The Kansas Jayhawks (6-3) could not take care of the ball in their 6 point loss to the Florida Gators (7-2) Tuesday night. In fact, they did very little right, especially in the first half, in the 67-61 loss. It was Kansas’ second consecutive loss, and their third in their last four games.
The y0ung Jayhawks are in the midst of a full month of games that do not take place in Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas last played at home on November 22 against Towson, and they do not return to the friendly Phog until December 21 against Georgetown.
In this particular game, Kansas looked as if they were in desperate need of some home cooking. After jumping out to a solid 10-3 lead in the first five minutes, things quickly fell apart for the Jayhawks. Florida went on a 21-0 run over the next eight minutes or so, then stretched the run out to 29-4. At 32-18, the game was all but over.
The Gators rattled the young Jayhawks with an aggressive, trapping, spread out 1-3-1 zone. Kansas had no idea how to attack it or to protect the ball against it. They committed 16 first half turnovers that led to the huge run by Florida. It is hard to score when you can’t even get a shot off in your half court offense. Florida outscored Kansas 18-0 on points off turnovers – in the first half!
Florida simply out hustled the Jayhawks in every aspect of the game in that disastrous first 20 minutes. Florida seemed to track down every rebound, and they corralled every loose ball. Every shot seemed to wobble on the rim before falling through the cords. On the Kansas side, there was no fire, little hustle, and very little luck.
Just how bad was it? Kansas had 16 turnovers and 3 assists in the first half. They were lucky it wasn’t more than a 15-point deficit at the intermission.
The second half was a much different story. Kansas hustled and scrapped, and pounded the backboards. They gnawed, and trimmed, and sliced away at the lead. Once it got down to about an eight point game, Florida buckled down and held the Jayhawks at arms length. Every time Kansas had a chance to cut into the lead further, a Gator made a play, usually Scottie Wilbekin.
Kansas was able to whittle away at the lead until it was down to four points but late turnovers and missed lay ups, plus some toughness on the part of the Florida Gators, kept the Jayhawks from getting it to a one possession game. In the end, Kansas just ran out of time, and they were unable to dig themselves out of the gigantic hole they were in during the first half.
Andrew Wiggins led the comeback by scoring 18 of his 26 points after the intermission. He also led the team with 11 rebounds. He was 4-9 from behind the arc and 8-8 from the line. Jamari Traylor had a nice game as well, scoring 5 and pulling down 9 rebounds in 17 minutes.
Wilbekin paced the Gators with 18 points and Dorian Finney-Smith added 15. Finney-Smith hit 4 of 6 three-point attempts.
There were some positives for the Jayhawks. They showed some life and improvement in the second half. They outscored Florida 40-31 after the break.
After getting creamed by the Gators for must of the first half, Kansas ended up winning the rebound battle 40-30. The Jayhawks showed fire and competitiveness in their comeback, even if they didn’t play all that well, even in the second half.
Wiggins’ second half performance was encouraging because he seems to be more willing to shoulder the load when necessary. This was really the first time all season, even more so than the Duke game, where he has displayed the overall skills that have led to so much hype. Now, if he could just perform that way for the entirety of the games, Kansas will be better off.
The negatives were more prevalent and obvious. Take at these turnover numbers: Frank Mason – 5 turnovers, 0 assists, Andrew Wiggins – 4 turnovers, Wayne Seldon, Jr. – 4, in 14 minutes, Perry Ellis – 3, Naadir Tharpe – 3.
Frank Mason had his worst outing by far as a Jayhawk. Hopefully, it will remain his worst outing. Even though he had the brutal 5 turnovers to 0 assist ratio going on, he did manage to hit 2 or his 3 three-point attempts. This should be a learning experience for the youngster as he still has a lot a growth to experience on the court.
Perry Ellis was a complete non-factor for Kansas with 4 points and 4 rebounds. Wayne Selden, Jr. was awful in this game and really hasn’t shown much over the first 9 games of the season. Tarik Black continues to offer little to the team other than fouls. He played 6 whole minutes, fouled three times, and missed two point blank, wide open lay ups late in the game. Disappointingly, Andrew White III has been all but absent over the past couple of weeks.
One thing worth noting – Kansas began the game with what was most likely the youngest starting line up in school history, if not one of the youngest ever in college basketball. Bill Self started 4 freshmen and a sophomore when Joel Embiid took Tarik Black’s place in the starting five. This was the group that pushed Kansas to its early 10-3 lead.
Things don’t look up for Kansas any time soon. Coming up, Kansas has New Mexico (7-1), Georgetown (6-2), Toledo (8-0), San Diego State (7-1), Oklahoma (8-1), Kansas State (6-3), Iowa State (7-0), Oklahoma State (8-1), and Baylor (8-1), before playing at TCU (5-3), where they lost last season, on January 25. In case you are counting, KU’s next nine opponents are a combined 65-10 thus far.
Saturday, Kansas faces New Mexico in the Sprint Center in Kansas City. The game is a 6 p.m. CST and will be broadcast on ESPN 2.