When opponents from major conferences meet in the early going it’s always hard to predict an outcome with any confidence. Heading into Saturday’s showdown, the Wildcats were carrying around a tidy 8-2 record, but had lost to #2 Michigan by 14 and #14 Gonzaga by 16. They were outclassed in both of those games leaving their three point victory over George Washington as their best win. On the other side came Florida with their 8-1 record and decisive wins over Wisconsin, Florida State and Marquette. The only blemish on their resume was a single point road loss to still undefeated, #4 Arizona. The Gators had certainly earned their Top-10 ranking but K-State remained an enigma.
As a result of expectations plenty of people have labeled Kansas State’s 67-61 victory over Florida as an upset, but given their rosters and level of talent, that is overstating the separation between these two teams. I didn’t know what to expect but the outcome is in my eyes is hardly an upset. This is especially true since the game was played in Kansas City, giving K-State a decided home court advantage. For me, the surprising thing about the result is that the victory came about even though Angel Rodriguez wasn’t much of a factor and Rodney McGruder had an off game by his standards.
With 17 points, six rebounds, five assists and a steal, Will Spradling had his best game of the season both in terms of scoring and overall impact. McGruder was the only other Wildcat in double figures with 13 points and continued his uneven in-and-out performance that is becoming a disturbing trend. McGruder and Spradling were on the court for 77 of 80 possible minutes easily playing more than anyone else on either roster but together shot 33.0% (each player was 4-12). It was a collective, team effort with Shane Southwell, Thomas Gipson, Martavious Irving and Nino Williams all pitching in, but it was Jordan Henriquez that gave the team an unexpected boost. In 18 minutes of action he pulled down six rebounds, blocked five shots and chipped in a season high nine points.
The Gators were led by 6’9″ junior Patric Young and his 19 point, eleven rebound double-double in 26 minutes on the floor. Guards Kenny Boynton and Scottie Wilbekin also scored in double digits with eleven points each. While K-State got solid contributions from their bench, Florida’s subs contributed just seven points on 2-10 shooting.
Florida (8-2) has the Air Force Falcons (8-2) next up on their schedule in the Metro PCS Orange Bowl Classic on Saturday. The Falcons have a nice record but their losses came at the hands of the two best opponents they’ve faced – Colorado and Wichita State – in the early going.
Fresh off their big, statement win last night the Wildcats (9-2) have two more non-conference games, both against Summit League schools, to get through before they face their first Big 12 opponent, Oklahoma State, on January 5th. K-State will host the UMKC Kangaroos (4-8) on December 29th and follow that up with a New Year’s Eve home game against the South Dakota Coyotes (5-8).