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Florida again defeats Georgia, this time 70-63

Graham Hall
UF basketball writer
Florida forward Anthony Duruji makes a fade-away layup Saturday against Georgia at Exactech Arena.
Florida guard Noah Locke attempts a three-point shot Saturday against Georgia at Exactech Arena. Locke surpassed the milestone of making more than 200 3-pointers for his career.

Colin Castleton came off the bench to provide 14 points while Gainesville native Tre Mann scored 13 points and the Florida men’s basketball team secured its first win in 21 days with a 70-63 victory over Georgia at Exactech Arena.

“I thought we were really good for about 30 minutes today,” UF coach Mike White said.

Florida started slow Saturday and had five turnovers before it had managed 10 points, but it wouldn’t take long for the Gators (11-6, 7-5 SEC) to find a rhythm on both ends of the floor in their penultimate home game left on the schedule. 

Up next

Who: Florida (11-6, 7-5 SEC) at Auburn (11-12, 5-9)

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

Soon, UF led 25-10 and didn’t look back as the Gators managed something they couldn’t in Tuesday’s loss at Arkansas — hit 3-pointers. 

UF converted half of its 10 attempts from long-range in the first 20 minutes against the ‘Dawgs in a performance that also saw junior guard Noah Locke hit his 200th career 3-pointer in the first half. 

Locke would add another from long range as the first half expired to put Florida up by 14 at 37-23. UF went cold from downtown in the second half, however, converting just one of its13 three-point attempts the rest of the way. 

“We have to fight through adversity,” Mann said, “and that’s what we had to do today.”

Georgia (13-9, 6-9), which lost to UF last month in Athens, had chances in the second half to turn the tide and secure a valuable road victory, but Florida maintained a double-digit lead until the final two minutes of regulation. 

Bulldogs freshman Sahvir Wheeler led all scorers with 27 points on 9-of-17 shooting, but it wasn’t enough to keep them from losing their third game in the last four tries. 

Castleton scored all but two of his points in the second half while shooting a perfect 5-for-5 from the field in addition to adding a pair of impressive blocks in 25 minutes.

Florida returns to the court Tuesday at Auburn, with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m. The Gators will then travel Saturday to Kentucky before concluding the regular season at home against No. 20 Missouri. 

What We Learned

Locke seemed less than satisfied with joining elite company, and the second half was to blame. 

Locke missed all five of his 3-point attempts after sinking the halftime buzzer-beater and was held scoreless over the final 20 minutes despite playing more second-half minutes than any Gator. 

“I feel like it’s something that I should be proud of, but I had a lot more attempts in the second half that I should have made,” he said. “It’s definitely a big accomplishment.”

He may not have even been aware the 200 club was in sight, however. 

The mark is notable and all, but White said Florida’s focus is on team goals rather than on personal accomplishments. 

“I’m happy for him. With individual accolades, maybe I’m wrong with it but we just — I might tap a guy when I see him in the hallway or before practice, in between the lines, hey ‘great stuff’ — but let’s keep it in perspective here. This is not all about individual accolades,” White said. “You know, this happened with Colin Castleton a couple times this year with SEC Player of the Week. It’s not something we address with the team, and I don’t know if it’s something these guys think of that often. That said, I’d like Noah to feel pretty good about it tonight, maybe for an hour or two.”

Transition defense “decent”

Early in the contest, Georgia had several fastbreak opportunities off UF turnovers, forcing the Gators into transition defense. 

Despite the issues maintaining possession, Florida prevented the ‘Dawgs from building a lead, and it raised the question whether UF’s get-back defense deserved the credit. 

While he didn’t overly praise his team for their efforts in transition — although advanced analytics seem to indicate the Gators are above-average when it comes to getting back in transition — White asserted it was adequate enough to get the job done against UGA, thanks to minimizing the usage of the press defense. 

“At times, it’s pretty good. Also at times, with us, because we’ve been erratic with when we’re pressing and how much we’re pressing per opponent, how we played a little bit earlier and how we’re playing now defensively, we didn’t press one possession today,” White said. “But when you press, you’re putting yourself in peril to a certain extent in transition defense. Certain analytical people will put that in one category, and certain people put it in other categories. Whether it’s transition off makes, transition off misses, those are always different pieces. I would say decent, it’s got to get better. Tonight, in the last 10 minutes it wasn’t very good.”

Castleton thrives off bench

Florida starting point guard Tre Mann seemed taken aback to hear junior forward Colin Castleton hadn’t missed a shot against the Bulldogs. 

It was an impressive bounce-back for Castleton, who had looked out of sorts in UF’s previous two losses bookending the 13-day layoff, and it seemed even more impressive considering he did it after coming off the bench. 

His impact in getting the Gators back in the win column wasn’t lost on the team. 

“We had a size advantage against these guys. I wish we would have gotten Colin deeper touches and more touches,” White said. “He had some deep post touches a few times and it wasn’t thrown to him, where we’ve got to continue to develop as post passers as well.”

Notes: The win ended Florida's two-game losing streak and marked its first win since Jan. 30, as games against LSU, Tennessee and Texas A&M were postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. ... Florida has won four straight vs. Georgia and has swept the season series four times in six seasons under Mike White. It also marked the Gators' ninth win vs. Georgia under White, the most vs. any opponent during his tenure. ...  Castleton scored a team-best 14 points off the bench, marking his eighth consecutive appearance scoring in double figures and 11th in his past 12 games played. ... Florida won despite committing 20 turnovers, the first time the Gators have done so since Nov. 14, 2012, vs. Wisconsin.

Florida 70, Georgia 63

GEORGIA (13-9, 6-9 SEC)

Camara 3-8 0-0 7, Horne 0-5 1-2 1, Fagan 6-8 1-3 14, Kier 1-10 0-0 2, Wheeler 9-17 8-9 27, K.Johnson 3-11 1-2 8, Etter 2-2 0-0 4, McMillan 0-1 0-0 0, Garcia 0-2 0-0 0, Starks 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-64 11-16 63.

FLORIDA (11-6, 7-5)

Duruji 3-7 0-3 6, Payne 0-0 0-0 0, Appleby 2-4 7-8 13, Locke 3-10 0-0 9, Mann 4-7 4-4 13, Lewis 1-6 2-2 4, Castleton 5-5 4-5 14, Glover 4-5 3-3 11, Ruzhentsev 0-5 0-0 0, Jitoboh 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-49 20-25 70.

Halftime_Florida 37-23. 3-Point Goals_Georgia 4-20 (Fagan 1-2, Camara 1-3, K.Johnson 1-4, Wheeler 1-4, McMillan 0-1, Horne 0-3, Kier 0-3), Florida 6-23 (Locke 3-10, Appleby 2-4, Mann 1-2, Duruji 0-1, Glover 0-1, Ruzhentsev 0-2, Lewis 0-3). Fouled Out_Camara. Rebounds_Georgia 29 (Fagan 6), Florida 36 (Duruji 9). Assists_Georgia 9 (Wheeler 4), Florida 9 (Mann 3). Total Fouls_Georgia 23, Florida 16. A_2,345 (10,133).

Florida guard Tre Mann makes a layup Saturday against Georgia at Exactech Arena.
Florida guard Scottie Lewis (23) makes a layup over the Georgia defense during the second half Saturday at Exactech Arena.
Florida forward Colin Castleton (12) makes a layup during the second half Saturday against Georgia.