BASKETBALL

4 takeaways from the Florida Gators' 66-65 men's basketball victory at Missouri

Chris Kwiecinski
Gator Sports

COLUMBIA, Missouri — When it looked like Florida was on the ropes, Missouri offered the game to the Gators.

The Gators (14-8, 4-5 SEC) took that kindly.

Trailing by one with less than 30 seconds left, Florida fouled Missouri’s Boogie Coleman. He missed the front end of a one-and-one. Tyree Appleby was fouled far away from the basket, and he hit the ensuing free throws.

One defensive stop later, and Florida walked out of Mizzou Arena with a 66-65 win over the Tigers in a game where the Gators trailed by as many as nine in the second half.

As Florida cooled down, Missouri took advantage. The Tigers’ used a 13-5 run in the second half to claim a nine-point lead. But, Missouri (8-13, 2-6) couldn’t close on the Gators.

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Here are four takeaways from Florida’s win over to Missouri in a snowy day in Columbia.

It was Tyree Appleby’s game

When Florida needed it, Appleby was clutch.

He sat for most of the first half in foul trouble but made a statement in the second. He led all Gators’ with 17 points Wednesday and sank two free throws to go ahead with just seven seconds left in the game.

As a dominant player with his right hand, Missouri’s defense did what it could to limit Appleby. He only took four shots from the floor Wednesday and struggled to get any open looks during the second half when he was finally back in the game.

It didn’t help that Missouri’s defense was limiting the Gators. The Tigers forced 16 Florida turnovers and scored 21 points off those miscues.

Still, Appleby found a way to win the game. He did so at the free throw line, sinking a perfect 10 of 10 on the afternoon.

"It feels good, you know. I preach myself to all the time 'I'm automatic from the free throw line'," Appleby said. "I think we shoot the most free throws between any team in the country. So I just think it prepared me for that moment."

When Missouri offered the game, Florida took it

Nearly 80 feet from the basket, Appleby was fouled by DaJuan Gordon. Appleby hit the go-ahead free throws. Just before that, Boogie Coleman missed the front end of a one-and-one.

The Tigers, right then, allowed Florida a chance to take the game. The Gators didn’t hesitate.

For most of the game, Florida’s offense was hampered by a stout Missouri defense, and that was evident in the last 10 minutes of the second half. The Gators only hit two field goals in the final 7:25 of the game. That meant Appleby and the rest of the offense made up the ground by being fundamentally sound and hitting free throws.

Slowly but surely, Florida made its way back. But, Missouri had to give the Gators that chance.

Gators struggled to figure out short-handed Tigers’ defense

The Tigers hung around in the first half and slowly and slightly crept ahead in the second half. That’s where Missouri’s defense took over.

Florida’s offense was held without a point for over a six-minute stretch in the second half. That allowed Missouri’s offense to eventually take the lead with a 13-5 run. The defense was evident in the final 10 minutes of the game, too.

However, as Florida got more aggressive, it was able to get to the line more. That was how it figured out the Tigers’ defense. The Gators went 22-26 from the charity stripe to win, and limited Missouri to just 17 free throws. The Tigers hit just 12 of its 17 free throws.

"I thought that they came out offensively in the second half and scored on the first three or four possessions, or three out of four. I mean, they got it going," Florida coach Mike White said. "We looked a little bit rattled there, and we just lost our offensive composure for a few minutes. When Tyree came back in the game with, heck I don't know 12 minutes or so, down the stretch for the most part we rode him. He played very cleanly with his decisions, drawing fouls, converting. He took us to the finish line offensively."

Missouri's Jarron Coleman, right, and Florida's Brandon McKissic, left, fight over for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, in Columbia, Mo.

Colin Castleton’s absence loomed large

Myreon Jones was a difference-maker in the first half scoring 15 points and helped ease the pain of playing without 6-foot-11 forward Colin Castleton.

Missouri outscored the Gators in the post 32-14, which was a clear sign of how much Florida was missing Castleton.

Missouri also outrebounded Florida 27-26, which was a margin that would’ve swung in the Gators’ favor had Castleton played Wednesday. Somehow, Florida managed, and the Gators earned a win.

"We tell Myreon every day, 'keep shooting, the shot's going to fall, it don't matter which game or anything like that', so this game he caught fire," Appleby said of Jones, who finished with 18 points.