Florida basketball score, takeaways: New-look Gators handle Elon in season opener

By Adam Silverstein
November 9, 2021
Florida basketball score, takeaways: New-look Gators handle Elon in season opener
Basketball

Image Credit: GatorsMBK on Twitter

Florida Gators basketball (1-0) got off to a hot start to open the 2021-22 season, thoroughly defeating the Elon Phoenix (0-1) inside the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The Gators led by as many as 28 points in the second half and held on for a 74-61 win as the Phoenix chipped away at their substantial deficit over the final few minutes.

With four transfers, two freshmen and two new assistant coaches joining a suddenly veteran roster, Florida head coach Mike White had plenty to sort through this offseason. At least on Tuesday, the results were relatively positive as the Gators improved to 6-1 in season openers under White with three straight such wins.

What went down and what did we learn as the Gators kicked off the 2021-22 campaign? Keep on reading for Fastbreak Takeaways from the game.

It was over when … sophomore forward Tuongthach Gatkek slammed home an alley-oop to put Florida ahead 15 points with 1:29 to play. The dunk ended a 14-2 run for Elon that cut what was once a game-high 28-point lead for the Gators down to 13 points. White called for the walk-ons to take the court after Gatkek’s dunk to end a lackluster second half.

Florida was outscored 37-27 in the final period. Senior forward Colin Castleton, who dominated in the first half, scored just one point as the Gators went 9 for 28 from the field over the last 20 minutes.

First half focus: Florida started slow but put it together at the end of the opening period with a 14-3 run (extended 25-9 scoring stretch) to lead by 23 at the break. The Gators dominated the Phoenix in all phases with Castleton scoring 17 points and notching 3 blocks to start the game.

Exceptional efforts: Castleton’s dominant first half was enough to give him a game-high 18 points on 7 of 11 shooting with 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 6 blocks; however, he made just 4 of 10 free throws, committed 5 turnovers and was largely silent in the second half. Though his improved strength was clearly an asset, it was not one he was able to manage consistently across two halves.

Matching Castleton in scoring was senior transfer guard Myreon Jones, who also posted 18 points with 15 coming in the second half. Jones was 4 of 8 from long range with 6 boards, 3 dimes and just a single turnover. Senior point guard Tyree Appleby drilled 3 of 5 shots from beyond the arc and all five of his free throws to finish third with 14 points, adding 3 assists and 3 boards; however, like Castleton, he was sloppy with 4 giveaways.

Odds and ends: Florida improved to 6-1 in season openers under White … the Gators are now 12-3 all-time against CAA teams with seven straight wins … it was UF’s first-ever meeting with Elon … four transfers played their first game for the Gators … Florida is 54-3 when scoring 80+ points and 38-3 when allowing 59 points or fewer under White

All five Florida starters played 23 minutes with none on the court for more than 28 … four of five scored in double figures with the starters accounting for 81% of the team’s scoring … junior center Jason Jitoboh committed five fouls in 8 minutes … the Gators dominated in scoring off second chances (17-6) and the fast break (14-8)

What it means / what’s next: After walking through its opener, Florida will host rival No. 20 Florida State on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET in a game that will air on ESPN. The Gators have lost seven straight meetings with the Seminoles, not winning in the series since 2013. FSU has won the last four games by an average of 15 points per game.

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