Florida Stays Hot With Win Over California

Continuing to carry the momentum from a hot start to the season the Gators kept their foot on the gas Monday, hammering the California Golden Bears by a score of 80-60. The game remained close for about the first 12 minutes of action but then the Gators pulled away, largely due to their defensive intensity, and once they got a sizable lead they never allowed Cal back in it. In a semi-home environment in Fort Myers there was a large contingent of Florida fans and they made their presence felt, getting more and more fired up with each defensive stop the Gators executed. Florida continues to play good basketball and will now see Ohio State on Wednesday night to wrap up their time at the Fort Myers Tip Off. 


Defensive Identity


It has been made very apparent that Florida’s biggest strength is their defense and they showcased that once again on Monday holding Cal to only 60 points on 44% shooting and only 20% from the three-point line. Even more stifling than the missed shots forced were the Golden Bears’ 18 turnovers, several of which came while Florida was applying full court pressure. This is the first game we have really seen the Gators aggressively defend full court and it was highly effective against Cal’s guards who were never able to get comfortable. 


Familiar Leaders


Colin Castleton and Tyree Appleby were the two best Gators, as has often been the case. Castleton finished with 16 points and 8 rebounds, and many of his buckets came on featured post up opportunities. The Gators were keen to get him the ball on the low block and let him cook one on one and he was able to take advantage of pretty much every defender Cal put on him, finishing with either hand with relative ease. Appleby was his regular energetic self with 15 points and 3 assists, with much of his offense coming on straight line drives. Appleby is Florida’s most dangerous player off the dribble and when he’s playing with confidence he really helps the Gators’ offense operate. 


Elevated Role


Florida finally saw CJ Felder come alive, something that many of us have been waiting for since the Boston College transfer announced his decision to come to Florida. He hasn’t been fully healthy yet this season but looked by far and away the most comfortable physically that he has been in his short Florida career finishing with 8 points and 3 rebounds. Felder was a monster on the defensive end, both playing against centers on the low block and also spearheading the Gators’ full court pressure. You’re not going to get that kind of versatility from many players in college basketball and he’s just another defensive weapon on a team that has many of them. On offense Felder was able to knock down two three-point looks and if he is able to shoot like that he’s going to continue to command more minutes.


Final Thoughts


Cal is a team that already has two losses to mid-major opponents this season and has nearly lost to two others so it would have been easy for Florida to take it easy in this one but instead they pushed hard and continued to play with incredible levels of energy, particularly on the defensive end. They’ll have a huge test on Wednesday against Ohio State, who earned the right to play against the Gators by beating a really good Seton Hall team.


Eric Fawcett
Eric hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His blend of sports and comedy has landed his words on ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @Efawcett7.