3 takeaways from Florida Gators basketball victory over Ole Miss in overtime

Graham Hall
UF basketball writer

Colin Castleton scored 17 points in his return to the lineup and the Florida men’s basketball team enacted revenge in overtime on Ole Miss, downing the Rebels, 62-57, Saturday at Exactech Arena. 

Florida, 12 days removed from a 70-54 defeat at Mississippi, trailed at halftime, 30-21, but the Gators came out of halftime with far better effort on the defensive end to begin the second half. The Rebels didn’t convert a field-goal attempt until 9:45 remained in the contest when Jarkel Joiner knocked down a three-point attempt, tying the game at 35. 

The game was tied in regulation at 48 apiece with 54 seconds remaining on the clock after Tye Fagan knocked down his third three-pointer of the afternoon. 

Both the Rebels and Gators had a chance to take the go-ahead lead in the final seconds as Matthew Murrell air-balled a pull-up three-point attempt into the hands of UF guard Tyree Appleby with nine seconds remaining.

The senior guard proceeded to dribble the length of the court, but Appleby slipped on a potential game-winning three-point attempt as time expired, setting up overtime.

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

David Whitley:Kelly Finley leading Florida Gators women's basketball from scandal to success

Whitley:Gators pass their first post-Colin Castleton test, but more are coming fast for Florida basketball

Appleby, who went 1-of-8 from the field in regulation, made amends in overtime, going 7-of-8 at the free throw line to go along with a pair of assists down the stretch. He finished the game with 10 points and 10 rebounds, Appleby’s first double-double performance of the season.

“He really won us the game down the stretch,” Castleton said of Appleby. “That was a big performance.”

Ole Miss got 15 points from senior guard Fagan, including seven of the Rebels’ 18 second-half points.

Here are 3 takeaways from Saturday’s contest. 

Gators get Colin Castleton back

Castleton returned to the lineup after six games away from the court. The DeLand native started against the Rebels and hauled in seven rebounds to go along with his double-digit scoring effort.

Despite having the 6-foot-11 frontcourt threat back in the lineup, the Gators were out-rebounded by the Rebels, 44-32, resulting in 14 second-chance points for Mississippi to just two by Florida. 

With six minutes remaining in regulation, Castleton exited with a cramp in his lower left leg and proceeded to chug three Gatorades, a sign his conditioning may have taken a hit in the time away from the court. 

Castleton confirmed he still has to get his legs back after nearly three weeks away from the court.

“I really wanted to play last game, but my conditioning wasn’t where I needed it to be,” Castleton said. “I’ve got to keep ramping up my conditioning.”

Florida's Colin Castleton (12) screams after making a layup during the first half against the Ole Miss Rebels at Exactech Arena in Gainesville,  on Saturday.

Rebels’ leading scorer returns, too

The Gators weren’t the only team getting a boost in the rotation Saturday. The Rebels returned their leading scorer, senior guard Joiner, who had missed more than a month due to a lower back injury suffered in practice on Dec. 28.

Joiner showed little sign of being limited by an ailment that required, playing 40 minutes off the bench for the Rebels. Prior to Saturday, Joiner had started 11 of 13 games for the Rebels this season while averaging a team-high 13.6 points. 

His usage rather than his production caught UF coach Mike White by surprise. 

“Jarkel Joiner’s one of the best guards in our league, and he hasn’t played in forever, and he plays 40," White said. "And Fagan, what a performance by those two guys.”

Niels Lane hits milestone

Florida sophomore guard Niels Lane made the first start of his collegiate career in Saturday’s overtime thriller. Lane didn’t score, attempting just one shot, while playing a career-high 29 minutes, though once again his impact was primarily felt on the defensive end. He was one of three Gators finishing with a double-digit plus/minus, posting a plus-10 against the Rebels. 

After being a no-show to start conference play, Lane has carved out a role for himself in the rotation.

“I know my season started slow, I wasn’t really getting opportunities,” Lane said. “But I just stayed the course, kept practicing my defense in practice.”

Florida Gators center Jason Jitoboh, who recently had eye surgery, sits on the bench during Saturday's game against Ole Miss.