Friday, November 29, 2002

Gators chomp Jayhawks, 83-73


Roy Williams warned everyone that he thought his team did not deserve all the preseason accolades heaped on them. This week the team proved him right. Before this week, Williams had never lost a preseason NIT game. Now he has lost two in a row. Despite a furious second-half comeback that whittled Florida's lead from 19 down to two points, Kansas could not overcome 14-for-31 three-point UF shooting. Overall, Kansas turned in a worse performance than Wednesday's loss to North Carolina, hitting just 38 percent from the floor, and only 22-of-36 free throws.

Florida used their time outs to maximum effectiveness - each time squelching a Kansas run. Each time the Gators came back from a rest, they would immediately regain control of the game. They were constantly able to adjust to whatever Roy's Boys threw at them.

For most of the game Kansas played like they were still getting blown out by North Carolina. In first half, KU hit only eight of their 26 shots from the floor for an abysmal 30 percent accuracy - not to mention their luck from the free throw line. Florida did not play all that much better - going just 16-of-41 from the floor - but at least good enough to maintain a double-digit lead.

Kirk Hinrich did start the game for Kansas, and promptly got called for an early foul. His back still seemed to be bothering him, as he hit just one of his five shots, and both of his free throw tries through the first half.

Both teams traded frutiless possessions before Florida drew first blood and the game's first lead. Those were the only points in the first two minutes, before Wayne Simien tied it up, only to see the lead evaporate on a Gator three-pointer.

The Gators could not seem to score from long distance in Wednesday's loss to Stanford. Tonight they hit five of their first seven shots from beyond the arc to take control of the game.

Three Gator three-pointers proved the difference in the game's first five minutes. Kansas spread their scoring around, as Wayne Simien, Keith Langford, Kirk Hinrich, Aaron Miles and Nick Collison each had two Jayhawk points before any of them could score a second time.

After the first time-out Kansas scored the next four points to get within one, but then surrendered the next five. Florida retained control of the game for the rest of the half, though their lead seemed as much a result of KU's sturggles as it did UF's prowess.

Kansas came out for the second half fired up. They scored two quick three-pointers to cut Florida's lead to six points, forcing a Gator time out. Whatever the Gators did in their huddle did the trick, as they came back to hit FIVE threes of their own - plus a conventional basket - to only two scores by Wayne Simien.

As bad as the first half was, the second was nothing but a barn-burner. Down by as many as 19 points, Kansas fought back to within two. Kirk Hinrich was troubled by both his back and four fouls, and Nick Collison also had an off-night before scoring most of his points late. Sophomores Keith Langford and Wayne Simien stepped up with 17 and 16 points, respectively.

When Florida's lead was up to 19 points, Kansas looked as flat as they had in quite some time. Since that moment the Jayhawks have outscored the Gators 13-2 to trim the lead to eight points, led by the suddenly surging Nick Collison. KU's senior leader went most of the game with only a pair of free throws to his credit before putting in two quick baskets.

For a few seconds, the lead was down to just two points. Just when Kansas seemed poised to take their first lead of the night, Florida called another time out to regroup, and Kansas never closed any closer.

Final numbers: Florida's Matt Walsh and Matt Bonner lead all scoring with 22 points each.

Keith Langford paced Kansas with 17 points, followed by Wayne Simien and Nick Collison with 16. Both Langford and Simien grabbed 10 rebounds. Aaron Miles scored 11 points and dished eight assists. Kirk Hinrich and Jeff Graves each had five points, and Moulaye Niang added three.

Kansas never led the game. As a team they out-rebounded Florida 50 to 39, but shot just 38 percent from the floor - including only 3-of-11 from three-point range.

Kansas falls to 2-2, the first time they started a season this way since the 1987-88 campaign. Up next for KU is a return to the friendly confines of Allen Fieldhouse to face Central Missouri State.

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