Florida and LSU was an exciting game from start to finish but ultimately it was the Gators who got the upper hand, pulling away with a double digit lead deep into the second half and ultimately holding on for an 83-79 win. LSU was the first team to land a couple of blows, leading for most of the first half, but a Florida comeback that finished with an Anthony Duruji three off a great pass from Tyree Appleby tied the game going into halftime. Coach Mike White dialed up a few adjustments and the Gators came out as the better team in the second which was the difference. LSU was the Gators first true test after returning to the court this past week against Vanderbilt and they showed that even without their star they can be a force in the SEC and win tough games. LSU is a team that many people predicted to finish in the top four of the league, which they still very much may do, and the fact the Gators were able to gut out a win speaks to the tenacity of this group.
Back To Back
For the second game in a row Colin Castleton was the offensive leader for the Gators scoring 21 points and adding 6 rebounds. What made the feat even more impressive was that he was off the floor for most of the first half due to two early fouls that were, let’s just face it, somewhat questionable. Playing with energy in the second he came out and was dominant, getting buckets around the rim and playing with relentless effort. He has already become a fan favorite in Gainesville and he is a key piece of what the Gators are trying to do.
Between Trendon Watford, Cameron Thomas, Scottie Lewis, and Tre Mann there was a lot of future NBA talent on the floor and for that reason NBA scouts were going to be locked on to this game. Whether or not it played into his motivation we’ll never know, but Tre Mann came to play and put on a show with a number of miraculous buckets. Finishing with 19 points he had a number of acrobatic finishes around the rim that demonstrated his body control and length, but the real treats were his stepback jumpers on the perimeter. Mann’s ability to shoot off the bounce is a revelation to the Gators who have lacked that kind of creation over the last few seasons and he is bringing valuable scoring to the floor right now.
It’s worth noting that both Trendon Watford (21 points, 8 rebounds) and Cameron Thomas (28 points, 3 rebounds) were both outstanding in the loss, and it was a pleasure to see them both play.
Quite frankly, this team plays with an energy level unlike what we have seen from Florida teams over the last couple of seasons. Fighting on the glass, grinding for steals or shooting passing lanes, sprinting in transition… it’s a different feel from the last few seasons. Newcomers Anthony Duruji, Tyree Appleby, and Colin Castleton are three of the most vocal players on the roster and it appears that level of intensity is contagious. Of course, Castleton’s intensity ended up with a soft technical foul call after he pinned an LSU layup attempt on the glass, but you almost wonder if the team is okay with that technical if it means the team is going to play fired up. Seeing the intensity level of this team has to leave them, the coaching staff, and fans excited.
This was a fantastic win against a top tier SEC opponent. If the Gators can beat LSU in a game where Cameron Thomas, Trendon Watford, and Javonte Smart were all fantastic (which they were), they can beat just about anyone in the league. Let’s also note that LSU shot 39% from three while the Gators only shot 24%, and the Gators winning despite that discrepancy also speaks to a team that will find ways to win. Florida has to be awfully encouraged after this one, and they now will see an Alabama team that already has three losses, one of which that came against Western Kentucky. Florida has an opportunity to go on a run here and build off a great start to the SEC season.