The Wildcats have been struggling in new coach Bruce Weber's motion offense, and it showed in sloppy, lackluster losses to No. 2 Michigan and No. 14 Gonzaga. But they finally managed to get it clicking just enough against one of the nation's premier defenses.
"Just a heck of an effort by our guys," Weber said. "The thing I challenged them with is we had to compete for 40 minutes, just to give ourselves a chance. Against Michigan, against Gonzaga, we only competed for 20."
It was defense that ruled this one from the start.
Kansas State built an early lead by turning over Florida twice in the opening minutes, and the Gators responded with a 9-2 surge in which they twice scored off turnovers in transition.
Kansas State eventually settled down on offense, and McGruder's basket with just under 5 minutes left made it 26-19. The Gators' Michael Frazier curled in a 3-pointer for his only basket, but Kansas State rattled off seven more points that helped it take a big lead into the break.
"Our guards made some very poor plays in the first half in terms of our ball movement," Donovan said. "We were very insistent on driving the ball and taking runners and floaters in the lane. ... We had guys open all over the place. All we had to do was make the extra pass."
Florida started to make that extra pass early in the second half.
The Gators scored on their first six trips down the floor and put together a 12-3 run that allowed them to wipe out almost the entire deficit. Kenny Boynton's 3 with 13:10 left drew them even at 41-all, the closest they'd been since leading 19-17 midway through the first half.
"I just said, 'We've been here before,'" Weber said. "You get a point where the other team comes at you and do you lay down or do you step up?"
The Wildcats kept stepping up.
Things were going so well for Kansas State that Henriquez, who had been 2 for 19 from the foul line, stepped up and calmly knocked down four straight free throws.
"When I hit those four in a row, it felt good," he said. "I felt good."
It was a feel-good night all-around for the Wildcats.
"This was a great win for our team, great win for our staff, a great win for our league," Weber said. "This was a great win for us."