Hill, Wilbekin getting comfortable together

They've used the lineup in practice, but Tuesday night was different. Florida came in its game against Kansas without deploying its two-point guard lineup with Kasey Hill and Scottie Wilbekin against an opponent yet. That changed early on Tuesday. The Gators now have one week before their next game to practice different lineups, notably the one with Hill and Wilbekin on the floor together.

"I'm glad we have another week before we play," Billy Donovan said. "With some of these guys coming back, we need to work on some different lineups in practice. I thought we had some lineups on the floor today with guys that weren't really used to playing together."

The plan throughout the offseason was to play Hill and Wilbekin on the floor together. However, Wilbekin was suspended for a violation of team rules on June 10 and missed the first five games of the regular season. Hill started the first four games of the year and ran the offense, but he suffered a high ankle sprain in November that kept him out three weeks.

When Wilbekin returned from his suspension, Hill was still out and Wilbekin even rolled his ankle against Connecticut on December 2. With all of the speed bumps behind them, the two finally had a chance to be on the floor at the same time on Tuesday in the O'Connell Center.

"It's definitely good having somebody you can trust to bring the ball up and know nothing is going to happen," Scottie Wilbekin said. "For how young he is, he's more mature than most freshmen."

Hill was the one that brought the ball up the floor when the two were on the floor together with Wilbekin playing off the ball. He used that role to score a career-high 18 points with six assists and four steals.

Wilbekin's defense went to another level. Donovan recalled the biggest sequence of plays of the game in his mind, when Kansas threw the ball inside to Joel Embiid who scored over Patric Young. Florida went down and scored, but when the Jayhawks came back down the floor, Donovan saw that familiar look in Wilbekin's eye. He knew he was about to do something special.

With the Florida lead cut to 10 points in the second half, Wilbekin perfectly anticipated, jumped and stole the entry pass, turning it into a fast break pushing the lead back to 12 points without much time left.

"He gets so competitive and he almost gets enraged," Donovan said. "He made some plays that really helped our team."

It wasn't as easy for Hill. He played 20 minutes with six points, two rebounds and three assists, but the normal explosiveness wasn't back. He has been cleared to play after his high ankle sprain and needs the next week to get his speed back before Florida faces Memphis on December 17 in New York City.

The last three weeks have been tough for Hill. Frustrated with his situation and the ankle sprain, he lived in the training room to get back as soon as possible.

"The way he played tonight, a lot of it probably was a guy who hasn't practiced a whole lot," Donovan said. "Timing, confidence. The thing I tried to explain to him was you have to play with more fire and passion than that. You've got to play with more intensity when you're out there.

"He may have been thinking about his foot. I'm thankful and appreciate he took the time to play and be able to rest Scottie. He probably was in a tough situation for him coming into this game knowing he's been out for three weeks."

Wilbekin knew the whole time that he would play against Kansas, but Hill's situation was more up in the air. Once he got back on the floor, even though it wasn't his best game, Wilbekin was happy to have him back.

"He's not completely healthy, I'll say that, but 90 percent Kasey Hill is better than no Kasey Hill," Wilbekin said with a laugh.

It's easy for the two to dream about what it will be like when Hill's ankle gets back to where it was before the injury. They've seen it some in practice, but once Hill gets back to the form that helped him lead the Gators during the first four games of the season, the Gators could be hitting full stride.

"Two points guards that can handle the ball, get to the rim, set everything up and the leaders of the team," Hill said, grinning ear-to-ear.

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