Johnson, Nowell lead No. 5 K-State to win over Florida
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Keyontae Johnson had 13 points and 11 rebounds against his former team, Markquis Nowell flirted with the first triple-double in Kanas State history, and the No. 5 Wildcats beat Florida 64-50 on 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 through 21 games in school history.
They also snapped a four-game skid in the soon-to-end competition between Big 12 and Southeastern Conference schools.
Johnson struggled from the field, going just 5 of 16 and even getting stuffed by the front of the rim during a windmill dunk on a second-half fast break. But it was nevertheless a special night for the senior forward, who collapsed on the Gators' sideline due to a heart condition during a game against Florida State just 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 wound up at Kansas State, where doctors gave him the green light, and he has emerged as the Big 12's third-leading scorer and rebounder while helping the Wildcats to their highest ranking in more than a decade.
Colin Castleton scored 13 points for the Gators (12-9). Myreon Jones and Will Richard had 11 apiece.
Most of the Wildcats' offense against the Gators flowed through the 5-foot-8 Nowell, who had eight points, eight assists and six boards by the break. By that point, Kansas State had built a commanding 37-16 advantage.
The Gators, meanwhile, had no offense whatsoever.
They missed five of their first six shots and were 6 of 29 from the field at halftime. In fact, Florida shot it so poorly that Alex Fudge wedged a free throw between the rim and backboard, and that came one possession after the Gators' Kowacie Reeves clanked an open dunk off the back of the iron.
Florida managed to regroup, scoring the first 10 points of the second half, before Nowell answered with a jump shot and Johnson added a bucket and a couple of free throws to halt the Gators' momentum.
The Wildcats stretched the lead back to 21 points with about 5 1/2 minutes to go before coasting to the finish.
Florida coach Todd Golden had been 5-0 against fellow first-year coaches. But his Gators had no answer for Kansas State coach Jerome Tang's bunch, which became the third Big 12 team to beat them this season. They lost to West Virginia at the Phil Knight Legacy in November and to Oklahoma at the Jumpman Invitational in December.
Kansas State welcomed back forward David N’Guessan, who had played just four minutes since Dec. 21 because of a foot injury. He got the start and had nine points in 11 first-half minutes, though he did not score in the second half.
Florida's brutal stretch continues with No. 5 Tennessee on Wednesday night, then trips to Kentucky and No. 2 Alabama.
Kansas State heads down Interstate 70 for a rematch with ninth-ranked Kansas on Tuesday night.
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