The Florida Gators improved to 12-8 (5-3 SEC) after cruising past South Carolina on Wednesday night, defeating the Gamecocks 81 to 60 inside the O’Connell Center. Todd Golden finishes the season 5-0 over fellow first year SEC head coaches.
The Gators set the tone early with a heavy dose of Colin Castleton, taking the lead just under three minutes into the game and maintaining it for the final 37 minutes. Florida’s largest lead of the night was 30 points with 4:29 to play.
Florida once again finds itself putting on a superior 2nd half offensive performance, scoring 47 points after just 34 in the first 20 minutes. The ball movement picked up after halftime, leading the Gators to more shots and free throw attempts.
Florida didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, connecting on 31 of 66 shots (47%) and 7 of 27 (25.8%) from three-point range. However, the Gators continued to dominate defensively, holding South Carolina to 36.7% from the field and 35.7% from beyond the arc.
When you aren’t a great shooting team, you need to maximize your possessions by taking care of the basketball. Golden’s squad did exactly that, turning it over five times while forcing 15 Gamecock turnovers.
My MVP of the game is Myreon Jones, who came up just short of a triple double with nine points, ten rebounds, and eight assists. His work on the glass from the backcourt and an 8 to 0 assist to turnover ratio led the Gators to victory. Jones continues to provide a veteran presence on the floor that’s contagious.
Colin Castleton led the Gators in scoring with 18 on an efficient 7 for 10 from the field. He added three rebounds, three assists, and four blocks to the stat sheet. During the postgame press conference, Golden said Castleton is 8th or 9th in the country in block rate in the country.
Riley Kugel is a superstar in the making. He constantly finds himself open, whether it be for a clutch three-point shot or an alley-oop slam dunk. His athleticism and defensive prowess are off the charts. Kugel made the start in tonight’s contest with the absence of Alex Fudge. He finished with 14 points on 6-9 shooting and 2-4 from three-point range. The Orlando native added three steals in 27 minutes.
Kowacie Reeves had a nice night shooting the ball, connecting on 6-12 from the field, scoring 15 points in 21 minutes.
Every player on the Gators’ roster checked into the game, including the walk-ons. Castleton only logged 21 minutes tonight, which should allow for less stress on his body as he’s had to play a ton of minutes for Todd Golden this season. Jason Jitoboh gave a solid effort in 15 minutes off the bench.
Florida has a tough four game stretch over the next two weeks, playing three top five teams during that span.
If the Gators want to compete, they’ll need to clean up their work on the glass. Florida was outrebounded 45-36 against South Carolina, who’s starting forward fouled out with over 12 minutes left in the game. Florida was missing their starting forward Alex Fudge, who’s been decent on the glass for the Gators. However, this has been a reoccurring issue for Florida. Todd Golden said the staff circled rebounding after the game as an area they must fix ahead of their difficult four game stretch.
Florida is set to take on Keyontae Johnson and the Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday at 6:00 pm on ESPN2.