The Florida Gators once again opened slowly against an inferior opponent and allowed that opponent to remain in the game the entire way. Despite recording a 66-55 win over South Florida in the Orange Bowl Classic, the team and fanbase were left with a sour taste in their mouth.
The slow start was simply missing shots, many of which were wide open, but this has become a common refrain for this team through the first eleven games of the year.
Florida missed their first seven shots of the game that included four three-point attempts by four different players. Finally, with nearly five minutes elapsed, Plandrous Fleming knocked down a trey to put the Gators on the scoreboard. Fleming had substituted in less than thirty second prior to making the basket.
The slump would be further extended, however, as USF took a 11-3 lead before Jason Jitoboh made a lay in.
Florida would outscore USF 27-7 the remainder of the first half to enter the break leading 30-18, which resembled more of what the fans expected.
The Gators came out of the locker room and immediately built the lead to 16 after a Myreon Jones three-ball, but USF went on a run to cut the deficit to three at 48-45 with 9:00 to play. The Bulls could have made it a one-point game the following possession, but Jake Boggs missed the layup and Jones connected on the fast break and-one for the five point swing.
An 11-3 Gators run put Florida back up by eleven with 3:04 to play. The Gators were able to finish it from there.
The Bulls outshot Florida 42% to 39% but the Gators collected 18 more rebounds, including nine more on the offensive glass.
Colin Castelton and Fleming led the Gators with 12 points while Anthony Duruji added 11. In total, Florida made 8-26 from deep, but the starting guards combined to go just 3-16. Castelton finished with a double-double by adding a team high eleven boards. Castleton was named the Orange Bowl Classic MVP.
The Gators will wrap up the non-conference schedule with a home date against Stony Brook on Wednesday before jumping into SEC play against Mississippi a week later.