frustrating. We actually tried really hard. I don’t think it was lack of effort the first half. I think anything that could go wrong went wrong. It’s just sad that you have to get down like that before you come out and play with reckless abandonment.”
On freshman guard Andrew Wiggins:
“What Andrew did, he competed. He scored points, but he got 11 rebounds and we’ve been on his butt about doing that. He made shots, but even some of the shots that he made… I’m glad he made them and all that, but that’s not what I’m glad he did. I thought he was more aggressive and competed more. Against the zone that (Florida) did, he didn’t have many opportunities for big stretches of game, so for him to turn it on when they went, man, I thought that was good.”
On if inexperience and the play of freshmen affected the game outcome:
“I’m not down on our freshmen; we can play better. Our more experienced guys are sophomores – that’s not really experience – but they don’t really have anybody they can fall back on. We’ve got to get everyone playing better. I can’t blame it all on youth. We could have come here and played great and got beat by six (points) because Florida is good and talented. A lot of it may be youth, but I think that we can still play better individually.”
Freshman Guard Andrew Wiggins
On having the game on his shoulders:
“I think that this loss is on everybody. We are young, we start four freshmen. No one on the team takes all of the pressure or negativity. We win together and we lose together.”
On UF defensive strength:
“Every single possession is important. We came out 10-3 before they went on a run. Basketball is all about runs. We have to learn how to respond.”
On moving forward:
“Even though we lost we aren’t going to back down. We are fighting to the end. It’s never good to lose but we don’t want it to affect the rest of the season. We have until March to come together.”