Florida looks to wrap up early non-conference slate with first-ever meeting with Stony Brook

Graham Hall
UF basketball writer
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South Florida forward DJ Patrick, left, defends Florida forward Colin Castleton (12) during the second half of their game in the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic on Dec. 18 in Sunrise.

Following a victory over South Florida in the Orange Bowl Classic, the Florida men’s basketball team looks to end the non-conference slate on a high note when the Gators host Stony Brook (7-4) for a 2 p.m. tipoff on Wednesday in the Exactech Arena. 

Against the Bulls, UF overcame an early 10-3 deficit and took a double-digit lead into the halftime break, though South Florida would make it a one-possession game with nine minutes left on the clock. Florida (8-3) buckled down on the defensive end and prevented USF from getting a basket until the clock had ticked under two minutes to secure the 66-55 victory in Sunrise, thanks in large part to a 45-27 rebounding advantage, 18 of which came on the offensive end, resulting in 14 second-chance buckets.

“That’s what we talked about coming into this game — that we can be a little more physical, get on the glass, be a little more dirty and get offensive and defensive rebounds,” said Colin Castleton. “That helps us flow into offense because that leads to easy buckets. If you’re not able to hit shots, easy layups help everybody. It gives confidence and then gets a flow going.”

Mike White stresses play in paint

With what the Gators have in the frontcourt in the senior forwards, Castleton and Anthony Duruji, UF coach Mike White has stressed the importance of capitalizing on the upper hand down low. 

“I thought we did a great job on the glass,” White said. “I liked the way we rebounded.”

Castleton was named the game’s most valuable player with his fifth double-double of the season, while Duruji had a season-high nine rebounds against the Bulls to go along with 11 points, six of which came from beyond the arc. 

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Duruji and guard Brandon McKissic combined to convert 4-of-8 3-point attempts, with the rest of the team making just 4-of-18 attempts from long-range, resulting in a suboptimal 30.8% conversion rate from 3-point range; starting guard Myreon Jones, who converted 116 of 286 3-point attempts (40.5% during his previous two seasons at Penn State before transferring to Florida, is shooting just 30.2% from long-range this season. 

Jones is in the midst of arguably the worst shooting stretch of his collegiate career as he has succeeded on just four of his 27 3-point attempts in the month of December.

White has reiterated his belief that the Gators are a better-shooting team than they’ve shown through 11 games this season, but with SEC play knocking at the door, UF may have to consider altering its offensive approach. 

“We have to adjust better to changing defenses, or even though it was all man (defense), they changed what they were doing, and we have to find a way to make some shots. That’s on myself and our staff as much as anyone,” White said after the win against the Bulls. “A lot of this is trial and error and we need to change something that we’re doing in practice. We need to continue searching because we are better shooters than this — we are. I believe they’ll go down, and maybe it’s trying something different.”

Gators face Ole Miss Dec. 29

Wednesday’s match-up with Stony Brook, the first meeting between the two programs, marks another chance for Florida to experiment in a live setting before conference play commences, beginning with a Dec. 29 trip to Oxford, Mississippi, to face Ole Miss. 

“To be honest, we’ve been struggling this year with field-goal percentage and we all know that. Everybody is working on what they need to do to get shots up and get their rhythm going. But, that takes care of itself,” Castleton said. “We always say, ‘You can’t control whether the ball actually goes in or not. You can control how hard you play on defense if you rebound and do all the little stuff that helps you actually win games.’ ”

Florida’s projected starters

Anthony Duruji;  F 6-7;  220;  R-Sr.;  9.3 ppg.; 4.5 rpg.

Colin Castleton; F;  6-11; 231;  Sr.;  14.7 ppg.;  9.5 rpg.

Brandon McKissic;  G;  6-3;  185;  Gr.;  7.5 ppg.; 3.3 rpg.

Phlandrous Fleming;  Jr.;  G;  6-5;  205;  Gr.;  11.0 ppg.;  3.8 rpg.

Myreon Jones;  G;  6-3;  175;  Sr.;  9.5 ppg.;  3.5 rpg.

Stony Brook’s projected starters

Frankie Policelli;  F;  6-7;  215;  RJr.;  7.6 ppg.;  4.3 rpg

Jahlil Jenkins;  G;  6-0;  160;  Gr.;  14.6 ppg;  1.9 rpg.

Tykei Greene; G;  6-4;  205;  RJr.;  10.7 ppg.;  7.6 rpg

Tyler Stephenson-Moore;  G;  6-3;  186;  RSo.;  6.8 ppg.;  3.6 rpg

Anthony Roberts;  G;  6-4;  200;  RJr.;  14.8 ppg.;  4.7 rpg

Notes: While Florida’s long-range shooting has room for improvement, UF’s 3-point defense has been elite in the Gators’ wins, limiting opponents to .242 shooting (30 for 124) from beyond the arc in those eight victories. Florida’s foes are averaging 3.8 made 3-pointers in those games, including four games this season with just two 3-pointers allowed…Florida has held five of its 11 opponents to 55 points or fewer...After struggling with foot injuries for the past two seasons, Jason Jitoboh has shown signs of emerging as a reliable back-up in the frontcourt rotation, scoring 10 points in 20 minutes over Florida’s previous two contests after providing just nine points over the Gators’ first nine games.

Who: Stony Brook (7-4) at Florida (8-3)

When: 2 p.m. Wednesday

TV: SEC Network +

Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM 

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