Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe (34) is pressured by Florida's Colin Castleton, left, and Riley Kugel (24) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

Gators Fall to Kentucky

The Florida men’s basketball team falls to the Kentucky Wildcats 72-67 on the road in Lexington. A lead created early by the Wildcats was too much for the Gators to overcome despite their best efforts offensively and defensively in crunch time. This conference loss leaves Florida 13-10 overall and 6-4 in SEC match-ups. 

Gators Stumble in First Half

The Gators struggled with scoring early in the game after grabbing the tip-off. In the first 10 minutes of play, the Gators shot 2 for 11 from the field with most of their points coming from the foul line.

The Gators trailed the Wildcats for the first half as they struggled to score and convert possessions into scoring opportunities. The Gators went 1 of 6 from three-point range and 7 for 26 from the field with seven points from free throws. Florida’s worst enemy was turnovers collecting seven in the first half leading to 10 points for Kentucky.

It was a battle of the boards early in the game. The Gators collected just five rebounds and Kentucky had 12 only six minutes into the game. The Wildcats owned the glass in the first half having six offensive rebounds in the 10 ten minutes. Kentucky used the board advantage to get six second-chance points off the Gators in the first half. Kentucky’s transition speed was a weak point for the Gators as well as they struggled to get back on defense. 

Colin Castleton had a slow start to the game going just 2-of-7 from the field while accruing three turnovers. Castleton also grabbed five rebounds, had two blocks, and an assist before heading into the locker room at the half.  

Second Half Comeback 

The Gators came into the second half ready to win and kept their foot on the gas from the moment they touched the floor. Immediately keeping better hold of the ball and limiting turnovers while capitalizing on the Wildcat’s mistakes. The Gators had three steals, two blocks, and five points off turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the second half. 

Florida continued to struggle from beyond the arc but started to string shots together near the end of the second half. The squad went 5 of 13 from three and 16 of 29 from the field. 

Florida coach Todd Golden ran the offense through Castleton and it paid off.  Castleton led the gator comeback with 19 points and four assists in the second half. The Gators started to chip away at the lead near the end of the half getting it down to five with just three minutes to go. The Gator defense stonewalled the Wildcat offense on the back end of the second half and created the possibility to catch up. 

The final minutes of the game were nail-biting and back and forth down to the buzzer. But Florida’s better second half was not enough to cut down the Wildcat’s lead even though Florida outscored the Wildcats in the second half. 

Castleton ended the game with 25 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and three blocks all while managing a steal. Guards Will Richard and Kyle Lofton also made crucial shots to keep Florida in the game. 

Next Game

The Gators’ next game is Wednesday at 9 p.m. in Tuscaloosa Alabama on ESPN 2 against the Crimson Tide who sit at the top of the SEC ladder. Alabama (20-3) hosts Florida on a four-game win streak and hasn’t lost a home game all season.

About Marshall Tempest

I am a student at the University of Florida majoring in sports journalism with a certificate in sports management. I am 22 years old, from Orlando Florida and plan to graduate in the fall of 2023.

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