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Tuesday, December 10, 7 p.m. (ET)
The Sports Network
By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: O'Connell Center (11,548) -- Gainesville, Florida. Television: ESPN. Home Record: KU 3-0, UF 5-0. Away Record: KU 0-1, UF 1-2. Neutral Record: KU 3-1, UF 0-0. Conference Record: KU 0-0, UF 0-0. Series Record: Kansas leads, 3-1.
GAME NOTES: Both the 13th-ranked Kansas Jayhawks and the 19th-ranked Florida Gators slid in the latest AP poll, and the squads will attempt to get back on track on Tuesday night when they square off at the O'Connell Center.
Kansas opened up the season in impressive fashion with five straight wins, including a signature victory over Duke on Nov. 12 in a battle of top-five teams. The Jayhawks have run into a bit of trouble of late, however. After suffering a 63-59 setback to Villanova in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis, they returned stateside only to be upset at Colorado on Saturday, 75-72.
Florida has been solid in the early going, running out to a 6-2 record, but while it has beaten all the teams it has been favored against, it has had difficulty stepping up its play against some of the nation's best. The Gators have suffered a pair of losses on the road to nationally-ranked teams, losing to Wisconsin on Nov. 12 (59-53), and most recently at UConn on Dec. 2 (65-64).
Kansas leads the all-time series with Florida, 3-1. These national powers last squared off in the 2006 Las Vegas Invitational, with the top-ranked Jayhawks downing the 10th-ranked Gators, 82-80.
The Jayhawks were trailing Colorado for most of the second half on Saturday, until Perry Ellis tied the game on a layup with just four seconds left, but they fell victim to a last-second desperation heave by Askia Booker as they lost in heartbreaking fashion. The team had an impressive field goal shooting night (.529), although its prowess from 3-point territory was less than ideal (5-of-20). Andrew Wiggins was outstanding in defeat with 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field. Frank Mason added 11 points, while Ellis and Joel Embiid added 10 points apiece. Kansas has established a theme this season of performing well from the field overall (.505), while shooting poorly from beyond the arc (.298), although it still boasts an impressive +10.5 scoring margin. Wiggins has shined in his freshman campaign with 15.3 points per game on 51.2 percent shooting, while Ellis (14.5 ppg, .600) is hot on his heels. Embiid, another first-year player, has been strong off the bench with 9.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.
The Gators were also on the wrong end of a thrilling finish in their latest game. After Michael Frazier put the team up by one point in the final minute, UConn's Shabazz Napier connected on an off-balanced jumper just before the buzzer sounded. Florida shot well in the hotly-contested battle, making 49 percent of its field goal tries, but it was just 3-of-9 from 3-point range and was plagued by 16 turnovers. Casey Prather committed five of those miscues himself, but he helped make up for it by tallying 19 points and seven rebounds. Patric Young added 17 points and seven boards, while Scottie Wilbekin pitched in with 15 points. On the season, UF nets 72.4 points per game on 46.5 percent from the field, which is more than enough to support its strong scoring defense (60.9 ppg). Prather (19.1 ppg) has made greater than 63 percent of his field goal attempts, while Frazier (13.5 ppg) has been outstanding from beyond the arc (23-of-44). Talented freshman Kasey Hill (10.3 ppg) has missed the last four games with an injury, but luckily the return of Wilbekin (11.3 ppg) and Dorian Finney-Smith (10.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg), who both missed games earlier in the season, has given the team a boost.
Kansas has all the talent in the world, but it has shown that its young nucleus still needs time to come together before it's considered a serious national-championship contender. Heading into hostile territory, the Jayhawks will likely struggle against what should be another stifling defensive effort by the Gators.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida 68, Kansas 67
12/10 10:30:58 ET