Florida basketball erases 17-point halftime deficit to beat FSU in Tallahassee

The Florida Gators mounted a comeback for the ages on Friday night, taking down the Florida State Seminoles by a final score of 76-67 after trailing by nearly 20 at the half.

Although it’s a cliche in sports, this truly was a tale of two halves. The Gators scored twice as many points in the second half of the game and slowed down a red-hot FSU offense until a lead was firmly established. The Seminoles could not stop turning the ball over in the second half, allowing the Gators to go on a 20-3 run through the first 6:15 of the period that erased a 17-point halftime lead.

Florida’s big man Colin Castleton contributed 10 of his 25 points during that stretch and completely took over a game he appeared to be struggling in before the half. As the clock whittled down, it became clear that there would be no slowing down the Gators’ offense and the FSU faithful began filing out of the building.

Will Richard’s 13 points were good enough for the second-best number on the team, and Trey Bonham finally played meaningful minutes off the bench, seemingly in place of true freshman Riley Kugel who struggled.

As good as it feels to leave Tallahassee with a win, there’s clearly a lot for Florida to work on if the Gators are going to be successful in the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament, which begins in just under a week on Thanksgiving Day.

Here are five takeaways from Florida’s first win in Tallahassee since 2012.

Major halftime adjustments

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Everything about Florida’s game in the first half was abysmal, but that makes the comeback win even sweeter. There were questions about how Todd Golden would turn this team around coming into the season, and an early loss to FAU had some nervous about what the new staff’s changes would mean for Florida hoops.

Well, Golden took the team into the locker room after just about the ugliest half of basketball you can imagine and forced a complete 180. Open shots began to fall, as did the contested ones, and Florida figured out how to stop FSU from imposing its will inside the paint. Okay, FSU also played a lot sloppier in the second half, which gave Florida a chance to come back, but a Mike White team might not have that same fire coming out of the half.

Golden switched up the lineup all throughout the first half until he found what worked, and halftime gave him enough of a break to draw up a game plan that let Florida erase a 17-point lead. So far, the Golden era of Florida basketball has brought a lot more excitement than the previous regime, and now Florida’s new head coach has a signature win to fall back on heading into an important tournament.

Can anyone stop Colin Castleton?

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Colin Castleton might not have had his best first half of the year, but he took over in the second half and was the biggest reason the Gators made the comeback they did.

The numbers tell the story here. Castleton only put up four shots in the first half, making two from the field and two from the free throw line for a total of six points. In the second half, he went 7-for-10 from the field and added four from the stripe for 18 points.

He may not have completed his quest for a third-straight 30-point game, but Florida’s big man will take the win over a bitter rival all the same. This was his first real test of the season, and he passed with flying colors.

Todd Golden drew up the right game plan for him to succeed, and the team stuck to the plan and got the ball to where it needed to be.

Welcome to UF, Trey Bonham

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Although his stats leave a lot to be desired, [autotag]Trey Bonham[/autotag]’s first game with meaningful minutes as a Gator should be considered a success. In a half that was marred by sloppy play and bad shooting, Bonham had the kind of hustle you like to see from a transfer and Golden rewarded him with plenty of second-half minutes (15 to be exact).

He forced the only steal of the first half for Florida and wasn’t afraid to crash the rim after coming up short from deep on three attempts. Bonham might have been the smallest player on the court (he’s generously listed at 6 feet tall), but he consistently went in against Florida State’s 7-foot-4-inch center and drained all four free throw attempts he was awarded.

In the second half, he grabbed seven rebounds and score seven points while assisting on three more buckets and forcing two more takeaways, including a block. Talk about a stat-sheet stuffer. Bonham certainly earned a closer look as Florida’s sixth or seventh man.

Alex Fudge is showing flashes of greatness, but he's still a work in progress

Speaking of strong performances off the bench, [autotag]Alex Fudge[/autotag] showed a few more flashes of what’s to come, but he’s still a work in progress. Fudge’s lone score in the first half came when Florida was still down by 11 points. It was an emphatic slam, but the points were almost immediately negated when he was called for a technical after the play. Perhaps the refs were a bit quick to the whistle in this one, but that’s not something that can be changed once the game is in motion.

Golden sat Fudge after that, but the LSU transfer made sure to voice his issues with the whole ordeal as he reluctantly walked back to the bench. That may lead a few to question just how disciplined this team truly is, but the second-half results might bury that narrative.

Fudge played 12 minutes in the second half, scoring just two more points on a poster that had SportsCenter top-10 written all over it. He also chased down a breakaway play for an impressive chase-down block that the camera caught perfectly (above). There’s a lot to like about Fudge’s game, and there’s potential for him to move into the starting lineup down the road, but he’s not quite there yet.

Winning the turnover battle was huge for UF

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For a while, it seemed like this was going to be the Caleb Mills show for Florida State. And, to the junior’s credit, he was the best player the Seminoles had to offer for most of the night. He finished at the rim and got to the line consistently while finishing the evening as one of three ‘Noles to finish with a plus-minus in the positive.

But Mills hit a wall in the second half and finished the night with a team-high six turnovers. A closer look at the box score shows that Florida State lost the ball twice as often in the second half as it did in the first, and Mills was a big part of it. Florida outscored FSU 23-8 off of turnovers, and every bit of that was needed to complete the comeback on the road.

Story originally appeared on Gators Wire