MANHATTAN, Kan. – Keyontae Johnson had 13 points and 11 rebounds against her former team, Markquis Nowell flirted with the first triple-double in Kanas State history, and the No. 5 beat Florida 64-50 Saturday night in the Big 12 -SEC Challenge.
Nowell finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, and Nae’Qwan Tomlin also had 11 points. The Wildcats improved to 18-3 to match the 1972-73 team for the best start in 21 games in school history.
They also achieved a four-game skid in the soon-to-be-ending competition between Big 12 and Southeastern Conference schools.
Johnson struggled from the field, going just 5-for-16 and even getting stuffed from the front of the rim on a windfall dunk on a second-half fast break. But it was still a special night for the senior forward, who collapsed on the Gators sideline with a heart condition during a game against Florida State a little over two years ago.
Johnson spent 10 days in the hospital and never played another meaningful minute for Florida, whose medical staff would not clear him. He ended up at Kansas State, where doctors cleared him, and emerged as the Big 12’s third leading scorer and rebounder as he helped the Wildcats reach their highest ranking in more than a decade.
Colin Castleton scored 13 points for the Gators (12-9). Myreon Jones and Will Richard each had 11.
Kansas State forward Keyontae Johnson, left, and guard Markquis Nowell (1) compete for a rebound with Florida forward Colin Castleton during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, in Manhattan, Kan.
Most of the Wildcats’ offense against the Gators came through the 5-foot-8 Nowell, who had eight points, eight assists and six rebounds at halftime. By that point, Kansas State had built a 37-16 lead.
The Gators, meanwhile, had no offense.
They missed five of their first six shots and were 6-for-29 from the field at halftime. In fact, Florida shot so badly that Alex Fudge wedged a free throw between the rim and the backboard, and that came a possession after the Gators’ Kowacie Reeves dunked open to the back of the iron.
Florida managed to rally, scoring the first 10 points of the second half, before Nowell answered with a jump shot and Johnson added a bucket and a pair of free throws to halt the Gators’ momentum.
The Wildcats pulled the lead back to 21 points with about 5 1/2 minutes left before hitting the finish line.