The Florida Gators (14-12, 7-6 SEC) defeated the Ole Miss Rebels (10-16, 2-11 SEC) Wednesday night in the O’dome by a final score of 79-64. Myron Jones led the scoring for the Gators with 15 points as Will Richard and Kowacie Reeves both had 13.
This win could come at a huge cost for Florida as star big man Colin Castleton went down early in the second half. Shortly after the final buzzer, the team released the news that he suffered a broken hand.
Florida came into this one off of three straight losses, all against SEC opponents. After an upset win against then No. 2 Tennessee at home, the Gators had a disappointing next week and a half. With losses to Kentucky, Alabama and Vanderbilt, Florida’s NCAA tournament hopes were dwindling.
With this win, the Gators live to fight another day. However, they will need to close out the season very well to have any shot of making it to March Madness and not having Castleton will only make it that much more difficult.
For Ole Miss, after starting out the season on a six game winning streak, they have won just four of their last 20 games, including 11 losses to conference opponents.
With just over 15 minutes to play in the game, Castleton set what appeared to be a simple slip-screen on Ole Miss’ Jaemyn Brakefield. After he set it, Castleton grabbed for his dominant right hand.
Florida’s head coach, Todd Golden, immediately called a timeout to get Castleton off the floor. What looked like a minor injury kept the Gators’ leading scorer out for the rest of the game, and most likely a few weeks longer.
Castleton has been Florida’s best player all season long and is having one of the best years of his career. He leads the team in points (16.5), rebounds (7.9) and blocks (3.0) per game.
The 6’11” transfer from Michigan was well on his way to first-team All SEC honors in his third season with the Gators.
Gators Close Out First Half Well
As for the game itself, the Gators and Rebels played a back and forth for the first 16 minutes.
Jones had it going early as he scored the first six points for Florida on two 3-pointers. He scored all of his team-leading 15 points from beyond the arc as he shot 5-7 from deep.
Reeves got the Rowdy Reptiles into it as he posterized Ole Miss forward Myles Burns to extend the Gators’ lead to three.
With just under four minutes to play in the first, Rebels guard Matthew Murrell drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to cut the Gators’ lead to just one.
After Murrell’s basket, it was all Florida the rest of the half. The Gators went on an 11-2 run to end the first, including four points from transfer guard Kyle Lofton. He finished the game with 10 points on 4-6 shooting and a game-high seven assists.
At the break, Florida led 39-29.
Florida Dominates in Second
Ole Miss came out of the locker room hot to start the second half. They went on a 10-2 run in the first three minutes. Amaree Abram and Myles Burn traded baskets for the Rebels as they pulled to within two.
With just over five minutes played in the second, the Gators were up 47-43. This is when Florida really kicked it into high gear on both ends of the floor.
The Gators went on a 17-6 run as they were spreading the ball around nicely, getting assist after assist on the offensive end. One of the keys to Florida’s victory was their playmaking ability. They finished the game with 15 assists while Ole Miss had just six as a team.
Freshman guard Riley Kugel capped off this run with a powerful alley-oop slam off a beautiful feed from Lofton. This put the Gators up 15 with eight and a half to play.
Florida cruised the rest of the way en route to a 79-64 victory.
After their win Wednesday night, the Gators have just five games remaining in the regular season. They will travel to Fayetteville on Saturday to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks (17-9, 6-7 SEC). Arkansas will be going into that game on a two-game losing streak. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. on ESPN2.