BASKETBALL

Florida Gators men's basketball game at Missouri moves to afternoon with snow expected

Graham Hall
UF basketball writer
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The Florida men’s basketball team altered its travel schedule late Tuesday afternoon, leaving much sooner than anticipated after practice wrapped, as word arrived that Wednesday’s tip-off in Columbia, Missouri, would be moved up from 9 p.m. to 3 p.m. due to a winter storm warning throughout the eastern part of the state. 

Temperatures are expected to reach as low as 13 degrees Fahrenheit in the area, and the warning will last through Thursday.

The National Weather Service estimates that Columbia could see between 11 to 15 inches of snow between Tuesday night and Thursday morning.

With the possibility of snow and ice on the road, the game may be sparsely attended, and Florida now intends to return home late Wednesday before the conditions worsen. 

Though the scheduling change is hardly the team’s first brush with adversity. 

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Eye surgery 'successful' for Jason Jitoboh

Florida forward Jason Jitoboh is “in good spirits” and out of the hospital following surgery for an eye injury suffered in the team’s 78-71 loss at Tennessee, and the news that Jitoboh would be returning home after a multi-day stay to continue his recovery was well-received. 

“Jason had successful surgery,” White said. “Yesterday, post-practice film (session), we were able to tell our guys that they dismissed him, where he could go home. Our guys were fired up for him. He's recovering.” 

As is All-SEC forward Colin Castleton, who remains out as a result of a shoulder injury suffered in practice prior to the team’s 80-72 win Jan. 19 against Mississippi State. 

UF coach Mike White hasn’t divulged much information regarding Castleton’s diagnosis, nor has the program revealed a timeline for his recovery, leaving open the possibility he could return to the lineup at any moment. 

There’s also a chance Castleton’s season may be done, considering he’s yet to participate in contact portions of practice, and White doesn’t sound as if he’s expecting Castleton to return to the lineup imminently. 

“(He’s) doing some non-contact stuff. Shooting a little bit,” White said. “Doing some skill-level stuff, but nothing competitive. Outlook hasn’t changed.” 

The injuries to Castleton and Jitoboh have left 6-foot-9 sophomore forward Tuongthach Gatkek as Florida’s tallest available player, putting the scoring onus largely on the team’s backcourt. 

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Florida Gators guard Tyree Appleby (22) shoots the ball during the first half against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Exactech Arena. He scored 21 points, a Florida career-best, in Saturday's game.

Tyree Appleby scored 21 points, his highest scoring total with the Gators, in the come-from-behind win over Oklahoma State, though he wasn’t alone as four of his teammates in the backcourt — Phlandrous Fleming Jr., Myreon Jones, Brandon McKissic and Kowacie Reeves Jr. — combined for 41 points in the team’s comeback victory against Oklahoma State.

Florida trailed by as much as 16 early against the Cowboys before mounting a comeback behind an atypical lineup to begin the second half that featured four underclassmen alongside Appleby. 

To have success against a tough Missouri defense, the Gators will need to continue finding ways for the backcourt to work together effectively and cohesively on both ends.

“The fact that we've lost two guys that, one probably as good with his back to basket as anyone in the SEC, most guys in the country,” White said, “and then another who was emerging and taking his place. We’re just different offensively, of course, but we can rally around that.”

Rally they have, but the Gators can’t expect that strategy to work consistently. 

Missouri, like Oklahoma State, may be unranked and coming off a 17-point defeat to No. 22-ranked Iowa State, but the Tigers have played the nation’s sixth-toughest schedule and are just a week removed from falling by a lone point to No. 1-ranked Auburn. 

It’s not necessarily an ideal matchup for a team without its offensive centerpiece, and the Gators know someone must step up come tip-off. 

“We can find different ways, other guys can get opportunities. It's one of the beauties of the game of basketball,” White said. “There's a bunch of different ways to do it. And we're searching a little bit right now, of course.” 

Florida Gators head coach Mike White talks with guard Kowacie Reeves (14) during the first half at home against the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday. The Gators are at Missouri on Wednesday.

Florida’s projected starters

Anthony Duruji F 6-7   220    R-Sr    9.8 ppg  4.5 rpg

Tyree Appleby G 6-1 163      Sr.    10.6 ppg   2.3 rpg

Brandon McKissic G 6-3   185   Gr. 6.5 ppg   3.2 rpg

Kowacie Reeves G 6-6   182    Fr. 5.3  ppg 1.3 rpg

Phlandrous Fleming Jr. G 6-5   205   Gr.  10.5 ppg 3.7 rpg

Missouri’s projected starters

Trevon Brazile F 6-9   215 Fr. 5.5 ppg 3.8 rpg

Kobe Brown F 6-8   250 Jr. 13.0 ppg  8.5 rpg

Javon Pickett G 6-5    215 Sr 9.4 ppg  2.9 rpg

Jarron Coleman G 6-5   210 RJr.   10.1 ppg  3.8 rpg

DaJuan Gordon G 6-3    190 Jr 8.8 ppg  4.4 rpg

Notes: Coming off Saturday’s win vs. Oklahoma State, the Gators own wins vs. ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 opponents in a single season for the first time in program history. ... Florida ranks among SEC leaders in blocked shots (second, 5.7), scoring defense (fourth, 64.2) and steals (fourth, 9.3). ... Missouri has played five games against top-25 opponents this season, going 2-3 in those contests.

WEDNESDAY

What: Florida at Missouri

Where: Mizzou Arena, Columbia, Mo.

When: 3 p.m.

TV: SEC

Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM

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