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Three takeaways from Kansas State’s win over Florida in the Big 12/SEC Challenge

Kansas State’s basketball game against Florida was nowhere near the challenge it was billed as when the Big 12 and SEC scheduled the matchup as part of their final conference crossover series.

The Wildcats dominated the Gators from start to finish on their way to a 64-50 victory in front of a sold-out crowd at Bramlage Coliseum.

It was a mismatch from the start, with K-State jumping out to a 37-16 lead at halftime. Florida fought back with some early points in the second half, but the Wildcats held a comfortable lead all the way.

Things got so out of hand in the final minutes that several K-State players seemed more focused on adding dunks to the highlight reels than just playing games. The home crowd also mockingly performed the Gator chomp and chanted “SEC, SEC, SEC” in celebration of the triumph.

With the win, No. 5 K-State (18-3, 6-2 Big 12) built needed momentum before returning to the conference Tuesday in Kansas. The Gators (12-9, 5-3 SEC) will be looking to come back to winning ways in their next game against Tennessee.

Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson both had 13 points for the Wildcats.

Here are some highlights from the action:

Kansas State held Florida to 16 points in the first half

Jerome Tang and his team put up a defensive clinic in the first 20 minutes of this match.

The Gators scored a measly 16 points before halftime and looked pretty awful doing it.

Thank the way K-State played defense. He choked Florida in the paint and on the perimeter, rarely giving up offensive rebounds. Unlike earlier this week, when rebounding was a big deal during a loss at Iowa State, the Wildcats outscored the Gators 29-16 in the first half.

With no second chance chance for points, Florida players could do little more than shake their heads after missed shots. Those were plentiful. The Gators went 3-of-12 from three-point range and 3-of-17 from two-point range. Only four Florida players scored.

One more thing: Florida were held scoreless in the last 5 minutes, 30 seconds of the half.

K-State led 37-16 at that point; the game was essentially over because of the defense.

This has been an encouraging development for the Wildcats, who have been known more for their offense than defense in recent games. This has shown that they can do both.

K-State gets its big shot back

David N’Guessan returned to the starting lineup for the first time in a month on Saturday, and played as if he’d never left it.

The 6-foot-9 junior played a total of four minutes in K-State’s first eight conference games of the season while battling a right foot/ankle injury, which left the Wildcats with a notable hole in their backcourt attack. That was no longer the case with him playing full force against the Gators.

N’Guessan saw 19 minutes of action and put it to good use, finishing with nine points and one rebound.

The Wildcats have done more than just get by without N’Guessan in the lineup. They won six of their first eight Big 12 games with Abayomi Iyiola starting and Ismael Massoud off the bench. So it’s not like they were lost without him. But his return was still welcome for K-State.

One of K-State’s biggest weaknesses this season has been an inability to match up against opposing big men. In all three of the Wildcats’ losses, they allowed the other team to score at will around the basket. That didn’t happen against Florida, even though the Gators have 6-foot-11 big man Colin Castleton. K-State held him to 13 points and eight rebounds.

N’Guessan makes the Wildcats more versatile on the pitch while also adding valuable depth to their rotation. It will be interesting to see if K-State can reach a higher level with him playing conference games.

Markquis Nowell flirts with history

No player in K-State basketball history has ever recorded a triple-double.

Saturday is almost changed.

Nowell did a little bit of everything for the Wildcats and managed double digits in three different statistical categories. But he failed painfully with 13 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

Fans realized the result late in the game and started cheering whenever he sent a pass to an open teammate, but the Wildcats didn’t make enough shots to get him 10 assists, nor was he able to get 10 rebounds.

This wasn’t the first time Nowell flirted with a triple-double at K-State. Maybe he can complete the result before the end of the season.

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