The Florida men’s basketball team advances to a second round game in the National Invitational Tournament by beating Iona in Gainesville 79-72 Wednesday night in the O’Connell
Gator Men’s Basketball (20-13)
Florida would play its first game without departed head coach Mike White, who left to take the Georgia job. Assistant coach Al Pinkins was named the team’s interim head coach and he led them out to play in this game against coach Rick Pittino’s Gaels.
The Gators entered the match up coming off a tough 83-80 overtime loss to Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament and no one really quite knew how this team would respond after not making the NCAA Tournament and losing its head coach. In fact in this game, they started out slowly, as the Gaels jumped out to an early 9-8 lead. Iona continued to push the Gators all night as they went on lead Florida the majority of the game and at the half, Florida trailed 42-35.
Florida did have big man Colin Castleton and he discussed the Gators getting the win.
Second Half Fight
Florida came out in the second half with a corner three from Kowacie Reeves who led the Gators in the opening half with 11 points. The Gators managed to even the game at 58-58 with a dunk from Castleton. Guard Tyree Appleby hit a pair of free throws and the Gators took a 60-59 lead.
The Gaels never let up in the second half as they kept pushing the Gators regaining the lead for a couple possessions until the eight minute mark. That’s when Appleby hit back to back three’s with another dunk from Castleton down the stretch giving Florida a 68-61 lead.
From there, the Gator played defense well and hung on for the 79-74 win.
Four Gators landed in double figure scoring in this match up as Colin Castleton and Phlandrous Fleming Jr. combined for 36 points and Tyree Appleby and Kowacie Reeves each added 14 points in the Gators victory.
Interim head coach Al Pinkins on the win.
“It was great. Best feeling I had in a long time. Thought the guys battled. I think we got down [eight] and they kept battling, kept defending.
Castleton also talked about the departure of Mike White from the program.
Iona Goes Down
Nelly Junior Joseph led the way for the Gaels with 18 points but it was not enough as they fell to the Gators.
Florida will prepare to take on Xavier on Sunday Afternoon in the second round of the National Invitational Tournament.