Lawrence, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - The Big 12/SEC Challenge reaches Allen Fieldhouse on Friday night, as the 11th-ranked Kansas Jayhawks take on the Florida Gators.
Florida has been one of the nation's biggest disappointments during the first month of the season. After a No. 7 ranking in the preseason poll, the Gators have fallen from the likes of the nationally ranked by losing three of their first six games. They most recently lost a pair of contests in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, albeit to impressive competition Georgetown (66-65 in OT) and North Carolina (75-64).
Kansas suffered a big slip up on a national stage against top-ranked Kentucky on Nov. 18 with an embarrassing 72-40 loss, but it has since righted the ship with four straight wins to pull to 5-1. The Jayhawks claimed the Orlando Classic title on Sunday by defeating Michigan State, 61-56.
These historic programs have met five times before, with Kansas winning three times. Florida lost the only previous matchup in Lawrence in 1994.
The Gators dug themselves a 10-0 hole in their Battle 4 Atlantis finale against UNC and fell behind by as many 18. They were able to get within seven late in the game but could not complete the comeback, as they were outshot from the field, 45.1 percent to 32.8 percent, and were especially cold from 3- point range, making only 6-of-27. Kasey Hill tried to transcend the struggles of his teammates by pouring in 20 points on 10-of-12 from the free-throw lone. Michael Frazier II was also stellar with 17 points and nine rebounds.
Florida has played excellent defense this season, allowing just 59.7 ppg, but its struggles can be directly attributed to its difficulty in lighting up the scoreboard, as it shoots a lowly 38.7 percent from the field for 63.5 ppg. Frazier is the go-to option with 15.2 ppg to go with 6.5 rpg, and he's been solid from beyond the arc (14-of-39). Jon Horford (10.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and Dorian Finney-Smith (10.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg) are mainstays in the frontcourt, but guards Eli Carter (9.0 ppg) and Kasey Hill (8.2 ppg) both shoot under 36 percent from the field.
The Jayhawks faced a slight halftime deficit in the Orlando Classic championship bout but used a 10-0 run early in the second half to take control of the contest. While they shot just 37 percent from the field, they held Michigan State to an even worse 32.2 percent. Perry Ellis tallied 17 points and nine rebounds, Svi Mykhailiuk netted 11 points and Frank Mason III logged 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
On the season, Kansas hasn't been all that impressive with its scoring output - it nets 69.2 ppg on 42 percent field goal shooting - but that has been enough to support a stellar scoring defense (62.3 ppg). The squad boasts an impressive +7.8 rebounding margin as well. Ellis is the catalyst with 15.3 ppg and 7.0 rpg, but while he shoots 46.7 percent from the field he's only knocked down 2-of-10 from 3-point range. No one else scores in double figures, but Mason (9.8 ppg, 3.7 apg) and Cliff Alexander (9.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg) are both on the doorstep.