Florida vs. LSU score, takeaways: Colin Castleton, defensive effort fuel Gators’ second straight win

By OnlyGators.com Staff
January 10, 2023
Florida vs. LSU score, takeaways: Colin Castleton, defensive effort fuel Gators’ second straight win

Image Credit: UAA

While it is too early to determine whether the Florida Gators have saved their 2022-23 season, consecutive wins showcasing a drastically improved effort from head coach Todd Golden’s squad have raised hopes. Florida pulled away in the second half Wednesday for a 67-56 win over the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with Golden winning the first battle with fellow offseason hire Matt McMahon of LSU.

Where the season has turned for the Gators is their effort on defense and in transition. Florida is grabbing extra possessions and pushing the ball up the court not only scoring on the fastbreak but getting additional opportunities at the free-throw line. Though the Gators continue to struggle with set shots, the offense they have found has been enough to win consecutive games over power-conference opponents for the first time this campaign.

What went right on Wednesday night in Louisiana? Let’s take a look with some Fastbreak Takeaways.

It was over when … redshirt senior forward Colin Castleton made two free throws to push Florida ahead nine points with 1:02 remaining. Castleton drained two more gimmies on the next possession, scoring 11 of Gators’ final 13 points over the last 4:26.

Florida used an extended 14-4 stretch to take an eight-point lead midway through the second half. Though LSU bit into that advantage, the visitors rallied late. Castleton initially helped push the Gators’ advantage to a game-high 11 points inside of 3 minutes with two free throws, a steal and heads-up pass leading to a fastbreak layup and a basket out of the post. This while the Tigers went without a field goal for a 5:04 stretch. Castleton was exceptional late in the second half despite having just one field goal over the first 36:55 of the contest.

First half focus: LSU opened by scoring the first seven points, but sophomore guard Kowacie Reeves cut into that advantage with five straight points to start the game. However, Reeves and the Gators struggled shooting from then onward, making just 3 of 17 attempts from downtown (17.6%) while only taking 11 shots inside the arc. UF was lucky to only trail by three at the break given its defensive pressure and aggressiveness on the fastbreak.

Exceptional efforts: Castleton did not have a great shooting night, but he made his bones at the charity stripe, draining 12 of 15 attempts for a team-high 18 points. He also grabbed seven rebounds, blocked five shots and dished two assists while serving as the pendulum on which Florida flourished in the latter period. Redshirt senior G Myreon Jones again played his tail off on the defensive end, locking down perimeter shooters and swiping two balls while grabbing three boards with a dime and eight points on 2 of 5 shooting from long range. Though Jones is not playing a top-tier game, his effort on both ends is leading to huge opportunities for his teammates.

Odds and ends: Florida outscored LSU 16-1 on the fastbreak and 23-5 off turnovers … the Gators had an 8-0 blocking edge, 28-24 paint scoring advantage and 26-10 bench scoring benefit despite being outrebounded (34-40) in the contest … Reeves was the second-leading scorer with 11 points but was notably inefficient (1/8 3PT) … freshman G Riley Kugel continued his ascension with seven points and six boards

Florida improved to 51-66 all-time against LSU and just 16-36 in Baton Rouge … Golden won his first SEC road game … the Gators won in a lot of ways they generally lose as they are now 2-4 when trailing at halftime, 2-5 when being outrebounded, 2-6 when shooting worse than 45% from the field and 3-5 coming off a win … however, Florida is also 9-1 when leading with 5:00 left and 7-2 when it has a bench scoring advantage

What it means: After struggling through the first 14 games of the season, Gators have found their recipe. And it’s one basketball coaches stress at every level of the game: effort. The ties that bind Florida’s last two victories are its lock-down defense, offensive ball rotation (making the extra pass) and ability to push the ball in transition. While LSU was without two rotational players in the game, it was no matter. The Gators shot horrifically in the first half yet trailed by three because they got to the line; then, they turned on the jets with a 42-28 scoring margin in the second half. It’s the second straight game that Florida has trailed by a significant margin early, made the game respectable before halftime and pulled away over the latter 20 minutes.

What’s next? The Gators will aim to build on their momentum with a home game this weekend prior to a two-game road stretch. Florida will host Missouri on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET in a game that will air live nationally on SEC Network.

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