UF basketball: Top-25 ranking 'irrelevant' as Gators keep focus on growth, Milwaukee

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports
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Florida guard Myreon Jones says Gators can play better than they did in upsetting FSU on Sunday.

Florida men’s basketball coach Mike White took just two steps in the locker room before being doused with water bottles Sunday following his team’s upset over Florida State. 

The 71-55 win Sunday snapped a seven-game losing game to the Seminoles, which was cause for celebration. 

“It was fun,” White said Wednesday. “Really good group of guys that just bring it every day, just proud to be a part of it. Big win for us, of course. We need to celebrate those moments as much as possible. 

“But after Sunday night, it’s about moving on. Hopefully we can have more of those special moments, but how we handle the level of success that these guys earn will determine how many of those we’re going to have.”

That message was delivered in the locker room postgame as the Gators (2-0) quickly turned their attention to tonight’s matchup against Milwaukee (1-1). With water still dripping from his face, White asked his players if they played their best against FSU. 

“Hell nah,” the team responded. 

White was reiterating what some players had already discussed among themselves prior to his postgame speech.

“Before he even came into the locker room, we were saying, ‘Man, we didn’t even play our best.’ And that’s the scary thing about this team,” UF guard Myreon Jones said. “We haven’t even played our best yet and we just beat a good team in Florida State. I think we can just build off that, but we have to keep getting better. Once we hit our ceiling, I don’t think nobody can stop us.”

Beating the Seminoles propelled Florida to No. 24 in the Associated Press poll, marking the program’s first top-25 ranking since February 2021. While it beats the alternative, being ranked again is meaningless to Jones. 

“We can’t get too excited. We’re ranked now, so what? It’s just a number,” he said. “We still gotta play our same way of basketball that got us ranked.”

The Gators cracked the AP poll last season following wins over No. 6 Tennessee and No. 11 West Virginia, but lost their next two games to South Carolina and Arkansas. UF hasn’t held a top-25 ranking for consecutive weeks since the first month of the 2019-20 season. 

“It’s completely irrelevant to me,” White said of being ranked again. “I’m sure a few of our guys who haven’t played at this level before, hadn’t been ranked before, I’m sure it’s exciting for the first time. But it has no bearing on how good of a season we have, how good we play against Milwaukee and how we do in the SEC. It just has no bearing on our growth, which is our daily goal. 

“It’s all about handling success, which is prevalent throughout college basketball. After big wins, how do you rebound? The best teams, of course, learn how to handle success better than others. I think we’ve been pretty solid the past couple days. Hopefully it carries over to (Thursday).”

Milwaukee is led by projected NBA lottery pick Patrick Baldwin Jr., the son of head coach Pat Baldwin. The younger Baldwin has averaged 20.0 points through the Panthers’ first two games, including a game-high 21 in his collegiate debut, a 75-60 win at North Dakota. 

“Patrick Baldwin seems like a great player. He handles the ball a lot,” Jones said of the 6-foot-9, 220-pound Baldwin. “We’re not used to people his size and his height handling the ball that much. So I think we just have to lock in, but he has great players around him too. We can’t forget about the others.”

DeAndre Gholston has also been a significant contributor at 18.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, while Josh Thomas is averaging 15.0 points off the bench.

“One of the more talented players in the country really,” White said of Baldwin. “Gholston and Thomas, a couple other veterans that compliment him. Three guys who average 15 to 20 and can go get baskets. And their defensive numbers are really impressive as well. They’re sound, they’re physical, they get after you, hold opponents to 34 percent from the field. They’re a good team.”

Projected starters

Florida

Anthony Duruji  F  6-7  220  R-Sr  11.5 ppg  7.0 rpg

Colin Castleton  F  6-11  231  Sr  16.5 ppg  10.5rpg

Tyree Appleby  G  6-1  163  Sr  9.5 ppg  4.0 apg

Brandon McKissic  G  6-3  185  Gr 8.0 ppg  3.0 rpg

Myreon Jones  G  6-3  175  Sr 16.0 ppg  6.0 rpg

Milwaukee

Vin Baker Jr.  F  6-9  190  RJr  5.5 ppg  1.0 rpg

Joey St. Pierre  C  6-10  255  RJr  2.0 ppg  2.0 rpg

Donovan Newby  G  6-1  190  Fr  6.0 ppg  2.5 rpg

DeAndre Gholston  G  6-5  215  Jr  18.0 ppg  7.0 rpg

Patrick Baldwin Jr.  G  6-9  220  Fr  20.0 ppg  10.5 rpg

Notes: The Gators used a 13-0 second-half run to spark the win against 20th-ranked FSU, and Colin Castleton earned SEC Player of the Week honors with a 15-point, 16-rebound, six-blocked shot performance. Castleton became the first Gator with 15+ points and rebounds and five+ blocked shots since Joakim Noah went for 21/15/5 in the 2006 Elite Eight vs. Villanova...Florida enters Thursday’s game with a #24 AP ranking, following Sunday’s win against Florida State. This marks the second meeting between the programs, with the first coming in the second round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament in Jacksonville...While at Cleveland State, Tyree Appleby notched a 33-point game at Milwaukee on Jan. 3, 2019, shooting 7-for-12 from 3-point range and 8-for-10 from the free throw line. He followed that up with a 19-point, 11-rebound double-double in the second game of the season series on Feb. 9.

Today

Who: Milwaukee (1-1) vs. Florida (2-0)

When: 6 p.m. 

Where: O'Connell Center

Online: SEC Network+

Radio: 98.1-FM, AM-850

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