Wilbekin returns, leads UF past Kansas at O-Dome

Published Wednesday, 12/10/13, at 11:01 a.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

GAINESVILLE — Florida won at home for the 21st consecutive time Tuesday night when it held off Kansas, 67-61, to hook up its betting supporters as a three-point favorite. The 128 combined points fell ‘under’ the 137-point total.

The ‘under’ improved to 5-1 for the Gators, who bounced back from a buzzer-beating loss at UConn. In the gut-wrenching defeat against the Huskies, senior guard Scottie Wilbekin suffered an ankle sprain that looked like it could keep him out for several weeks.

But Wilbekin didn’t miss a game, starting and sparking his team to a crucial win. And Wilbekin, not KU freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins, was the best player on the court on this night at The O-Dome when 20 NBA teams were present to observe with 22 total scouts.

Wilbekin, who missed the first six games due to a suspension, played for the first time this season with freshman PG Kasey Hill, who returned to play 20 minutes after missing four straight games with his own ankle injury.

Wilbekin scored 18 points, dished out six assists and had four steals. But the four steals don’t do justice to the type of defense he played. While long athletic guys like Casey Prather, Will Yueguete, Michael Frazier II and Dorian Finney-Smith harassed the small Kansas guards with an extended 1-3-1 zone, Wilbekin ran the baseline and didn’t allow KU’s bigs to establish post position.

Finney-Smith knocked down 4-of-6 shots from 3-point land and finished with 15 points, five boards and a pair of steals. Patric Young and Casey Prather added 12 points apiece.

After Bill Self’s team raced out to a 10-3 advantage, Florida ran off 21 unanswered points by forcing many . The Gators went to intermission with a 36-21 lead.

Kansas couldn’t get any closer than eight until UF missed a slew of free throws in the last three minutes. Wiggins hit several late 3’s and finished with a career high 26 points and 11 rebounds. His three-point barrage made the score more respectable, but it was too little and too late.

The Gators next play Tuesday against Memphis at Madison Square Garden.


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