Kansas’ Wiggins made strides in 67-61 loss to Florida
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — This is how Kansas coach Bill Self wants Andrew Wiggins to play every night.
He knows Wiggins is capable of it.
Wiggins had 26 points and 11 rebounds, the only Kansas player in double figures, as the 13th-ranked Jayhawks lost 67-61 to No. 19 Florida.
It was the second straight road loss for Kansas (6-3), but a potential building block for Wiggins. He was the lone bright spot for an inexperienced team learning how to play together and handle tough environments.
“What Andrew did, he competed,” Self said. “He scored points, but he got rebounds and we’ve been on his butt about that. He made shots. I’m glad he made them and all that, but that’s not what I’m glad he did. I thought he was more aggressive and competed more.”
Wiggins, the ultra-talented freshman guard from Canada who is widely considered one of the top picks in next summer’s NBA draft, posted his first double-double and set career highs in points and rebounds.
“Even though we lost, we aren’t going to back down,” Wiggins said. “We are fighting to the end. It’s never good to lose, but we don’t want it to affect the rest of the season. We have until March to come together.”
This one wasn’t nearly as heart-breaking as Saturday’s loss at Colorado, which hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to win 75-72.
The Gators (7-2) went on a 21-0 run early and led by as many as 18 points in the first half. Scottie Wilbekin led the Gators with a career-high 18 points.
“I think we should have had an electrical shortage and canceled the game after (leading 10-3),” Self said. “We made a couple of shots and played pretty well the first four or five minutes. But we were awful after that. … That was not a good team playing there at all, and when things started to go bad, we didn’t do anything to stop it. That was frustrating.”
Self called several timeouts, but couldn’t do anything to stop Florida’s momentum.
Surely Florida’s four senior starters and playing at home were factors, especially when pitted against Kansas’ young lineup.
“I’m not sure young guys have ever faced a situation like that,” Florida center Patric Young said. “We’ve been blown out before. We’ve blown people out before. We know both sides of the spectrum. … We did a great job turning them over.”
The Jayhawks committed 16 turnovers in the first 20 minutes — as many as they had in any game this season.
“We’ve got to get everyone playing together,” Self said. “I can’t blame it all on youth. … A lot of it may be youth, but I think we can still play better individually.”
Kansas clawed its way out of the huge hole and made it 60-55 on Wiggins’ 3-pointer with 55.8 seconds remaining. It was his second 3 in the final 1:20.
Florida closed it out from the free-throw line — barely.
The Gators made 20 of 34 free throws, including nine of their final 11.
Kansas got it as close as 65-61 with 10.9 seconds left, Florida’s Kasey Hill ended any chance of a comeback by draining two free throws.
The biggest issue for the Jayhawks was 24 turnovers. Many of those came in the decisive early run. Wiggins and fellow guards Wayne Selden Jr. and Frank Mason combined for 13 turnovers.
Wiggins, though, made up for his miscues by getting four offensive rebounds, blocking two shots and make all eight of his shots from the foul line. He was 7 of 15 from the field, including 4 of 9 from 3-point range.
“I didn’t think Wiggins could shoot the ball that well,” Young said. “I know he was a great player, but he really shot the ball well tonight.”