3 takeaways from Florida Gators men's basketball victory over Georgia

Graham Hall
UF basketball writer

There would be no comeback needed Wednesday for the Florida men’s basketball team.  The Gators never trailed in downing the Bulldogs, 72-63, at the Exactech Arena.

Sophomore guard Niels Lane made his third consecutive start for the Gators and converted his only field-goal attempt, a one-handed slam in the game’s opening minutes, thus setting the tone the rest of the way.

UF led by as many as 16 in the first half, but the Bulldogs closed the half on an 11-3 run to cut Florida’s advantage to 38-30.

The Gators scored the first five points of the second half and pushed the lead back to double figures, only for the Bulldogs to claw back again.  

“The mental toughness that we’ve been talking about all year, I thought at times we played with a lot of edge,” Florida coach Mike White said. “I thought we started with a lot of edge, the right mental approach. We’ve got to be better finishing, of course. We’re fortunate, man.”

UGA used a 10-0 run to make it a one-possession game with 2:56 remaining, but jumpers by Tyree Appleby and Colin Castleton helped UF close the game and secure a fourth consecutive victory. 

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Here are 3 takeaways from Wednesday’s contest. 

Myreon Jones has career-best shooting performance

A week removed from knocking down five three-pointers in the first half of UF’s 66-65 win at Missouri, senior guard Myreon Jones got off to a hot start once again Wednesday. 

The former Penn State sharpshooter had a game-high 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from three-point range in the first half as the Gators took a 38-30 lead into the locker room. When the second half commenced, Jones didn’t relent. 

He would add three more from long-range to finish with a career-high seven three-pointers and a UF-career-high 23 points in 28 minutes off the bench.

“It felt great. It felt better that my teammates especially were looking for me, telling me ‘run here, run there, I’ll look for you’,” Jones said, “and I think that’s the best feeling as a shooter.”

Jones is the first Florida player to connect on seven or more three-pointers since KeVaughn Allen and Noah Locke had eight and seven against Texas A&M on Jan. 22, 2019, respectively. 

“It’s huge. We’ve got to shoot it better, and we’ve got to shoot it better than we did tonight,” White said. “I thought we had some pretty good looks.”

There may be an obvious reason for Jones' increased shooting percentage.

White revealed Jones has been battling an undisclosed injury on his non-shooting hand for nearly two months.

“It’s something that we didn’t want to draw attention to, but Myreon Jones ... he broke it against South Florida, he’s been playing with a broken finger,” White said. “He’s had a splint on his finger, he’s catching it gingerly. I’m sure he felt a little more comfortable today. I don’t know if he goes 7-of-11 every night, but that’s some physical toughness there.”

Florida Gators guard Myreon Jones (0) starts to drive the ball inside during a basketball game against Georgia at the Exactech Arena in Gainesville, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022.

Colin Castleton has injury scare

With 16:37 remaining in the second half, Florida forward Colin Castleton appeared to aggravate the left shoulder injury that recently sidelined him for a six-game stretch. 

Castleton hauled in a rebound on Aaron Cook’s missed three-point attempt, only to come up clutching his shoulder. He was quickly substituted out for freshman Kowacie Reeves, and soon UF athletic trainer Dave “Duke” Werner was tending to Castleton on the UF sideline. 

Castleton briefly departed for the locker room, calling into question his eligibility for the remainder of the contest, only to return moments later and check back into the game.

“For him just to be out there was big,” White said. “He drew fouls, blocked shots, and also got guys shots with just the attention he draws. He’s turning into a really good player despite the injury, and playing through a lot of toughness.”

In the buildup to the contest, White insinuated Castleton was dealing with soreness as a result of his heavy usage in Saturday’s overtime win over Ole Miss. Castleton, who played 34 minutes in his return to the floor from a six-game absence, needed to exit late in regulation to get fluids after dealing with an apparent cramp against the Rebels, and it was questionable whether he would see considerable minutes against the Bulldogs as a result. 

Castleton, playing through sore legs and an ailing shoulder, finished the game with 13 points, nine rebounds and four blocks.

Following the game, Castleton had his left shoulder heavily wrapped in ice.

Kowacie Reeves’ impressive freshman season continues

Kowacie Reeves Jr. finished with eight points in 20 minutes as a reserve. In a backcourt brimming with veterans, Reeves has been able to carve out a role for himself with the Gators now in the final month of the regular season. 

Reeves, who entered the game shooting 48% on three-point attempts from the corner during conference play, knocked down two additional three-point attempts from the corner against the ‘Dawgs, and he’s beginning to utilize his 6-foot-6 frame around the basket, too.

With 12:08 left in the game, Reeves brought the crowd — and Florida’s bench — to its feet when he threw down a one-handed slam over Bulldogs forward Braelen Bridges.

After the contest, Jones joked the freshman wasn’t much of a dunker, which brought a smile to Reeves’ face. 

Reeves is well-aware he needs to continue improving around the rim.

“With the physicality at this level, it’s harder to get to the rim,” Reeves said. “So I just pick my spots and just try to capitalize on my opportunities when I get to the basket.”