Florida basketball score, takeaways: Castleton leads take down of No. 20 Mizzou for third straight win

By OnlyGators.com Staff
January 14, 2023
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Castleton leads take down of No. 20 Mizzou for third straight win

Image Credit: UAA

It seems Florida Gators basketball has turned a corner, and it could not have come at a better time for the program and first-year head coach Todd Golden. Florida pulled off a thorough 73-64 victory over the No. 20 Missouri Tigers on Saturday afternoon in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center for the first win against a ranked opponent since Golden began his tenure.

The victory was the third straight for the Gators, which also earned their first notable win of the season that will factor into their postseason resume. It also pushed Golden to 3-0 against his fellow first-year coaches at SEC programs with all three wins coming consecutively.

But perhaps no one had a better day than redshirt senior forward Colin Castleton, who reverted back to his dominant ways after an excruciatingly difficult stretch of the season where he was not playing up to his potential.

Let’s take a look at everything that went right for Florida with some Fastbreak Takeaways.

It was over when … redshirt senior G Kyle Lofton drained a step-back jumper to push Florida up eight with 52 seconds left, and Castleton followed with a steal to keep that advantage with 30 seconds remaining. Castleton had previously scored six straight points as part of a 12-3 run that moved the Gators ahead seven earlier in the period. Redshirt senior guard Myreon Jones followed that stretch with a timely triple to answer a Tigers trey before sophomore F Alex Fudge slammed down a hammer dunk to put Florida nine points ahead with 4:18 remaining. The Gators eventually pushed their lead to 10 points before the game’s closing stretch.

First half focus: As it has so frequently this season, Florida opened with a significant self-inflicted deficit. This time, it was particularly abhorrent as the Gators trailed 11-0 with four turnovers and five missed shots (three from downtown) in the game’s first 5 minutes. Freshman G Riley Kugel pushed Florida back into the game with consecutive 3-pointers and eight total points as part of an extended 24-12 stretch. The Gators took their first lead at 26-25 with less than 2:45 minutes until the break, while the Tigers at one point missed seven straight shots during that stretch. The teams battled with the half ending in a 28-28 tie despite Florida committing 14 turnovers, including four each by Kugel and Castleton.

Exceptional efforts: Castleton, the straw that stirred the drink for Florida last season, opened the 2022-23 playing as hot as ever. A notably cold and inefficient stretch followed, but he now appears to have broken out of that funk. Castleton scored 16 points on 7 of 11 shooting with 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks in the game. Though he did go 2 of 6 from the charity stripe and commit four turnovers, the giveaways all came in the first half before he settled down.

While Castleton was dominant, he had significant help from two key contributors. Sophomore G Will Richard was just as nails, scoring a team-high 18 points while making 4 of 8 shots from downtown and all six of his free throws. Kugel did most of his damage in the first half, but his 13 points and five boards made up for his five turnovers. The trio had accounted for 80% of the Gators’ scoring for most of the contest, but with Lofton, Fudge and Jones all scoring eight points each — most in the game’s latter stages — the aforementioned trio ended up with a 64% share of Florida’s total.

Odds and ends: Florida improved to 9-4 all-time against Missouri with a 5-1 mark in the O’Dome … Golden won his first game against a ranked opponent and is now 1-2 against AP Top 25 teams this season … the Gators won a upper-quadrant game for the first time of the season taking a Quadrant 2 victory over the Tigers … Florida is now 1-7 against teams from the top two quadrants … Golden is now 3-0 against fellow first-year SEC coaches taking down his peers at LSU, Georgia and Mizzou in consecutive contests … the Gators improved to 8-3 when leading or tied at halftime, 10-1 when leading with 5:00 left, 8-2 when outrebounding an opponent, 8-1 when shooting 45% or better from the field, 9-2 when outshooting an opponent, 6-1 when shooting 40% or better from 3-point range, 8-1 when outshooting an opponent from 3-point range, 6-2 when attempting more free throws, 8-2 with a bench scoring advantage and 7-3 when 3+ players score in double figures

Castleton eclipsed 1,000 career points and is now one of two transfers in program history to achieve that mark … Jones hit two more clutch treys in the game and finished with a team-best +17 in 35 minutes as he continues to play an all-around game; he played stellar defense with five dimes and four boards … despite committing 19 turnovers, Florida forced 14 and matched Mizzou in scoring off giveaways (14-14) … the Gators were dominated in paint scoring (26-42) but won the rebounding battle (34-33) … Florida had 15 assists on 24 baskets

What it means: While the Gators have benefitted from playing the last two games at home, there has clearly been a shift in this team’s play as mentioned last week when Florida gave a stellar effort on both ends to beat Georgia. That word, “effort,” keeps coming back up because it’s how the Gators are winning. They are sharing the ball and making the extra pass, putting more effort toward rebounding and locking down consistently on defense. If Florida can avoid the double-digit deficits it seems to face minutes after tip off in nearly every game, it would have an even better record and brighter upside.

The Gators are on their first winning streak of the season, and their two losses since Dec. 28, 2022, each came by three points. Golden clearly has UF motivated and playing better together. Now, it will be imperative the program can maintain its winning streak with two road games next week.

What’s next? As noted, Florida will not play in the O’Dome for 11 days. It first travels to Texas A&M on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, SEC Network) seeking revenge for the 66-63 home loss on Jan. 4 before visiting Mississippi State on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network).

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