Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators exorcise demons, throttle No. 20 Florida State

By Adam Silverstein
November 14, 2021
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators exorcise demons, throttle No. 20 Florida State
Basketball

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

On a weekend that saw the football team reach a new low, at least defensively, Florida Gators basketball put together the exact opposite performance. Florida took it to the No. 20 Florida State Seminoles in the second half Sunday to prevail 71-55 in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, snapping a seven-game losing skid to its in-state rivals that was the longest such streak in series history.

The Gators succeeded in large part because of their defense, which held the ‘Noles to their fewest points in the rivalry since 2012. Florida outscored FSU 43-25 in the second half with much-improved shot-making and free throw shooting to boot. The Gators hit 12 of 13 from the line in the second half with assists on half their baskets over the latter 20 minutes.

This is the type of win that can serve as a foundation for what Florida wants to accomplish over the rest of the campaign. The new-look Gators, with four star transfers making this one of the most veteran teams in the country, appear to be operating at an improved level through their first two games.

It was not lost on anyone watching that this performance also came one year since Keyontae Johnson collapsed on the court at Florida State. Though Johnson has not been — and may not be — cleared to play for the Gators this season, he remains on the bench as a student assistant and was able to celebrate the victory with his teammates and head coach Mike White.

What went down and what did we learn as Florida notched its first win over Florida State since 2013? Keep on reading for Fastbreak Takeaways from the game.

It was over when … senior guard Myreon Jones dropped in a layup to boost the Gators’ lead to a game-high 19 points with 2:57 to play. That concluded a 9-0 run as part of an extended 29-8 scoring stretch (which included another 13-0 run) as Florida went from trailing Florida State to leading by 19 points in the span of 8 minutes. Redshirt senior guards Phlandrous Fleming Jr. and Brandon McKissic each hit key 3-pointers at the midway point of the half to kick-start the run before senior forwards Colin Castleton and Anthony Duruji took over down the stretch.

First half focus: Despite holding an early lead, Florida coughed it up midway through the half due in large part to poor shooting but also some foul trouble and being on the wrong end of some officiating decisions. Castleton and Duruji combined for 16 of the team’s 28 first-half points and were by far the most efficient shooters.  The Gators frequently struggled to get open attempts due to lack of ball movement, as indicated by its shooting issues.

Exceptional efforts: It’s early, but Castleton is looking like an SEC Player of the Year contender. He hit team-highs of 15 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks while hitting 5 of 9 shots and 5 of 6 free throws. Not to be outdone, Duruji matched Castleton’s scoring with 15 points (5 of 8 FG), adding seven boards, two blocks and two steals. Jones and McKissic were less-efficient from the field but each scored 12 points on 4 of 13 combined shooting from long range; Jones added six rebounds and three steals but had four turnovers.

Odds and ends: Florida led for 24:23 of the 40-minute game … UF dominated a longer FSU team 32-22 in paint scoring and 44-33 off the glass … the Gators had 16 second-chance points thanks to 17 offensive rebounds

Florida improved to 44-29 all-time against FSU with a 22-9 mark in the O’Dome … the Gators snapped a seven-game losing streak to the ‘Noles, the longest streak in series history (UF had dropped the last four by an average of 15 points per game) … Florida is now 19-30 vs. AP Top 25 teams under White with a 3-1 mark in its last four such games … UF is now 39-3 when allowing 69 points or fewer under White

What it means: The Gators not only finally got past the ‘Noles but set the stage for what could be a return to elite-level play. Florida showed what it frequently has not in the past under White: patience. Against a Florida State team that rebounded from an early deficit and once again had a size advantage, UF figured out what did not work in the first half, made adjustments coming out of the locker room and pulled away over the latter quarter of the game. If the Gators can distribute the ball the way they did in the second half to ensure open shots, they will win a lot of tough games this season.

What’s next: Florida remains at home for its third straight game when it hosts Milwaukee on Thursday at 6 p.m. The showdown will air exclusively via streaming on SEC Network+ and ESPN+. It is the Gators’ only game over the rest of the week as they prepare for two games in three days in the Fort Myers Tip-Off against California and either Ohio State or Seton Hall.

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