Florida-Kansas St. Preview

The Associated Press

Even with Kenny Boynton unable to get it together, Florida handily bounced back from its first loss behind another big game from Mike Rosario.

The No. 8 Gators may need both senior guards to come out strong Saturday night in Kansas City in what could be a tough test against Kansas State.

Florida (8-1) had outscored its first seven opponents by an average of 25.3 points before falling 65-64 at then-No. 8 Arizona last Saturday. The Gators, though, got back on track Wednesday, blowing by Southeastern Louisiana 82-43 while holding the Lions to 29.1 percent shooting.

"We already were over that (loss) as a team," guard Scottie Wilbekin told the school's official website. "We just wanted to make sure we were in tune with this game. They were another team in our path on this journey - and we've got a long journey ahead of us."

Rosario, who debuted with the Gators in 2011-12 after transferring from Rutgers, has a chance to make that journey extra special. He scored a season-high 20 points Wednesday and is averaging 16.7 while shooting 61.3 percent in three games this month.

"I'm a fifth-year player. I'm experienced. I've been through the Big East and I've been through a lot of challenges in my life," he said. "I just feel like coach Billy (Donovan) just challenges me every day and I look forward to it because this is my last go-around and I feel like my teammates need me to bring that consistency every day and I've been trying to do that."

Rosario's recent play has proven especially crucial given the woes of Boynton, a preseason all-SEC selection. After averaging 17.3 points and shooting 51.6 percent over his first three games, Boynton has scored seven or less in four of his last six, going 17 for 61 (27.9 percent) from the field.

"You never wanna see anybody struggle, but I do think that when you go through those difficulties, it forces you to persevere," Donovan said. "Hopefully it gets him to a place where he realizes that there are a lot of other things to the game of basketball besides making shots.

"This will ultimately help him be better as a player moving forward."

The Gators would surely love to see Boynton pick up the pace against the Wildcats (8-2). Donovan's team took the only previous matchup in this series, beating then-No. 6 Kansas State 57-44 in Sunrise, Fla. two years ago, behind Boynton's team-leading 15 points.

"This non-conference schedule that we're playing is very, very difficult and I think we realize every time we line up and play, we're playing against really good quality teams," Donovan said. "You can't play for 38 1/2 minutes, we gotta play for 40 and we'll have to do that against Kansas State."

The Wildcats, whose only losses have come to No. 2 Michigan and No. 14 Gonzaga, are coming off Tuesday's 78-69 victory over Texas Southern. In addition to shooting a season-best 56.4 percent, Kansas State compiled season highs of 21 assists and 46 points in the paint.

After posting a season-low four points on 1-of-9 shooting against Gonzaga, senior standout Rodney McGruder scored a season-high 26, going 12 for 17 from the field. The Wildcats are 14-2 when McGruder scores at least 20. He had three on 1-of-7 shooting against the Gators two years ago.

"We've had a chance to play against a lot of different, really good quality players... but McGruder may be the best player, individually, that we play against this year," Donovan said. "He can really, really score in a lot of different ways, he's a terrific player all the way around."

What to Read Next