GAINESVILLE, FLA. Lon Kruger says there's nothing personal about tonight's Kansas-Florida basketball game.
"Really, it was so long ago. It's not special like it used to be," said Kruger, the Gators' coach with Kansas connections.
A Silver Lake native and former Kansas State standout, Kruger is in his sixth season at Florida after coaching four years at K-State.
His Gators, who start a pair of freshmen in point guard Eddie Shannon and forward Greg Stolt are 5-6 and unranked.
The Jayhawks, ranked No. 3, take an 11-1 record into the 8:35 p.m. ESPN game.
"Kansas sets the standard in a lot of different ways," Kruger said. "They are very talented and play with great awareness and intensity. You find yourself saying a lot of things about them you say about Kentucky.
"They are outstanding on the boards. To beat them, you have to work hard, fight and scrap because they are a very physical team. Rarely do you see such a talented club with the intensity and physical nature of Kansas."
A year ago, Kansas edged Florida, 69-63, at Allen Fieldhouse. Florida returns two starters -- center Dametri Hill and forward Brian Thompson. Hill, who averages 15.3 points, scored nine against KU last year. Thompson, who averages 6.4, scored two on 1-of-6 shooting against the Jayhawks.
The Gators brought in six freshmen. Shannon averages 10 points and 3.7 assists a game. Stolt averages 8.4 points. Highly-touted forward Greg Kristell is being red-shirted because of a dislocated kneecap.
"That group is a critical foundation for the next three years," Kruger said. "Obviously they need to know what the older players can teach them but I think in time the group will develop into a very solid nucleus."
Kruger's young team -- nine of 15 Gators are either freshmen or sophomores -- have dipped below .500 partly because of a bruising schedule. Florida has lost to Wake Forest and UMass and dropped consecutive games to Mississippi State and Arkansas. One of their victories was over Oklahoma in overtime.
"We've learned and made progress but not beaten many," Kruger said of meeting ranked teams. "It's one thing to play them but it's another to beat them."
To win tonight, the Gators must slow KU's backcourt of Jacque Vaughn and Jerod Haase, Kruger said. Haase had 23 points in KU's win over the Gators last year.
"What you see is exactly the way he is. He is very intense, very competitive," Kruger said of Haase, a member of last summer's gold-medal winning U.S. World University Games team. Kruger coached that team.
"He is very intense, very competitive. He shoots well and loves to play. He's just an outstanding player," Kruger said.
"Jacque is one of the better point guards in the country," he added. " When you put the two together you have intangibles other teams do not have. It makes them what I say is the best backcourt in the country."