3 takeaways from the Florida Gators men's basketball team's loss to Arkansas Razorbacks

Graham Hall
Gator Sports

Following its one-point defeat of Auburn on Saturday, Florida couldn’t avoid a letdown, falling to No. 18-ranked Arkansas, 82-74, on Tuesday night at the Exactech Arena. 

The Florida Gators men's basketball team trailed No. 18 Arkansas by a point with 1:26 remaining after a layup by Colin Castleton, who finished with a career-high 29 points.

But UF couldn’t get a stop on the other end as JD Notae, who finished with 22 points, knocked down a 3-point attempt to make it a two-possession game as the final minute approached, and the Razorbacks proceeded to close the game at the charity stripe in securing their 12th win over the last 13 contests

"They couldn't stop us on their defensive side and when we were on offense," Castleton said. "We got a first-shot miss, and then they just kept getting second-chance opportunities, third chance, loose balls. Everything that just showed more fight."

Arkansas finished the game with five players in double figures. 

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Here are 3 takeaways from Tuesday’s game. 

Florida Gators forward Colin Castleton (12) shoots the ball while being fouled during the second half against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Billy Donovan Court at Exactech Arena in Gainesville, FL on Tuesday, February 22, 2022. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]

Colin Castleton’s career day in vain

Florida senior forward Colin Castleton was a point shy of the elusive 30-point mark, finishing with a career-high 29 points to go along with six rebounds against the Razorbacks. The DeLand native went 9 of 10 from the free-throw line while knocking down 10 of 16 field-goal attempts. The Razorbacks committed 11 of their 18 fouls against Castleton. 

"He's grown so much physically, but probably even more mentally with his maturity. He's come a long way," White said of Castleton. "I'm proud of his growth, very proud. And he'll tell you how far he's come, he knows it, and he's still got — we all have room for growth — but he's a guy that had a lot of newfound success and had to figure out how to handle it, and then his game has morphed as well."

In the aftermath of defeat, Castleton wasn't interested in talking about his improvement on the court. Instead, he focused on his shortcomings.

"I didn't get as many rebounds as I should have, I only had six, so," Castleton said. "Yeah, we did a horrible job on the glass as a team. At certain times they just bullied us."

Florida Gators guard Tyree Appleby (22) attempts a three pointer during the first half against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Billy Donovan Court at Exactech Arena in Gainesville, FL on Tuesday, February 22, 2022. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]

Gators’ hot start from outside

In a promising sign for UF’s offensive prospects against the Razorbacks, Florida built an early 12-4 lead in the opening minutes behind four consecutive makes from 3-point range. 

Tyree Appleby had six of his 19 points on back-to-back 3-pointers to open the contest before Phlandrous Fleming Jr. and Anthony Duruji knocked down attempts from beyond the arc. The Gators would finish the first half having made 7 of 16 3-point attempts against the Razorbacks, although UF would trail by one-possession heading into the locker room at halftime. 

"We're in a pretty good place now where we're spacing it, we're mixing in some ball screens and some dives for Colin," White said of the team's offense. "We're a lot more diverse than we were early. We threw some five-out out there in a bunch of different possessions throughout the game as well. Offensively, again, we were good enough to beat a really good team tonight."

Florida wasn’t as eager to let them fly from outside in the second half. The Gators didn’t even attempt a 3-pointer until Brandon McKissic took — and made — a contested one in the corner with 10:43 to play. However, UF would go 0 for 8 from outside the rest of the way to finish the game 8 of 25 from beyond the arc. 

"It was a high-level college basketball game," White said. "It could have gone either way. Unfortunately we just didn't get it done."

Florida Gators forward Colin Castleton (12) defends Arkansas Razorbacks forward Jaylin Williams (10) during the first half at Billy Donovan Court at Exactech Arena in Gainesville, FL on Tuesday, February 22, 2022.

Jaylin Williams’ impact felt early at both ends

Jaylin Williams, the highly touted sophomore forward, finished the contest with 15 points and 10 rebounds against the Gators, though his impact on the defensive end was just as impressive. Williams drew three charges against the Gators, giving him 44 on the season, though he would pick up his fourth foul with 7:57 remaining and Florida clutching a five-point lead. Williams would hit a three-pointer with 5:17 remaining to put Arkansas back in front, 63-62. 

It marked Williams’ fifth consecutive double-double performance as the Razorbacks out-rebounded the Gators, 39 to 31. 

"The loose-ball fight was one-sided. Credit those guys," White said. "Not only defensive rebounds, but loose-ball situations, we've just got to be better than that."