Colin Castleton likely lost for season after breaking hand in Florida's win over Ole Miss

Kevin Brockway
The Gainesville Sun
Feb 15, 2023; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Florida Gators guard Kowacie Reeves (14) shoots over Mississippi Rebels forward Myles Burns (3) during the first half at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida basketball snapped a three-game losing streak with a 79-64 win over Ole Miss on Wednesday night before an announced 7.464 at the O'Connell Center.

But the win came at a hefty price. The Gators (14-12, 7-6 SEC) likely will be without leading scorer and senior center Colin Castleton for the rest of the season after he broke his right hand in the second half. The recovery time for a broken hand, including rehab, is typically three to four weeks; the SEC tournament starts in three weeks, on March 8.

The 6-foot-11 Castleton, who entered the game averaging 16.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks, was held to just 3 points in 22 minutes before leaving the game at the 15:05 mark of the second half. Castleton suffered the injury while setting a screen, when his hand collided with the hand of Ole Miss forward Jaemyn Brakefield. He was seen shaking the hand and wincing right before he left the game.

"Obviously we have a game on Saturday no matter what (at Arkansas) so if he's going to be out for an extended period of time, it's next man up," Florida coach Todd Golden said.

Block partySultan of Swat: Florida basketball's Colin Castleton among elite shot blockers in the nation

Felder backFlorida basketball: Forward C.J. Felder back with the Gators after seven-game absence

Aussie rulesFlorida basketball: Gators land commitment from 6-foot-11 Australian big man

Golden said Jason Jitoboh, Alex Fudge, C.J. Felder and true freshman Alex Szymczyk, who scored the final basket of the game, will man the post in Castleton's absence. Still, it will be tough to replace Castleton's ability to score inside and protect the rim. His 194 blocks rank third on UF's all-time list.

Feb 15, 2023; Gainesville, Florida, USA;    Florida Gators forward Colin Castleton  (12) defends Mississippi Rebels forward Jaemyn Brakefield (4) during the first half at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Gators rallied with Castleton out, stretching a 10-point halftime lead to as many as 18 points in the second half. Myreon Jones led five Florida scorers in double figures with 15 points, while point guard Kyle Lofton had 10 points and 7 assists.

"My freshman year, we were without Colin for a while, so it was a next man up mentality," said Florida sophomore swingman Kowacie Reeves, who had 13 points off the bench.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Florida breaks shooting slump

The Gators broke out of a three-game shooting slump in a big way, shooting 59.2 percent from the field and 58.8 percent from 3-point range (10 of 17). The Gators were coming off a game when they shot a season-low 10 percent (2 of 20) against Vanderbilt.

Jones went 5-for-7 from 3-point range, accounting for all 15 of his points. Reeves went 2 of 4 from 3-point range, including one at the end of the shot clock late in the first half that gave the Gators a 35-29 lead.

"It started in practice," Florida sophomore guard Will Richard said. "The coaches have us in a lot more shooting drills now so we're definitely practicing more game shots. We're definitely trying to take it to the game."

Gators take care of the ball better in the second half

Florida turned the ball over nine times in the first half, which allowed Ole Miss to hang around. In the second half, Florida turned the ball over three times and finished the game with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 16 to 12.

"Coach came back in the locker room, just said we had to tighten up," Florida freshman guard Riley Kugel said. "We just got back out there (and) played basketball like we know how to play."

Golden said he wasn't happy with Florida's turnovers and defensive rebounding in the first half, but the Gators still led 39-29 at halftime because they shot 66.7 percent from the field in the first half and 62.5 percent (5 of 8) from 3-point range.

"We were up by 10 but we talked about being process over results," Golden said. "We were getting crushed on the boards and we were throwing the ball all over the gym. The fact we were up by 10 was we were making every shot.

"It's a tough formula for winning, especially with this team. We knew if we wanted to win this game and win it the right way we were going to have to limit their second chances, do a much better job taking care of the ball. We did those much better in the second half compared to the first."

Jitoboh steps up in Castleton's absence

The Gators' backup center stepped up in Castleton's absence in the second half, finishing with 4 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. The Gators were plus-6 in his 17 minutes on the floor. More importantly, the 6-11, 300-pound Jitoboh avoided foul trouble, finishing with two, while playing 14 straight minutes in the second half.

"Incredible effort," Golden said. "To be honest, I didn't know he was gonna be able to do that. I thought we were going to have to get him a rest around eight (minutes left) trying to stretch him out, but he looked great out there. I thought he did a wonderful job defensively, did a decent job on the defensive glass, he was plus six and did a great job of stepping up in that moment.

"I can't say enough about that effort," Golden added. "Just because you get in that moment and Colin comes out, leaves the bench, obviously he's a huge part of our team."