Last season, Florida used its marquee non-conference matchup against Kansas as the starting point of a 30-game winning streak, a run that led the Gators to the 2014 Final Four. More than midway through Friday night’s game against No. 11 Kansas, that result from a season ago looked like it’d be replicated.
The Gators led by 15 at half, with a lead as large as 18 points in the second. However, that 15-point halftime edge turned into a 71-65 win for Kansas, with the Jayhawks outscoring the Gators 47-26 in the second half.
Florida was able to move the ball on offense, assisting on 11 of 15 field goals in the first half and shooting 54 percent from the field. The Gators were also aided by Kansas turnovers, nine total in the first half.
The Jayhawks elected not to walk through the second half as they did the first. They tightened up defensively, holding Florida to only 35 percent shooting over the final 20 minutes, and got a lift offensively from Wayne Selden and Cliff Alexander. The duo scored the first eight points in what turned out to be a 17-0 Kansas run, giving the Jayhawks a 58-52 advantage.
Selden was miserable from the field down in the Orlando Classic, 27 points (7-of-25 shooting) in the three games, albeit three wins. On Friday night, he went for a season-high 21 points, 14 of which came after halftime. He was aggressive getting his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame into the lane, which helped set up his jumper. He knocked down a step-back shot from the top of the key, while also connecting on a pair 3-pointers. Alexander finished with his first double-double — 12 points and 10 rebounds — of his collegiate career. Bill Self’s other heralded freshman Kelly Oubre had two points in limited action again.
While the collapse hands the Gators their fourth loss — more than all of 2013-14 — some positives can be taken away from the defeat for Florida, which only dressed seven scholarship players with Eli Carter out for Friday’s game. They saw better production from Chris Walker, who finished with 12 points and five boards in 15 minutes.
The Jayhawks will look to avoid a slow start on Wednesday, and they’ll have to be. Kansas travels to the Nation’s Capital to pay Georgetown, a team talented enough to be ranked, and one that is looking for a key out-of-conference win after nearly upsetting No. 2 Wisconsin in the Battle 4 Atlantis and given that its win over Florida in the same event doesn’t hold the same weight at the moment.
Florida, on the other hand, welcomes in Yale on Monday. The Gators don’t want to be another upset victory for the Ivy League contender.