K-State Upsets #8 Florida Gators In Basketball, 67-61

I hate to do this, but before any analysis of the game, there’s one thing that needs to be stated: ESPN’s commentators crossed the line tonight by remarking on Angel Rodriguez’s ‘Puerto Rican temper’ during a routine foul. There are two items to unpackage here. The first is that the observation was made while the commentators were simultaneously remarking that the play should have been a no-call. Rodriguez is being described as a loose cannon that commits unnecessary fouls on a play in which everyone agrees he didn’t commit a foul. That’s an unfair personal affront.

The second concern is broader in nature. While my conversations among colleagues or family may sometimes fail a standard of political correctness, you have to be smart with what you say. I don’t know which commentator made the Puerto Rican temper, but it gives Rodriguez personally and Latin Americans in general a bad reputation when they’re characterized as doing irresponsible things because that’s what happens when Puerto Ricans get frustrated – they get temperamental and overreact. The sitcom Modern Family does this, and I could really care less – the show takes aim at gays, Latin Americans, and suburban housewives with equal amounts of satire. I’m uncomfortable with the matter of fact notion that Rodriguez is prone to fouling because of his heritage – that statement from a sports broadcaster doesn’t have a place in the 21st century.

The Jug realized K-State would win tonight with 9:30 left in the game. Not believe, mind you, but knew that the Wildcats were going to pull out a victory. K-State only held a slight lead, but with 9:30 left Jordan Heriquez steps to the line and the announcer mentions he’s 2 for 19 on the season. He proceeds to nail both. There were shots that just didn’t fall for K-State in past games that did tonight, and the complete game finally came together for the team. They did a good job of keeping Florida off-balance. The Gators are better defenders than they are scorers (Florida is the #1 team in scoring defense in the nation), but with K-State’s rotations Florida didn’t always do a good job switching assignments.

The team also demonstrated not only aggression, but also smart aggression. It put Gators in positions where they had to foul, earning several trips to the charity stripe. They forced Florida into 20 fouls on the night. One interesting observation was how on a couple of plays Rodney McGruder was simply resting in the corner, not running plays with the other four players in order to keep him fresh for defense. While he may be the most talented player on K-State’s team, at a point it may be worthwhile to simply give him a rest and have a full 5-on-5 on offense.

Up 63-55 with 48 seconds left, the Wildcats gave Florida a chance to get back into the game. Henriquez intercepted the ball and tried to make a simple pass while Florida’s defenders huslted back to play defense. The ball awkwardly bounced near the line, and Southwell simply let it bounced out of bounds, thinking Florida last touched it. Florida was able to execute a quick alley-oop to pull two points closer while only taking six seconds off the clock. However, McGruder came back and nailed two free throws to make it 65-57.

The Gators were able to record another quick score to pull within 65-59, but K-State worked the ball down the court and got it in Spradling’s hands with only 17 seconds left. Spradling missed his first free throw – a rare sight as he was 24-24 on the season to that point. He hit the second and after another quick Florida score, Spradling found himself on the line again with 10 seconds to go. First shot: another miss. Fortunately, he was able to hit the second, Florida couldn’t convert, and Bruce Weber goes home with a 67-61 win.

Here are the stats you need to know from the game:

  • While Weber has been spreading minutes across the entire team this year in both close games and blow outs, only eight players saw meaningful playing time tonight. Notable, Nino Williams appears fully recovered from the injury that knocked him out of the game against Gonzaga, logging 18 minutes while contributing four points and seven rebounds from off the bench.
  • Will Spradling essentially didn’t leave the game tonight, logging 39 minutes and leading the team with 17 points.
  • Rodney McGruder wasn’t far behind, with 13 points in 38 minutes.
  • Jordan Henriquez posted the exact offensive game K-State needs in order to win in conference play: nine points on 2-3 shooting, with 5-9 free throws made. Henriquez is expected to make blocks and pull down rebounds, not score points. However, he was third on the team tonight with a very efficient line. When he’s scoring points and causing the opposition to commit fouls, it makes wins a lot easier to come by.
  • The team hit 7-17 from three point range for 41.2 percemt on the night. Overall, the team shot 41.7 percent. Hitting 41 percent of your threes also makes wins easier to come by.
  • While only forcing nine Gator turnovers, K-State only turned the ball over ten times themselves. There are some very quick hands down in Florida, yet the Gators only recorded four steals. Against the aggressive man-to-man defense they faced tonight, that may be the most impressive stat of the night from K-State’s perspective. It shows this team is playing smart. Bruce Weber’s motion offense may finally be clicking.
  • K-State owned a 36-27 rebounding advantage. Surprisingly, that ratio wasn’t the most one-sided of the night – that recognition belongs to K-State’s 7-2 advantage in blocks.
  • Henriquez recorded five of those blocks. Although he came off the bench and only played 18 minutes, he may deserve a game ball. If he had one more rebound, he would have tied Nino Williams for game-high (seven). Henriquez did lead the team with three offensive boards.
  • The 67 points K-State scored represents the most points Florida has given up in a game all year.
  • If you missed it, KU went to Columbus earlier today and beat #7 Ohio State. Before the game, the Wildcats’ games against KU were downright scary. The Jayhawks are their typical top ten selves, but K-State demonstrated it can run with just about anyone tonight.
  • 1981 was the last time K-State beat a top-ten nonconference team in the regular season. Damn.

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