Florida head coach Mike White yells to his players in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arkansas at the Southeastern Conference tournament Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Florida men’s basketball opens season with a win

The 2021-22 college basketball season is officially underway. The Florida men’s basketball team kick-started their year with a 74-61 victory over the Elon Phoenix on Tuesday.

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Florida men’s basketball wins big in season opener

Following an NCAA Tournament berth, Florida enters the season with seven upperclassmen players, six of which are seniors. In addition, the Gators stayed busy throughout the offseason to pick up four transfers, two of which were in the starting lineup on Tuesday.

The starting lineup for Florida in the season-opener included forwards Anthony Duruji and Colin Castleton, as well as guards Myreon Jones, Tyree Appleby and Brandon McKissic.

Gators cruise through the first half

The Gators were quick to gain momentum in the start of the game. Returning starter Duruji opened up scoring with a three point jumper assisted by Penn State transfer Jones. Jones did not hit his first shot until nearly 15 minutes in, but went on to finish 4-and-8 from the three-point line and six of 13 overall. Further, Jones finished the night with 18 points, three assists and six rebounds.

Castleton commented on Jones’ performance in the debut and how he is skilled as a shooter.

Castleton began his senior season in an impressive fashion on the defensive end. In the first-half, the Gators big man scored 17 points and hit nearly 52-percent. He finished the game posting a total of 18 points as well as six blocked shots.

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In the final 11 minutes of the first half, Florida went on a 30-10 run to take a 47-24 lead to finish out the first half. Furthermore, the Gators held Elon to just 34 percent for the half. Florida forced nine turnovers that would result in converting to 16 points.

It was a solid outing by the Gators to close out the first. Nonetheless, the second-half did not see as exciting of a performance by the Gators.

Slip-ups in the second half

Regarding his impression of Florida’s performance as a whole, head coach Mike White shared how the team lost momentum in the second-half.

The second-half started out similar to the first, with Jones making his first long-ball and getting fouled for a four-point play. With less than 17 minutes to go in the game, Appleby shot a three-pointer to elevate the Gators to 57-29. Appleby finished the night with 14 points, three assists and four turnovers.

The last 15 minutes of the game saw a sloppy Florida team. The Gators missed 17 shots to go 6-for-23 the rest of the way. Castleton explained the sluggish second-half outing and how the team will need to improve as a whole.

In the same vein, Castleton expanded upon how the team will need to rebound as the Gators prepare to face 20th-ranked Florida State on Sunday.

What’s Next for Florida men’s basketball

The Gators will look to build on their success as they prepare for their first big test of the season going up against Florida State. The Seminoles have won seven straight games in the rivalry series. Tip off for the matchup is set for 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 14, at Exactech Arena/O’Connell Center.

About Tori Edwards

Tori Edwards is a fourth-year Telecommunications student specializing in News with an outside concentration in Sport Management at the University of Florida. Tori works as an author and reporter for WRUF.com and is the voice of trendings on Wednesday mornings on ESPN 98.1 FM - 850 AM WRUF. You can reach Tori at victoriaedwards@ufl.edu.

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