BASKETBALL

Florida basketball: Gators reverse their recent play to rout North Florida

Graham Hall
UF basketball writer

Led by a career-high 26 points from senior forward Colin Castleton, the No. 16-ranked Florida men’s basketball team snapped its two-game losing streak Wednesday with an 85-55 win over the University of North Florida.

Castleton also hauled in a team-high eight rebounds as part of an all-around improved effort in the low post despite the Gators not winning the rebounding battle.

The Gators have emphasized turning defense into offense this season, saying it’s part of the team’s identity, and Florida coach Mike White thought Castleton’s presence on the defensive end was a key component in his success under the basket. 

“Colin was really good,” White said. “He was aggressive. He imposed his will in the interior, but it started with the way he approached his defensive effort. His ball-screen coverage was as sharp as it’s been all year, his level of communication was at an all-time high. He pursued balls with two hands. He played really hard, and it’s no coincidence at times the game just rewards you. You know, it just does.” 

Gators put game away out of halftime

After forcing 18 of their season-high 28 turnovers in the first half, the Gators made certain there would be no second-half collapse by going on a 10-0 run over the first 3:05 of the second half. It looked as if the Gators were back to playing like the team that started the season 6-0 and shot up the rankings, and White indicated a correction had been restored after the team’s undefeated start ended in Norman, Oklahoma. 

“I don’t know if we fully recovered from that road loss at OU until maybe (Tuesday) afternoon, unfortunately,” White said. “It took us too long. From the tip tonight, really proud of the effort. We were back in character.”

The 28 forced turnovers marked the Gators’ most since recording 29 vs. Florida A&M nearly 19 years ago in a Dec. 20, 2002 match-up. 

Active hands

The Gators registered an impressive 21 steals against the Ospreys, the fifth-most steals in the program’s recorded history. The 21 takeaways marked UF’s most since accruing 22 against Virginia Military Institute on Dec. 28, 1999. 

By halftime, it was clear the Gators were headed for a record-breaking performance, as the team’s 13 steals in the first 20 minutes of play was the previous season-high prior to shattering the mark in Wednesday’s win. 

“Just get stops on defense,” Myreon Jones said. “That’s our identity.”

The University of Florida forward Colin Castleton (12) dunks the ball as the Gators play a basketball game against the University of North Florida at Exactech Arena in Gainesville Fla. Dec. 8, 2021. The Gators beat the UNF Ospreys to break their two-game losing streak.

No. 16 Florida 85, North Florida 55

NORTH FLORIDA (2-9)

Hendricksen 1-7 1-1 4, Parker 5-7 2-5 12, Adedoyin 1-3 2-2 5, Placer 2-9 2-2 6, James 0-3 1-2 1, Hicklen 5-11 3-4 16, Lanier 3-7 2-2 8, Aybar 0-0 0-0 0, Berenbaum 1-2 1-2 3, Preaster 0-4 0-0 0, Rasmussen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-53 14-20 55.

FLORIDA (7-2)

Castleton 9-17 8-11 26, Duruji 2-4 0-0 5, Fleming 3-4 0-0 7, Jones 5-9 3-4 14, McKissic 2-6 2-2 7, Appleby 3-3 6-8 13, Kennedy 2-9 0-0 4, Lane 1-4 0-0 2, Reeves 0-3 2-2 2, Felder 1-2 0-0 2, Jitoboh 1-1 1-2 3, Gatkek 0-2 0-1 0, Klatsky 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-65 22-30 85.

Halftime_Florida 41-23. 3-Point Goals_North Florida 5-21 (Hicklen 3-7, Adedoyin 1-2, Hendricksen 1-4, Berenbaum 0-1, Preaster 0-1, Lanier 0-2, Placer 0-4), Florida 5-23 (Appleby 1-1, Fleming 1-1, Duruji 1-3, McKissic 1-4, Jones 1-5, Klatsky 0-1, Lane 0-1, Reeves 0-2, Kennedy 0-5). Fouled Out_Adedoyin, Aybar, Jitoboh. Rebounds_North Florida 34 (Parker 9), Florida 34 (Castleton 8). Assists_North Florida 6 (Lanier 2), Florida 14 (Duruji, McKissic 3). Total Fouls_North Florida 20, Florida 17.

Up next

What: Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational

Who: Florida (7-2) vs. Maryland (5-4)

When: 4:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: 98.1-FM, 850-AM