Scott Stricklin

Gator Men’s Basketball Fights Hard Without Castleton But Fall to Kentucky

On Wednesday night, the Florida men’s basketball team (14-14, 7-8 SEC) battled the Kentucky Wildcats (19-9, 10-5) but came up short, losing 82-74.  Playing again without center Colin Castleton, Florida knew handling the Wildcats inside would be tough and it was as the Cats outrebounded Florida 40-21 in the contest.  Still, Florida battled back from an early 30-15 deficit thanks in large part to the shooting of freshman Riley Kugel and sophomore wing Kowacie Reeves.  Kugel led the team with 24 points while Reeves chipped in with 16.

The Gators gained a lead at the end of the first half shortly after Kugel swished two three-pointers. In the last minutes of the first half, the Gators went on a 22-6 run. Kugel and Reeves were outstanding, with Kugel scoring 14 points. Reeves’ intense energy and crowd pleasing dunks also lifted the team’s efforts.

For Kentucky, the reigning SEC Player of the Year, Oscar Tshiebwe, dominated in the paint as he shot 7 of 8 from the floor in the first half with 15 points but Florida still led 37-36 at the break.  The Gators hung around in an intense second half and Kentucky coach John Calipari played his starters the entire second half since it was “a two-bucket game.” The Gators seized the lead, lost it, then tied the score before Kentucky returned and took control. The Gators were only two points behind with a minute left, thanks to Kyle Lofton’s two free throws. Gator fans stood up to cheer loudly but were quickly silenced when Chris Livingston put back Carson Wallace’s three-point attempt. Kentucky then sank six free throws to provide Kentucky with its final margin of victory at 82-74.  Tshiebwe scored 25 points to lead the Wildcats while Jacob Toppin had a double-double with 19 points and 11 boards.

The loss of the Gators’ best player Colin Castleton (broken hand), has forced them to rebuild their team. As a result, every team member’s role has been significantly altered. Nevertheless, Florida’s head coach Todd Golden is extremely proud of his team.

Up next the Gators will travel to Nashville to play against the Vanderbilt Commodores Saturday at 6pm.

About Cristina Santiago

Cristina Santiago is a senior at the University of Florida studying journalism with a concentration in sports and media.

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