Gators Shut Down No. 6 Kansas State

Florida started the game in a deep offensive slump, but Kansas State spent the second half outdoing them. As the Wildcats put up a putrid 21 points in the second half, Florida sped away with a renewed offensive effort. Florida cruised late for a 57-44 victory over No. 6 Kansas State at the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, Fla.

"It was a great win," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said on his postgame radio show. "Kansas State has been in the top 10 all year, and their only loss was to Duke, who is No. 1 in the country. To play a game like this and come out on top after a tough first half speaks to the volumes of these kids and the way they're working."

After Kansas State jumped out to a 20-8 lead with 9:05 remaining in the first half, the Gators outscored the Wildcats 49-24 in the rest of the game. The Gators ended the first half on a 12-3 run.

Coming out of halftime, the Gators continued their improved offensive play. They went on a 16-4 run to start the second half. Florida ended the game shooting 51.1% from the field.

After it took the Gators an uncharacteristic 7:02 to get on the scoreboard to start the game, it was 8:51 before the Wildcats scored in the second half.

Florida scored 20 points in the first half, and it took them only ten minutes in the second half to match that number.

It was the first time Florida held a ranked opponent to less than 50 points since they did so to No. 4 Tennessee on January 20, 1968. The Gators held Kansas State to 26.8% shooting from the field.

"The thing I was most pleased with is we really defended," Donovan said. "I mean, we really defended for 40 minutes. I don't think we could have done a better job defensively."

The Florida defense became suffocating to the Wildcats offense. There was a 13-minute span that started in the first half and carried into the second half where the Wildcats didn't make a shot from the field. Kansas State missed their first 13 shots of the second half, adding up to 17-straight misses including the end of the first half.

As the Wildcats struggled in the second half, the Florida offense picked up. The Gators ran a higher tempo on offense. The Kansas State defense prides itself on playing physical and denying any pass on the floor. It worked as they held Florida to 20 points in the first half, and the Gators looked even more uncomfortable than that number when they had the ball.

To counter that in the second half, the Gators ran the ball up the floor and got into their offensive flow before the Wildcats could get set on defense.

Florida's first half offense turned the ball over 13 times, keeping from even taking an acceptable number of shots. They took better care of the ball in the second half, giving up only five turnovers.

"It was really a team effort," Donovan said. "I told our guys at halftime we were in great shape. In the first half, we turned the ball over 13 times, only took 18 shots, and they have eight offensive rebounds. They were only up three. That was a stat sheet of disaster for us to be down 20. We felt like if we could limit the turnovers, that would help, and we were able to do that."

Kenny Boynton led the Gators with 15 points, shooting 6-for-12 from the field and 2-for-4 from behind the three-point line. It was a relief for Boynton, who struggled with his shot in the last three games, going only 1-for-17 from behind the three-point line.

Boynton, who was named the MVP of the Orange Bowl Classic, got hot late in the second half and iced the game for Florida.

"It's great confidence," Boynton said. "We had great confidence early in the year. I think with Ohio State and UCF losses, we really lost a lot of respect from a lot of people. We wanted to come out in this game and have a good one."

Erving Walker added 13 points, and Vernon Macklin had 10.

The Gators return home to take on Jacksonville University on Monday at 1 p.m.

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