Scottie Wilbekin

Florida holds off Andrew Wiggins, Kansas for 67-61 win


Florida entered the season ranked No. 10 in the AP poll, however, it was with a depleted roster that included players ineligible, suspended or injured.

The Gators lost a road game inside the Kohl Center to the currently unbeaten Wisconsin Badgers, which caused them to fall outside the top 10. Last Monday, Shabazz Napier drained his second chance at a game winner, running out of Gampel Pavilion with what could have been a huge road victory for Florida.

On Tuesday night at home, No. 19 Florida — in the middle of a difficult three game slate — looked like the team that was worthy of the preseason praise, taking a double-digit first half lead before holding off a Jayhawks comeback in a 67-61 win No. 13 Kansas at home as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

Florida started out slow, trailing 10-3. But the Gators extended 1-3-1 zone sparked a 21-0 run. During that span the Jayhawks missed all six shots, and committed six turnovers, struggling to make passes against the length and quickness of the zone, especially on the wings with 6-foot-7 Will Yeguete on one side and the 6-foot-6 Casey Prather on the other.

Despite holding a consistent eight to 12-point lead for most of the second half, Kansas made a late-game comeback led by the second half play of Andrew Wiggins, who posted season highs in points (26) — 20 came in the second half — and rebounds (11), recording his first double-double with KU.

Florida earns a huge win, finally starting to get a complete, or nearly complete roster. Kasey Hill and Scottie Wilbekin (18 points) played their first regular season game together in the Gators back court, and more good news could be one the way as top-10 recruit Chris Walker may be set to join the team within a week or so.

With the roster coming more and more together, you can see just how dangerous Billy Donovan’s club can be. Hill and Wilbekin gives the Gators two ball handlers, who can also pressure opposing guards. Prather is one of the most improved scorers in the country at 19.1 per game. And the front court is talented and deep.

Florida, which finished third in scoring defense last season, can throw different looks at teams defensively, including that 1-3-1 zone that helped force 24 KU turnovers (16 in the first half).

We’ve wondered what the Gators would look like with all their players in uniform instead out due to injuries, or off the court issues. Tuesday night offered a good idea of what that might look like in the upcoming months. And the Gators are still waiting to be at full strength, pending Walker’s eligibility.

Florida gets a chance add another quality non-conference victory next Tuesday against No. 16 Memphis at Madison Square Garden, the end of a string of three consecutive games against ranked opponents.

Creighton lands 2016 combo guard

Greg McDermott
Associated Press
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Sunday evening Creighton got on the board in the Class of 2016, as 6-foor-4 combo guard Davion Mintz made his pledge to Greg McDermott’s program. Mintz made the decision on the tail end of his official visit to Creighton, picking the Bluejays over Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Tulsa and Wichita State.

News of Mintz’s commitment was first reported by Rick Lewis of the Phenom Hoop Report, with Mintz confirming the news via Twitter shortly thereafter.

Creighton has just two seniors on its current roster in guard Jams Milliken and forward Geoffrey Groselle, but that doesn’t mean they lack for experience. Among the guards on the roster who will be around when Mintz arrives on campus are redshirt juniors Maurice Watson Jr., Malik Albert, and Isaiah Zierden, and Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster will be eligible in 2016-17.

Mintz, who attends North Mecklenberg HS just outside of Charlotte, can play either on or off the basketball. Creighton’s veteran guards should help Mintz with his transition to the college game when he arrives in Omaha in 2016. Mintz played for the Charlotte Nets grassroots program this summer.

Three-star power forward commits to WVU

Bob Huggins
Associated Press
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Three days after landing one power forward in Sagaba Konate, West Virginia received a verbal commitment from another big man Sunday evening.

6-foot-11 Mountain Mission School (Gurndy, Virginia) power forward Maciej Bender became the Mountaineers’ fourth commitment in the Class of 2016 on Sunday, with the Mountain Mission program announcing the news via Twitter. Bender is a native of Poland, and in addition to Konate he joins guards Brandon Knapper and Chase Harler in West Virginia’s 2016 recruiting class.

West Virginia will lose two forwards in TyQuane Goard and Jonathan Holton at the end of the 2015-16 season, and the additions of Konate and Bender will help the Mountaineers account for those departures from a depth standpoint. Bender can score around the basket, but he’s also capable of facing up and scoring in pick-and-pop situations out beyond the three-point line.

Bender officially visited West Virginia last weekend, and he was a player the WVU coaching staff wanted to get in the fold. Other programs to offer Bender included Arizona State (teammate Jethro Tshisumpa is an ASU commit), Georgia, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss and Providence. Bender played his grassroots basketball for the West Virginia Wildcats program this summer.