Comeback falls short: 3 takeaways from Florida Gators men's basketball loss at Texas A&M

Graham Hall
UF basketball writer
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The Florida men’s basketball team overcame turnovers, foul trouble and shooting woes but couldn’t avoid a 56-55 loss on the road Tuesday against Texas A&M.

The Gators struggled from the field for much of the night and trailed by as much as 13 before a 16-2 run in the second half made it a one-possession game with 6:23 remaining.

The Aggies, which had lost its previous eight games before starting the season 15-2, took the lead for good on a trio of free throws after Phlandrous Fleming Jr. was called for a shooting foul on Wade Taylor IV with 19 seconds to play. The Gators opted not to call a timeout on the final possession of regulation, and Fleming’s would-be game-winning attempt was off the mark, sending UF to a second consecutive loss. 

Florida senior forward Colin Castleton had 15 points and 15 rebounds in a game-high 37 minutes of action, his seventh double-double of the season. Castleton joins Udonis Haslem, Al Horford and Marreese Speights as the only Gators since 1996 with multiple 15-point, 15-rebound games.

"I hate that we lost. It drives me crazy," Castleton said. "There's a lot of things I could have done better. I missed some lay-ups, I missed a lob, I was just out of character there. It was cool, but I just wanted to win, that's really it."

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Here are 3 takeaways from Tuesday’s game. 

C.J. Felder makes first UF start

Florida junior forward C.J. Felder made his first collegiate start with the program in place of forward Anthony Duruji in the team’s one-point loss at Texas A&M, and Felder made sure to make the most of his early insertion into the line-up. 

Following misses by Fleming and Castleton, Felder scored on back-to-back UF possessions to give the Gators an early 4-0 lead. 

Felder finished the game with seven points and five rebounds in 16 minutes.

The contingent of Myreon Jones, Tyree Appleby, Castleton, Felder and Fleming marked Florida’s 11th different starting lineup this season. 

UF coach Mike White attributed Felder's start in part to his recent effort in practice, although it was mainly an attempt to provide Florida a spark.

"Just trying something new, that simple. We got to (Duruji) back playing to the level that he's capable of playing at," White said. "C.J.'s been practicing pretty well. We got pounded on the defensive glass, obviously, in Lexington. C.J. did a good job these last couple of days blocking out, being active on the glass."

Felder and Duruji would combine for just five minutes in the second half, however. Sophomore guard Niels Lane would play 14 minutes in the second half as the Gators went with a small-ball lineup. 

Tyree Appleby gives it a go

Florida senior guard Tyree Appleby didn’t practice heading into the game against the Aggies, but UF didn’t close the door on the team’s second-leading scorer contributing Tuesday.

Appleby ultimately was cleared by UF head athletic trainer Duke Werner prior to the team’s pre-game shoot-around and promptly inserted into the starting lineup.

He’d play 34 minutes in the losing effort and would finish the game with three points on 1-of-8 shooting.

"I wasn't surprised, I thought he'd give it a shot. I didn't know that he'd play that much," White said of Appleby. "He's really tough, he's really competitive. He's going to do whatever he can to help his teammates. ... I think we just played a really good defense. I thought Tyree battled his butt off defensively. Obviously it wasn't our night offensively, really from any spot. And credit our opponent."

Turnovers, foul trouble, poor shooting doom Gators

Following the team’s practice session Monday, White emphasized Texas A&M’s defensive aptitude, particularly when it came to forcing the opposition into turnovers. 

His admonition came true Tuesday as the Gators committed 14 turnovers, including 10 in the first half. 

"Credit A&M, they were terrific defensively," White said. "They swarmed to the basketball."

It wasn’t just giveaways and missed shots — Florida also struggled with foul trouble and inefficiency from the field against the Aggies. 

UF converted just 17-of-59 field-goal attempts, resulting in a season-low 28.8 percent from the field.

The Gators were whistled for 18 fouls, and Texas A&M took advantage of them, going a perfect 16-of-16 from the charity stripe. 

"I thought we played incredibly hard, but their push in transition and press offense, and even off a couple of those turnovers, led to some of those fouls," White said. "Foul trouble is sometimes caused by, obviously, miscues offensively, just bad decisions with the basketball. Transition defense hurt us in the first half, and then hurt us down the stretch, honestly. We went up a few there late, and I thought that our urgency wasn't the same as it was leading into the those last two or three minutes defensively."

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