- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Florida basketball has won back-to-back games for the first time this month after Wednesday afternoon’s home victory over Stony Brook to close out conference play. The Gators got off to a hot start against the Seawolves, jumping out to a 10-0 lead early in the first half. Unlike in prior games, they managed to maintain that momentum throughout.
Stony Brook never led in this game as Florida jumped out to a 21-point lead at halftime. UF cooled off a bit in the second frame, but the game was never in doubt as it ultimately had one of its best offensive performances of the season in an 87-62 win.
The Gators now turn their attention to SEC play, where they will open with a road matchup against Ole Miss next Wednesday before beginning a stretch of three-straight Quadrant 1 games against Alabama, Auburn and LSU. With the final tuneup in the rearview, here are the takeaways from Wednesday’s game.
Phlandrous Fleming Jr. steps up to lead a stellar offensive game
Doug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner
Florida was without one of its usual starters in this one as Myreon Jones had to enter the health and safety protocol. As a result, Fleming returned to the starting lineup and had his best offensive performance of the season. He led the team with a season-high 20 points on 6 of 8 shooting, and he was particularly effective from long range, sniping four of his five attempts from beyond the three-point arc.
It was overall one of Florida’s best offensive performances of the season. The team shot 53% from the field and was on the right side of 50% shooting in both halves, and it also hit a solid 35% of its shots from three-point range, a welcome improvement after poor shooting marred previous outings. Stony Brook isn’t a great team by any means, but it’s a solid mid-major squad that ranks in the top 200 of the NET, and this was a convincing way for the offense to close out non-conference play.
It wasn’t all perfect, though, especially in terms of ball movement. The Gators had 20 assists as a team, which is pretty good, but they also turned the ball over 16 times, which is not as good. Twenty of the Seawolves’ 62 points came off turnovers alone, and if the passing were less sloppy, this would have been a much bigger blowout. It’s also a bit concerning that the team’s assist leader on Wednesday and best passer Tyree Appleby exited the game with an ankle injury after totaling seven assists, and his status moving forward will be worth monitoring. Still, it was an encouraging performance, especially without Jones available, and it should build the team’s confidence heading into SEC play.
The success under the basket returns
Doug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner
In the first few matchups of the season (and especially in the streak-snapping win over rival Florida State) the Gators were a brick wall inside and Colin Castleton looked like the All-SEC player he was tabbed as before the season. As the season has progressed and the competition has steepened, that has changed a bit, especially in recent games. The worst example was in the loss to Texas Southern, when the Tigers doubled UF up in rebounding.
Such problems did not exist in this game. Castleton had one of his best games all season in terms of offensive efficiency, scoring 15 points on 5 of 7 shooting without having to rely too much on the free-throw line to score (though he did make 5 of 6 from the charity stripe). He missed out on a double-double with just seven rebounds, but that can likely be explained by others in the frontcourt getting their hands dirty.
Jason Jitoboh had one of his best games in a Florida uniform coming off the bench, scoring 12 points on 5 of 7 shooting with seven rebounds, while C.J. Felder also scored in double figures as a reserve with 10 points and five boards. UF outrebounded Stony Brook 40-21, including a 15 to five margin on the offensive boards. It scored 44 points in the paint — though it also allowed 36 — and had five blocks as a team, led by Anthony Duruji with two.
Like the offensive performance, UF’s play under the basket wasn’t perfect, but it was undoubtedly improved from the product we saw in recent games.
Turnovers masked poor defensive play
Doug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner
Florida’s defense looked elite in the first few games, but for whatever reason, that intensity has dropped off markedly over the last month. It allowed strong shooting days in all three of its losses so far, and even in a blowout win on Saturday, that was the case once again. The Seawolves shot above 50%, as well, and they had three players in double figures led by forward Jaden Sayles, who was very effective and scored 16 points while hitting eight of his nine shots. Guards Jahill Jenkins and Juan Felix Rodriguez also scored 14 points each while shooting better than 50%.
The saving grace for the defense in this game (and in many others recently) has been the team’s penchant for forcing turnovers. A full-court press is a staple of a Mike White-coached team, and the Gators forced 17 turnovers in this game with 11 of them being steals. That’s where 27 of Florida’s points came from, and without those turnovers, this one could have been considerably closer considering how well Stony Brook was shooting.
Luckily for the Gators, they didn’t send the Seawolves to the line very often. They had 13 fouls as a team, but that only resulted in six attempts from the free-throw line, of which Stony Brook made just one. Still, it was yet another concerning game from the defense, and as well as the offense played, UF can’t reliably count on forcing 17 turnovers in a game once SEC play starts. If the Gators continue to allow teams to make a majority of their shots, they’re going to pay for it moving forward.