College basketball: Takeaways from Florida's 71-55 victory over FSU

Graham Hall
UF basketball writer
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Florida forward Colin Castleton, left, blocks a shot attempt by Florida State forward Malik Osborne during the first half Sunday at the O'Connell Center.

In Florida's 71-55 victory Sunday over No. 19 Florida State, the frontcourt of Colin Castleton and Anthony Duruji scored 15 points apiece to end a seven-game losing streak against their in-state rival. 

The Gators, who went into halftime at the O'Connell Center trailing by a basket, went on a decisive 28-11 run over the final 11 minutes in the second half to hand the Seminoles (1-1) their first loss of the season. 

UF coach Mike White praised Duruji’s play on both ends, saying the combination of his energy and his ability to defend every position make him a tough match-up for the opposition. 

“He was really good. Brought great energy, we were able to play some small-ball with him. He literally guarded one through five a lot of the game,” White said. “Stepped up and made some shots and continues to be on the offensive glass.” 

The Gators (2-0) pulled down 17 offensive rebounds — eight more than FSU — and recorded 16 second-chance points. Castleton finished with a career-high 16 rebounds in recording his fourth double-double with the Gators, while Duruji finished second on the team with seven boards.

Early indications are the duo can be a formidable pairing in the low post. 

“I think Anthony Duruji’s becoming a harder guy to block out. He’s embracing an elevated motor as he’s matured and developed throughout his career to complement Colin Castleton, who’s relentless in there, and he’s got great length and hands, and he’s got a nose for (rebounding),” White said. “He’s hard to block out as well, but sometimes he can out reach you in addition. And he’s got some fight.” 

Florida guard Phlandrous Fleming Jr. (24) makes a shot in front of Florida State guard Rayquan Evans, right, during the second half Sunday in the O'Connell Center.

Castleton: Victory for Keyontae

As the final buzzer sounded on Florida’s 16-point upset of FSU, White embraced senior forward Keyontae Johnson as the team spilled out from the sideline to the court in celebration. 

Considering the opponent and what Johnson had endured nearly a year ago, it was an emotional scene. 

“I love Keyontae,” White said. “I’m really happy for our guys, I’m happy for our staff. I’m as happy for him that we were able to come out victorious in this one as anyone else.” 

The Gators made it a point of emphasis in the build-up to the contest to focus on this season’s team and let sleeping dogs lie, with White cautioning against playing overly emotional against a highly regarded team such as Florida State. However, in case it wasn’t clear, Florida did plan on honoring their sidelined standout with a win, Castleton said, and Johnson’s desire to return to the game he loved was evident. 

“It meant everything. We came into this game knowing what happened last year, and we just played our heart out for him. Everything was for him,” Castleton said of Johnson. “We didn’t really care about ourselves individually. We know how bad he really wanted to play in that game. We talked to him before the game and we could just tell that, maybe he was a little bit down about it, but he keeps the same mentality, he loves us and he just shows his emotion on the bench. Everything was for him and Coach White. You know, it’s been a long drought, but we flipped that narrative quickly, and it was just a big win for Key, for sure.”

Illness leads to shortened rotation 

The Gators employed a six-man rotation in the second half in outscoring the ‘Noles 43-25 over the final 20 minutes of play, though it wasn’t entirely by design. The program experienced a wave of sickness over the past week, leading several players to miss practice in the days prior to Sunday’s contest. 

Freshman Kowacie Reeves Jr. and sophomore Tuon Gatkek didn’t see the floor against FSU, while juniors CJ Felder and Jason Jitoboh logged just two and three minutes, respectively. 

Though it could have been even worse, as graduate Phlandrous Fleming Jr. was among those absent from practice before ultimately being able to take the floor for Florida. 

“Phlan hasn’t practiced, and didn’t know he was going to play until literally right before tip because of illness,” White said. “I guess he had some IVs. He literally hasn’t done anything the last two days. Didn’t even shoot it this morning, he’s been watching practice in the stands with a mask on.”

With the bench depleted, White went to sophomore Niels Lane and true freshman Elijah Kennedy for a brief stretch in the first half, and it paid off, as Kennedy connected on a 3-pointer for his first collegiate field goal. But neither would play much of an on-the-court role for the remainder of the contest, making Fleming’s ability to compete Sunday all the more consequential. 

“He showed a lot of heart. He gave us 22 really solid minutes off of very little conditioning. And he’s taking shots, and it’s odd because we haven’t seen him take shots in a few days. He’s taking shots against Florida State and in front of the Rowdies. Interesting, just a weird deal with him. If he doesn’t play those 22 minutes, yeah we’d probably have tried Kowacie to see if he’d had enough wind to help us, but Elijah Kennedy and Niels Lane probably would have logged some more minutes.”

Florida forward Anthony Duruji (4) and guard Phlandrous Fleming Jr. celebrate a big play during the final minutes of the second half Sunday against No. 19 Florida State in the O'Connell Center.

Florida 71, No. 20 Florida St. 55

FLORIDA ST. (1-1)

Osborne 6-10 3-5 18, Wilkes 2-5 0-0 5, Evans 1-3 4-6 6, Mills 1-7 0-0 2, Polite 1-7 0-0 2, Cleveland 5-10 0-2 11, Fletcher 1-3 0-0 2, Warley 0-3 0-0 0, Butler 3-4 0-0 8, McLeod 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 20-52 8-15 55.

FLORIDA (2-0)

Castleton 5-9 5-6 15, Duruji 5-8 4-5 15, Appleby 2-10 0-0 5, Jones 4-13 2-2 12, McKissic 4-9 2-2 12, Fleming 3-11 2-5 9, Kennedy 1-2 0-0 3, Lane 0-0 0-0 0, Felder 0-0 0-0 0, Jitoboh 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-62 15-20 71.

Halftime_Florida St. 30-28. 3-Point Goals_Florida St. 7-15 (Osborne 3-4, Butler 2-2, Cleveland 1-1, Wilkes 1-3, Fletcher 0-1, Mills 0-1, Polite 0-3), Florida 8-28 (McKissic 2-6, Jones 2-7, Duruji 1-2, Kennedy 1-2, Fleming 1-5, Appleby 1-6). Rebounds_Florida St. 28 (Polite 8), Florida 40 (Castleton 16). Assists_Florida St. 10 (Evans 3), Florida 11 (Appleby 5). Total Fouls_Florida St. 19, Florida 12.

Up next

Who: Milwaukee (1-1)vs. Florida (2-0)

When: 6 p.m. Thursday

Where: O'Connell Center

Online: SEC Network+

Radio: 98.1-FM, AM-850

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