Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators author impressive comeback to beat Oklahoma State

By Adam Silverstein
January 29, 2022
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators author impressive comeback to beat Oklahoma State
Basketball

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

Amid growing fan resentment over the direction of the program, head coach Mike White saw Florida Gators basketball complete the third-largest comeback of his tenure in a 81-72 win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday night in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Florida overcame a 16-point deficit and 13-point gap at halftime in a dominant second-half performance.

The Gators outscored the Pokes 49-27 over the final 20 minutes, using an extended 20-5 stretch and 10-3 spurt to go up a game-high nine points. That ended up being Florida’s final margin of victory as it improved to 6-3 in the history of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

What went down in the O’Dome? Keep on reading for some Fastbreak Takeaways from the Gators’ win along with a look at what Florida has coming up as it returns to SEC play next week.

It was over when … redshirt senior guard Brandon McKissic made a free throw to regain the Gators’ game-high nine-point lead with 41 seconds remaining. With its back against the wall entering the second half, Florida used speed, pressure and a renewed defensive effort to force seven turnovers while taking higher-percentage shots as it compiled a 12-1 run, cutting its deficit to a single basket midway through the period. The Gators then extended that stretch to 22-5, taking a 60-56 lead with 7:33 to play. Another 10-3 spurt with 3-pointers from Tyree Appleby and Phlandrous Fleming Jr. increased UF’s advantage to eight, a lead that the team hosts largely maintained through the final buzzer.

First half focus: Down two big men, Florida chose to continue playing as it did even when those men were healthy by keeping its feet planted beyond the arc and hoisting long-range, lower-percentage shots. The Gators made just 10 baskets in the opening 20 minutes, hitting only 5 of 20 attempts from downtown. UF was doubled up at one point, trailing 32-16, and entered halftime with a 13-point deficit that seemed insurmountable given the team’s performance to that point.

Exceptional efforts: Appleby scored a game-high 21 points (13 in the second half), setting a new career mark since joining the Gators. He made 3 of 8 triples and 8 of 9 free throws while adding four assists and three rebounds. Fleming’s 14 points were second-most in the game; he hit 2 of 4 treys and all six of his gimmies with six boards and two dimes. Senior forward Anthony Duruji (10) and freshman guard Kowacie Reeves (11) also scored in double digits, while sophomore guard Niels Lane played 13 key defensive minutes in his first action after more than a month on the bench.

Odds and ends: Florida improved to 4-0 all-time against Oklahoma State and 26-19 against Big 12 opponents with a 6-3 mark in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge … the Gators are now 61-3 (.953) when scoring 80+ points under White … UF improved to 30-8 against nonconference opponents in the O’Dome under White… Florida led for just 9:08, including the final 8:37 of regulation … Oklahoma State outrebounded the hosts 34-28 and dominated paint scoring 32-12 … however, UF had six blocks and 11 steals to give itself additional opportunities

What it means: The comeback was impressive, but it was made even more noteworthy by the Gators being down two key players. Senior F Colin Castleton (shoulder) not only remains out indefinitely, Florida lost junior center Jason Jitoboh for the season this week after he underwent eye surgery. Still, the main reason that the second-half rally was possible was simply improved 3-point shooting. The Gators went 5 of 11 from deep in the second half compared to 5 of 20 in the opening period. Florida only attempted 16 doubles to 31 treys in the game, which is not a sustainable differential and one that has cost the program in numerous other games this season. Even down two frontcourt players, UF must focus on getting higher-percentage shots, namely with Duruji, who took the majority of his attempts from beyond the arc despite being the team’s starting center. The Gators nevertheless got a Quadrant 2 victory over the Pokes, which will help their up-and-down NCAA Tournament resume.

What’s next? After a torturous slate of four games in eight days, Florida gets the opportunity to recharge its batteries a bit before travelling to pay Missouri on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET in a game that will air live nationally on SEC Network.

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