Florida basketball score, takeaways: Uncommon late comeback pushes Gators over Ole Miss

By Jake Winderman
January 12, 2021
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Uncommon late comeback pushes Gators over Ole Miss
Basketball

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

Florida Gators basketball showed no quit on Tuesday night, overcoming the absence of sophomore guard Scottie Lewis to battle back from a nine-point deficit late in the second half to secure a 72-63 victory over the Ole Miss Rebels. After trailing for much of the game, Florida rallied in an uncommon way under head coach Mike White to end a two-game losing skid and get back in the win column after a difficult week.

Will the Gators be able to build on Tuesday’s successes going forward? Let’s take a look at what went down with some Fastbreak takeaways from Florida’s key home victory over Ole Miss in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

It was over when … Florida ended the contest on a 14-0 run over the final 3:54, turning a five-point deficit into a nine-point win. The Gators held the Rebels to just two points over the final 5:52 as they outsocred the visitors 20-2 down the stretch, hitting their stride late with a full-court press and an impressive ability to draw fouls in transition. They made six consecutive free throws over the final 48 seconds, utilizing a strong effort on both ends from junior forward Colin Castleton that fueled them to victory.

Exceptional efforts: Florida took a 33-31 lead into halftime on the back of Castleton, who filled up the stat sheet over the first 20 minutes. His work on the glass and defensive end helped create extra possessions for UF throughout the game. The Michigan transfer has been the team’s biggest surprise this season. Castleton led the way Tuesday with a game-high 21 points and a career-high 10 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass, along with three assists. His eight blocks were the second-most in a single game in program history. Perhaps the most impressive part of Castleton’s day was his ability to perform under pressure when Florida trailed late. Castleton, who is shooting 62.5% from the line this season, made 8 of 10 free throws in the second half and went 3 of 4 from the field.

Sophomore point guard Tre Mann didn’t have his best day shooting the rock, but he stepped up big on both ends. Mann posted 17 points, 12 of which came in the second half, along with seven rebounds, three dimes and three steals. He was a perfect 8 of 8 from the line and a team-best +15 on the night. The Gators are at their best, on both ends, when Mann is on the floor, leading the charge. Junior guard Noah Locke broke out of his slump to step up big in the second half when Florida needed it most. Locke totaled 10 of his 15 points in the final 20 minutes and sunk 3 of 6 shots from long range. When Locke is hitting shots in the halfcourt and in transition, it creates dire situations for defenses.

Odds and ends: Mann, Castleton and Locke combined for 53 of Florida’s 72 points, 36 of 39 in the second half … UF is now 62-63 under White when scoring 79 points or fewer compared to 52-3 when scoring 80+ … the Gators played 11:24 of foul-free basketball to start the game … White earned a technical in the game for throwing his mask

What it means: Florida showed an edge that we hadn’t seen yet this season. Yes, the Gators have had impressive wins over LSU and Vanderbilt during SEC play, but they weren’t forced to come back from nine down late in the second half in those contests. With Lewis scratched, Florida had plenty of excuses to try and explain away a bad home loss. Instead, Mann and Castleton stepped up to the plate and led a comeback that most didn’t think possible with both Lewis and junior forward Keyontae Johnson sidelined.

Florida could’ve started chucking up bad three-pointers late in the game and slouching on defense, but instead, it stuck to its motion offense, continued to cut and set screens off the ball and hunkered down on defense, despite a few Ole Miss prayers that seemed to find their way to the bottom of the net late in the second half. The heart the Gators showed late in the second half was admirable and could be the exact spark of momentum they need headed into a tough three-game stretch.

What’s next? Florida will get three days off before hitting the road to face Mississippi State on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.

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