Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators dominate South Carolina for fifth win in six games

By OnlyGators.com Staff
January 25, 2023
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators dominate South Carolina for fifth win in six games

Image Credit: UAA

Florida Gators basketball’s most dominant victory of the season came in a must-win game for the program ahead for a brutal stretch over the next two weeks. Florida throttled the South Carolina Gamecocks on Wednesday night in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, pulling away for a 81-60 victory in Gainesville, Florida.

The Gators led by as many as 30 points twice in the second half, completely blowing the doors off the Gamecocks after taking a mere eight-point advantage into halftime. Redshirt senior forward Colin Castelton and sophomore guard Kowacie Reeves led the way for Florida with freshman G Riley Kugel impressing in his first career start.

Let’s take a look at what went down on Wednesday night as the Gators won for their fifth time in a six-game stretch.

It was over when … Florida extended a scoring stretch to 17-2, taking a 25-point lead with 10:32 to play. Castelton kicked off the run with five straight points and contributed seven overall as the Gators put the game away with a quarter of the contest remaining. This came after a 12-2 run earlier in the half shortly out of the break. South Carolina did have a short 8-1 spark later in the period, but UF immediately snuffed it out with a 14-2 run to go up a game-high 30 with 5:35 left.

First half focus: Florida took the lead seconds into the game and never relinquished it before halftime. The Gators registered 10 assists on 14 baskets and spent most of their time inside the arc taking high-percentage shots. Reeves broke out of a funk with 10 points and three boards, and Castleton joined him with nine points despite being forced to sit with two early fouls.

Exceptional efforts: Castleton continued his stellar run after a relative rough patch over a multiple-week period. He finished with 18 points on 7 of 10 shooting with three rebounds, three assists and four blocks. The swats pushed Castelton ahead of Andrew DeClercq to fifth on Florida’s all-time list with 179. He now sits 10 behind Al Horford for third on the list and 35 back of Kevarrius Hayes for second. Castleton also has two of the top-10 block seasons in program history.

Speaking of a slump breakout, Reeves got back to his normal self after a horrendous period dating back an entire month. He finished with 15 points — including a couple breakaway dunks — four boards, two blocks and a steal. Reeves entered having made just 5 of 38 triples (.132) since Dec. 20; he drained 3 of 7 in the game.

Kugel checked out with 14 points, hitting 6 of 9 shots while making his first start on the back of a much-improved stretch over the last couple weeks. Redshirt senior G Myreon Jones also came notably close to a triple double with nine points, 10 rebounds and eight assists as he also continued to make strides after an incredibly tough start to the season.

Odds and ends: Florida improved to 48-28 all-time against South Carolina, though the programs had split their last eight meetings entering the game … UF beat USC at home for the first time since Feb. 21, 2017 … the Gators had a season-high 21 assists on 31 baskets, improving to 5-1 when registering 15+ assists Florida is now 9-2 when leading at halftime, 12-1 when leading with 5 minutes left, 9-1 when shooting better than 45% from the field, 11-2 when outshooting its opponent and 3-0 when 5+ players score in double figures … the Gators outscored the ‘Cocks 40-26 in the paint and 21-3 on the fastbreak … UF forced 15 turnovers while coughing up just five … Florida led for 38:30 of the 40-minute game, never trailing in the contest

What it means: This was a must-win game for the Gators given their upcoming schedule (see below), and they won in absolutely dominant fashion. Florida beat a sub.-500 team with ease in its home gym, as expected, again proving that when it plays winning basketball … it wins basketball games. That means pushing the ball up the court, making the extra pass and locking down defensively, particularly on the perimeter. That’s what the Gators did again Wednesday night, and that’s why they won for the fifth time in their last six games during a key get-right period for head coach Todd Golden’s squad.

What’s next? Just the toughest stretch of schedule for any team in the nation. Florida jumps back on the road to battle No. 5 Kansas State on Saturday where it will also face former star F Keyontae Johnson. Following that contest, the Gators host No. 4 Tennessee on Feb. 1, travel to Kentucky on Feb. 4 and visit No. 2 Alabama on Feb. 8. The Bama game will end a stretch in which Florida plays five of seven games on the road.

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