Florida vs. Texas A&M score, takeaways: Gators drop third straight for worst start since 1995-96

By OnlyGators.com Staff
January 4, 2023
Florida vs. Texas A&M score, takeaways: Gators drop third straight for worst start since 1995-96

Image Credit: UAA

The downward spiral continues for Florida Gators basketball, which at 7-7 (0-2 SEC) is now off to its worst start since the 1995-96 season after dropping a 66-63 decision to the Texas A&M Aggies on Wednesday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida. The loss was the Gators’ third straight spanning the new year.

The last time Florida started this poorly was during then-head coach Lon Kruger’s final season when the Gators opened 6-8 (1-3 SEC) and finished 12-6 (6-10 SEC). Not only is Florida losing games under head coach Todd Golden, it has been defeated by every quality opponent it has faced.

UF is now 0-7 against Quadrant I and II teams; those are games it needs to win to have a shot at participating in the NCAA Tournament or even the NIT. Those former hopes are almost completely extinguished at this juncture unless the Gators pull off a miraculous end to their season or win the SEC Tournament, neither of which is likely given the team’s level of play nearly midway through the season.

So what went wrong once again? Let’s take a look in the latest edition of Fastbreak Takeaways.

It was over when … Florida was unable to get space past halfcourt and missed a 3-pointer on a possession that started with the Gators down three and 6.2 seconds remaining. Florida had evened the game at 63 with 1 minute left after redshirt senior forward Colin Castleton made two free throws and completed a fastbreak with a layup off his own steal on the ensuing possession. However, Texas A&M responded by ending a 3-minute field goal drought with a basket to retake the lead. The Gators had two chances to tie the game but missed a shot, grabbed a turnover and then saw junior guard Trey Bonham commit a charge driving to the basket. That led to an Aggies free throw for the 3-point margin.

Florida opened the second half on a 13-2 run, eliminating its halftime deficit with 16:21 to play. However, Texas A&M immediately answered with a 9-0 run that UF again had to overcome, this time with a short 6-2 stretch to take its first lead of the half with 5:49 remaining. It gave that up 26 seconds later and never led again.

First half focus: Opening with a 1-0 advantage due to an Aggies delay of game penalty caused by the program leaving its uniforms at its hotel (yes, really), the Gators fell into a hole almost immediately and never climbed out of it. Florida cut its deficit to three points, but a technical foul on Castleton started an 8-0 run for Texas A&M, putting the visitors ahead 11 points, a margin it regained at the break. UF made as many field goals as it committed turnovers (nine) in the opening 20 minutes with Castleton alone giving it away four times.

Exceptional efforts: Bonham (21 points, 4/7 3PT) and Castleton (14 points, 4/6 FG) led the way offensively, but neither played a complete game as they combined for 13 turnovers and seven fouls, including Castleton’s technical. However, they did score 55.6% of Florida’s points. Adding sophomore G Will Richard (8 points) and redshirt senior G Kyle Lofton (9 points), both of whom shot poorly, the foursome totaled 82.5% of the Gators’ scoring.

Odds and ends: Florida fell to 9-7 all-time against Texas A&M, dropping a game in the O’Dome for the first time in the new rivalry … the Gators are now 0-7 against Quadrant I and II opponents this season … Florida is now 0-6 when scoring fewer than 75 points … the Gators committed twice as many turnovers (20-10) and gave up twice as many points off turnovers (21-9) … Florida was also dominated in paint scoring (38-26) and offensive rebounding (13-6) … sophomore guard Kowacie Reeves is 2 of 13 from downtown during UF’s losing streak

What it means: Texas A&M badly outplayed Florida on both ends of the floor throughout the first half. Though the Gators battled in the latter period (which they won 40-32), coming back from a double-digit deficit and maintaining that intensity over 20 minutes is an extremely difficult task. In the end, Florida dropped its third straight game for the first time since this same period of the schedule last season; it has also lost four of its last five. The Gators have fallen to all seven quality opponents they have faced and remain in danger of finishing with a losing record this season. Should they do so, it would be the first time both Florida football and basketball ended seasons below .500 in the same academic year since 1979-80.

Perhaps Golden’s evaluations of the multiple transfers the Gators were forced to add were poor. That may be understandable given the drastic roster turnover this offseason. More concerning is the declining play of Castleton and Reeves, the former Florida’s best player last season and the latter its rising star at the end of the campaign. Furthermore, the Gators do not appear to be making offensive improvements during this skid despite their games all coming a week apart from one another. That should be giving the players plenty of time to rest and the coaching staff enough opportunity to game plan for opponents.

What’s next? There may only be added pain coming for UF, which remains home for a second straight game. However, that contest will see Florida welcome Georgia and its new head coach, Mike White, to the O’Dome for the first time since White left the Gators for the Bulldogs before he could be fired. Georgia enters the game rolling at 11-3 after routing No. 22 Auburn 76-64 earlier Wednesday.

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