No. 3 Kansas 69, Florida 54
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ Kansas coach Ray Williams warned his players not to pay much attention to Florida’s lopsided losses to two other Top 10 teams.
``We feel very fortunate,″ Williams said Thursday night after the third-ranked Jayhawks overcame a slow start to win their fifth straight game, 69-54. ``I knew it wasn’t going to be just another non-conference game, that we were going to get their best shot.″
Raef LaFrentz scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half to help Kansas (12-1) pull away from a six-point halftime lead.
Scot Pollard also also had a strong second half, scoring 10 of his 12 points to offset the lack of offense the Jayhawks got from Jacque Vaughn and Jerod Haase.
``We executed a lot better offensively in the second half,″ LaFrentz said. ``They are a big, strong team that took us out of what we wanted to run.″
Dametri Hill led Florida (5-7) with 21 points. Greg Williams was the only other player in double figures for the cold-shooting Gators, hitting a 3-pointer in the final minute to finish with 10.
The loss was the third straight for Florida (5-7), which finished the most demanding non-conference schedule in school history. The Gators have faced four ranked opponents, including three Top 10 teams that beat them by an average of 20 points.
``We got beat by a very good basketball team,″ said Florida coach Lon Kruger, whose team has also lost to Massachusetts, Wake Forest and Mississippi State.
``They’re a club that sets the standard in a lot of ways. In the halfcourt, they play as well as anyone in the country. Their size wore us down and they created a little bit of a margin there at the end.″
Kansas led 25-21 at the half despite shooting just 38 percent from the field. The Jayhawks made up for the poor marksmanship on the defensive end, forcing nine turnovers and holding Florida to 28 percent shooting.
Both teams continued to struggle early in the second half, but Kansas persisted and gradually pulled away. Paul Pierce’s steal and reverse dunk put the Jayhawks up 45-34 and LaFrentz scored eight points in 90 seconds to spark a 9-3 spurt that made it 57-43 with 5:36 to go.
``Their aggressive defense was dictating what we were doing early,″ Williams said. ``We became more aggressive in the second half and tried to make their defense react to us.″
Haase, the Jayhawks’ second-leading scorer, was shut out until he made a 3-pointer with 11:34 remaining. He finished with seven, while Jacque Vaughn was held to two free throws in the second half and also scored seven for Kansas.
Florida missed 13 of its 16 3-point attempts and shot just 32 percent for the game.
Kansas shot 56 percent after halftime to warm up to 46 percent. LaFrentz led the way, going 6-for-8 in the second half to finish 9-for-12.
``Our guys hung in there,″ Kruger said. ``We can’t be content with that. But we can use that as a building block and make progress from there.″