Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators listless without Castleton as Razorbacks roll

By OnlyGators.com Staff
February 18, 2023
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators listless without Castleton as Razorbacks roll

Image Credit: UAA

Losing both a must-win game and their top player over the last week, the Florida Gators had one chance to prove to themselves that they could survive the duration of the season without redshirt senior forward Colin Castleton. While Florida showed gumption early Saturday, it completely fell apart in the second half of a 84-65 loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The Gators saw a four-point lead become a 21-point deficit as the Hogs outscored the visitors 35-10 during an extended stretch spanning halftime. The contest was effectively over from there with nearly 15 minutes remaining on the game clock as Arkansas teed off making numerous highlight plays against a Florida team that realized its early fight would not be enough.

Let’s take a look at what went down Saturday along with its implications for head coach Todd Golden’s program through the end of the season with some Fastbreak Takeaways.

It was over when … the Razorbacks opened the second half with a 17-2 run as the Gators fell behind 21 points with 14:12 to play. That concluded an extended 35-10 scoring stretch for Arkansas spanning halftime after Florida held a four-point lead at the 8:36 mark of the first half. The Gators eventually trailed by as many as 25 points and finished a pitiful 4 of 21 from downtown (.190).

First half focus: Florida held serve with Arkansas for half of the opening period but fell apart down the stretch as UF continued to struggle finding the bottom of the basket. The Hogs erupted on a 14-2 run to take a 30-23 lead with 4 minutes until the break as the Gators missed 10 straight shots and went 2 of 15 from the floor over the last 8:04. While freshman guard Riley Kugel scored 10 points, the team went 9 of 30 from the field and 1 of 11 from 3-point range in another poor-shooting half.

Exceptional effort: Kugel was the only consistent offensive playmaker on the floor for Florida. He scored a team-high 17 points, one shy of matching his career-best, while marking his fourth straight game in double figures. However, Kugel only hit 1 of 6 tries from downtown.

Odds and ends: Florida fell to 26-15 all-time against Arkansas with a 7-10 record in road meetings … the Gators have lost three straight games to the Hogs … Florida fell to 2-10 in Quadrant 1 games this season … the Gators are now 2-10 when trailing at halftime, 0-12 when trailing with 5 minutes left, 4-10 when shooting worse than 45%, 1-11 when being outshot by an opponent and 3-11 when being outshot by an opponent from downtown … Arkansas dominated inside, holding 52-36 scoring and 40-25 rebounding edges … seeing his first significant action, freshman F Aleks Szymczyk scored eight points — hitting a pair of 3-pointers and grabbing a team-high six rebounds — but struggled mightily on defense

What it means: While Arkansas was the toughest opponent remaining on Florida’s regular-season schedule, the loss saw a badly needed resume-building win pass by the Gators. And given the way Florida was absolutely manhandled both in the post and overall, it became crystal clear that this team will be non-competitive without Castleton down the stretch. As such, the Gators will surely miss the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season barring an unforeseen late run or victory in the SEC Tournament.

Florida last failed to qualify for consecutive NCAA Tournaments in 2015-16. Now sitting at 14-13 (7-7 SEC) with four games remaining, the Gators will try to avoid finishing below .500 either overall or in league play for the first time since 2015 and second time since 1998. Whether UF would even accept a bid to the NIT, if invited, remains to be seen.

What’s next? What will surely be a painful close to the season continues Wednesday as Kentucky visits for a 7 p.m. ET tip off that will air live nationally on ESPN. The Gators’ final three games will likely prove easier, but they follow the Wildcats contest with consecutive road trips.

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