Saturday afternoon marked the return of former Gators coach Mike White to Gainesville. Florida greeted him with a mixture of emotions, with the boos outweighing the cheers. Georgia entered the game holding an 11-3 record but found themselves as 8.5 points underdogs on the road.
The Gators defeated the Bulldogs 82-75 in an emotional game, giving Todd Golden’s squad their first SEC victory of the 2023 season, improving their record to 8-7 (1-2 SEC).
Florida got off to a slow start inside the O’Connell Center, finding themselves trailing 23-10 nearly ten minutes into the game. Both teams were finding open shots, but the Gators couldn’t connect early on.
The Gators would later go on a 21-4 run before halftime, giving Florida a 39-34 lead heading into the locker room.
Georgia came out of the tunnel strong, taking the lead with 15:39 left to play. Florida regained the lead on the next possession and never looked back. The Gators would jump to a 56-46 lead following an 11-0 run.
The Bulldogs did what they could to stay in this game by sinking 7 of 10 shots from three in the 2nd half, most of which were highly contested. Every time Georgia would inch closer, Florida had an answer.
Georgia cut it to three points with two minutes to play, but true freshman Riley Kugel put a stamp on the game with a pair of free throws, an alley-oop, and a fast break slam dunk in the final moments of the game. A clutch series from the Orlando native.
Colin Castleton was my MVP of the game. As if his 12 points, eight rebounds, and five assists wasn’t enough, he added seven blocks to the stat sheet, six of them in the 1st half.
Kyle Lofton played his best game as a Florida Gator, scoring a team-high 18 points in the contest. He added three assists and zero turnovers in nearly 33 minutes. Lofton led the Gators in plus minus with 12.
Myreon Jones has struggled with his three point shot this season; that was not the case tonight. Jones connected on 3-4 shots from deep, totaling 13 points, three rebounds, two assists, and three steals in 26 minutes off the bench. Jones is a savvy veteran that will look to find his rhythm over the next few weeks.
Will Richard was active on the floor tonight, scoring 14 points, grabbing 9 rebounds (one offensive) and assisting twice in 28 minutes of play. Richard was shooting the ball with confidence and of course, efficiency.
It was a group effort from the Gators this afternoon with five players reaching double-digit points (Jones, Reeves, Castleton, Lofton, Richard). Florida shot 49% from the field and 31% from three-point range in the contest.
The Gators held the Bulldogs to just 38.2% from the field but allowed 10-20 from three. Colin Castleton did a good job of protecting the rim, but Georgia’s success from three kept them in the game down the stretch.
Florida was 15-17 from the charity stripe. Making your free throws in a close game can oftentimes determine the outcome.
The one area Florida disappointed was on the glass. Georgia snagged 15 offensive rebounds to Florida’s eight. Golden says they will need to take a look at that moving forward.
The Gators next matchup is Tuesday, January 10th against LSU on the road.