Losing on a buzzer-beating shot can be especially deflating, and Florida and Kansas can empathize with each other after both experienced such a defeat their last time out.
The 19th-ranked Gators, though, may have gotten a boost with the news that guards Scottie Wilbekin and Kasey Hill will play against the visiting No. 13 Jayhawks in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Tuesday night.
Wilbekin, who was playing his third game after sitting out the first four due to suspension, sprained his ankle with 3:01 to play against then-No. 12 Connecticut on Dec. 2. Florida (6-2) then allowed Shabazz Napier to rebound his own miss and drill a jumper as time expired, handing the Gators a 65-64 loss.
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Already with a thin bench due to an ankle injury that has sidelined Hill for the last four contests, coach Billy Donovan was forced to give four players at least 33 minutes against UConn.
“We won a lot of games without Scottie,” said center Patric Young, who finished with 17 points. “We line up five guys and we’ll be OK. It would have helped having him in that situation, but it doesn’t matter who’s out there.”
Wilbekin was held out of practice for a few days following the last contest, but Donovan said Saturday his senior point guard will be good to go against Kansas. Hill, a freshman who averaged 10.3 points and 4.3 assists while starting in Wilbekin’s absence, also reportedly will return.
“We held him out the last couple days,” Donovan said of Wilbekin. “He’s fine now.”
Kansas coach Bill Self isn’t finding any positives after Colorado’s Askia Booker drilled a 30-footer at the buzzer Saturday in a stunning 75-72 loss for the Jayhawks.
Standout freshman Andrew Wiggins scored 17 of his 22 points in the second half, and Perry Ellis’ shot with four seconds remaining tied the game for Kansas (6-3), which lost on a late 3-pointer to an unranked foe for the second time in three games.
“We’re not playing very good,” Self said. “We’re not playing good at all. The pieces just aren’t quite fitting yet and we’re trying to find ourselves.”
Self doesn’t appear to believe that will be a problem in the near future, though he admits he didn’t do his young team any favors with the schedule. The Jayhawks won a tough matchup against then-No. 4 Duke on Nov. 12 and played in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas, where they lost to Villanova — now ranked 10th.
After this contest, Kansas faces previously-ranked New Mexico on Saturday and Georgetown on Dec. 21.
“We didn’t think we’d be a great team by Christmas,” Self said. “That’s being totally unrealistic. In the preseason ratings, they shouldn’t have had us there. What we could be, we could play there to that at the end. There is too much stuff to learn and get over and grow.”
Wiggins (15.3 points per game) and Ellis (14.5) are the only players averaging in double figures for Kansas, which will be facing a Florida team that has plenty to improve on as well.
“There’s going to be some hell to face when we watch (the game against UConn) on film,” Young said. “We should have closed the door on them.”
These teams last met when No. 10 Kansas beat top-ranked Florida 82-80 in overtime on Nov. 25, 2006.