Florida at Kentucky score, takeaways: Gators fall short despite Colin Castleton’s impressive effort

By OnlyGators.com Staff
February 4, 2023
Florida at Kentucky score, takeaways: Gators fall short despite Colin Castleton’s impressive effort

Image Credit: UAA

Coming off a signature win for head coach Todd Golden in his first year with the program, the Florida Gators fell flat in a tough test, dropping a 72-67 effort against the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. It was Florida’s second difficult road game in eight days, though the result was nevertheless a disappointment for all involved.

Redshirt senior forward Colin Castleton was the straw that stirred the drink all night. Though he struggled in the opening 20 minutes, Castleton came on strong in the second half and nearly helped the Gators pull out what would have been a massive come-from-behind effort.

Instead, Florida dropped its eighth Quadrant 1 game of the season, falling to 2-8 in such contests as it continues to run out of time to build a resume ahead of Selection Sunday. What went wrong for the Gators on Saturday night? Let’s take a look with some Fastbreak Takeaways.

It was over when … with Florida down three and 17 seconds remaining, redshirt senior guard Myreon Jones chucked a no-chance 3-pointer that badly missed. Kentucky made two free throws on the back end to ice the game. Jones’ heave came with 10 seconds left in the shot clock and appeared to be a heat check of sorts given he just drained a massive triple 21 seconds earlier to make it a one-possession game.

The Gators cut their 11-point halftime hole down to four only to see the Wildcats explode on a 11-3 run as part of the hosts taking a game-high 14-point lead with 8 minutes to play. UF answered with an 11-2 run — Castleton scored 11 of 16 points during an extended stretch — to suddenly trail by just four with 1:05 left. Jones hit the aforementioned rainbow trey but missed his final two shots of the game.

First half focus: Saturday marked another excruciatingly slow start for Florida offensively. The Gators made just 26.7% of their baskets and 16.7% of their 3-pointers while scoring only 22 points in the opening period, falling behind by 11 at the break. Florida went without a bucket for a 6:28 stretch midway through the period as Kentucky used a 11-2 run to take a 13-point lead with 6:11 until halftime. While UF cut that down to four with 2:55 left, UK scored the final seven points of the half in another common end-of-period failure for the visitors.

Exceptional efforts: Castleton once again proved remarkable down the stretch. He scored a game-high 25 points on 9 of 16 shooting with 19 of those points coming in second half, including 11 in a 5:46 stretch as the game came to a close. He bounced back from a 2 of 7 start and filled out the stat sheet with eight rebounds, five assists, three blocks and a steal.

Casleton passed Al Horford for fifth on Florida’s career blocked shots list with 71. He is two blocks away from passing Joakim Noah for fourth and would need a substantial postseason run to move higher.

Guards redshirt senior Kyle Lofton and sophomore Will Richard each posted 13 points with 17 of their 26 combined coming in the second half.

Odds and ends: Florida fell to 41-108 all-time against Kentucky with a 11-55 record in Rupp Arena … the Gators have now lost three straight and eight of the last nine to their top rival … UF fell to 2-7 when trailing at halftime, 0-9 when trailing with 5 minutes left, 5-8 when being outrebounded, 1-8 when being outshot by an opponent and 1-3 in black uniforms (for what it’s worth) … Kentucky outscored Florida 14-0 on the fastbreak and bested the visitors inside (38-30 rebounds, 36-32 scoring) … the Gators never led or tied after the opening tip off, trailing for 39:11 of the 40-minute game … after appearing to find a groove three games ago, sophomore G Kowacie Reeves is now 2/15 FG (.133) and 0/8 3PT (.000) over his last three games with seven combined points

What it means: It’s tough to win at Rupp Arena, and thanks in large part to Castleton’s leadership, Florida showed great fight down the stretch. However, the Gators played losing basketball all night. They appeared to fall short on every 50/50 ball and failed in every way they have generally succeeded during their winning stretch entering Saturday night’s game. Florida did not score (at all) on the fastbreak, it didn’t share the ball well and it struggled to defend while allowing Kentucky numerous second and third chances. It was a bad effort coming off the Gators’ best win of the season, simple as that. And it was a missed opportunity for UF to register a resume-building victory.

What’s next? Florida ends its ferocious seven-game stretch against some of the top teams in the nation when it visits No. 4 Alabama on Wednesday for a 9 p.m. ET tip on ESPN2. The Crimson Tide will be the third top-five opponent the Gators play in four games (second on the road) with three of those contests coming on the road (including the Wildcats).

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