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Florida Gators men's basketball aims for fourth straight win as they host Georgia Bulldogs

Graham Hall
UF basketball writer
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Colin Castleton’s return from an injury to his left shoulder helped lift the Florida men’s basketball to a comeback victory in overtime Saturday against Ole Miss.

Now, the Gators look to maintain momentum against the Southeastern Conference’s lowest-ranked team, the Georgia Bulldogs, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Exactech Arena.

UGA may have a lone SEC triumph in 10 tries — an 82-76 win over Alabama — but UF head coach Mike White has repeatedly emphasized the significant parity within the conference, and he believes the Bulldogs’ record isn’t a reflection of their capability. 

Take Georgia’s recent showing against No. 1 Auburn, for example, where the Bulldogs (6-17, 1-9 SEC) fell 74-72 on a game-winning lay-up by Wendell Green Jr. with four seconds remaining.

“Playing really well, maybe coming off their best performance of the year. They really could have easily won against Auburn the other day in Auburn, a team that could legitimately win the whole thing, and Georgia was right there and had a chance to beat them, could have,” White said. “Every one of these is really difficult.”

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Colin Castleton will need some help

The Gators (15-8, 5-5 SEC) can’t necessarily bank on Castleton posting another 17-point, seven-rebound performance, as he did against the Rebels.

The 6-foot-11 forward exited with six minutes remaining in regulation with what initially appeared to be a minor cramp attributed to Castleton’s six-game absence. 

Although his ailment hasn’t necessarily dissipated, Castleton should be good to go against the Bulldogs.

Just how active Florida’s preseason All-SEC threat is remains to be seen.

"He actually had another minor, or somewhat minor I should say, nagging-type injury that was a little different that occurred late game, so he hasn’t done much the last couple days. His shoulder feels great.,” White said. “Just probably more than anything, sore legs. He just, yeah, he went from not doing a lot physically to doing a lot in a hurry. He’ll be fine. He’ll play tomorrow night — I’ll be more surprised if he doesn’t.”

Tyree Appleby continues to impress

Castleton’s return, in addition to Niels Lane’s first collegiate start, overshadowed another impressive performance by senior guard Tyree Appleby.

His shot may not have been falling — he went 0-of-9 after knocking down Florida’s first field goal of the afternoon — but the former Cleveland State transfer found plenty of other ways to impact the game. 

Florida Gators guard Tyree Appleby (22) attempts a layup during overtime against the Ole Miss Rebels at Exactech Arena in Gainesville, on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022.

Appleby, a week removed from scoring his most points as a Gator in UF’s win over Oklahoma State, dished a UF-career-high 10 assists and went 7-of-8 from the free-throw line in notching the first double-double performance of his career. 

He contributed on all 11 of Florida’s points during the decisive five-minute overtime period. 

The undersized point guard is playing some of the best basketball of his collegiate career as of late, White said, and he’s further solidified a leading role in a UF backcourt filled with playmakers of similar experience. 

“He’s become more and more important,” White said of Appleby, UF’s second-leading scorer. “He’s in a good place, understanding what it takes to be a successful point guard.”

Despite playing fewer minutes this season. Appleby is averaging more assists per game than he did a year ago while cutting down on his turnovers.

Meanwhile, he’s scored in double figures in UF’s previous seven contests. 

Appleby ascertained there’s only statistic worth minding: the win-loss column. 

“Usually, I don’t try to look at the stat sheet or anything like that after any game or anything like that, because it’s not about individual accolades,” Appleby said. “It’s most definitely a team game, so, if we come out with the win, that’s all I’m happy about.”

Florida’s projected starters

Anthony Duruji     F 6-7   220    R-Sr    9.7 ppg  4.3 rpg

Tyree Appleby     G 6-1 163      Sr.    10.8 ppg   2.2 rpg

Niels Lane     G 6-5  206 So. 0.8 ppg   1.1 rpg

Colin Castleton     F 6-11 240 Sr.  15.9  ppg 8.9 rpg

Phlandrous Fleming Jr.     G 6-5   205   Gr.  10.5 ppg 4.0 rpg

Georgia’s projected starters

Kario Oquendo     G 6-4 215 So.  13.4 ppg 4.1 rpg

Aaron Cook     G 6-2 185 Gr. 10.5 ppg  2.5 rpg

Jaxon Etter     G 6-4  205 Jr 5.7 ppg  3.0 rpg

Noah Baumann     F 6-6   210 Sr.   9.0 ppg  3.9 rpg

Braelen Bridges     F 6-11  240  Sr 12.5 ppg  5.9 rpg

Notes: Don’t call it a comeback. The Gators have rallied from at least nine points down in each outing of their current three-game win streak. UF trailed by nine against Ole Miss and Missouri, and by 16 against Oklahoma State, winning all three contests. …Tyree Appleby has been clutch from the free-throw line throughout Florida’s three-game win streak, shooting 25-for-27. … Florida is looking for a fifth-straight win vs. Georgia, which would tie the third-longest streak in the series.

WEDNESDAY

When: 6:30 p.m.

TV: SEC

Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM

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