Florida

FINALS: Florida 81, South Carolina 60

WHAT HAPPENED: Fifth year striker Colin Castleton scored 18 points and led five Florida players to double digits as the Gators flew to their most lopsided Southeastern Conference win of the season in South Carolina’s 81-60 win of the season Wednesday night at the Exactech Arena/O’Connell Center. In their best all-around offensive performance to date, the Gators also grabbed a career-best 14 points from freshman guard Riley ball13 from the wing Kowacie Reeves and 10 each of guards Will Richard and Kyle Loftonbut it was five years older Myreon Joneswho Not hit in double digits, posting by far the best statistics of the evening. Jones had nine points and career highs of 10 rebounds and eight assists without sales, balks at becoming just the fourth player in UF history to hit a triple-double. The win was UF’s fifth in their last six games and was much needed given the brutal paddlewheel of the games imminent (read on). Unlike previous home games, the Gators didn’t start slow, but it was still anyone’s game early in the second half, with UF leading by just six. However, the Gators capitalized on a 12-2 run early in the period to take a 16-point lead before the first media timeout, then jumped a few minutes later after another run of nine straight points to a 20-point lead and rolled home from there. Castleton overwhelmed the Gamecocks up front, hit seven of his 10 field goal attempts and got to the free throw line to make four of five. He also carded three rebounds, three assists, and four blocks. Florida shot 47 percent for the game (with a season-high 21 assists) and was well over 60 percent — and idle at 30 — in the second half as the Gators began to drain their bench. The Gamecocks were capped at 36.7 percent for the night, making it the seventh game in eight SEC games that UF has kept an opponent below 40 percent despite winning the Battle of the Boards 45-36. USC was led by freshman forward Grady “GG” Jackson IIthe proposed NBA lottery selection that posted game highs of 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Fifth year forward Colin Castleton throws a dunk to start Wednesday night’s game against the Gamecocks.

WHAT IT MEANS: The Gators sat 44th prior to Wednesday’s tip, giving them the sixth-best NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rating in the SEC, which is expected to improve slightly. They remain fifth in league standings with Kentucky, but are poised for one of the toughest games in program history, pitting three of the next four against ranked opponents Associated Press Top 5. The next two weeks, with three out of four going against some real powerhouses, will be instrumental in determining where this season (and postseason) ends.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: We’ll come back to Jones shortly. In the meantime, let’s say hello to the senior center Jason Jitobohwho has been signed for a longer season since the second striker Alex Fudge left Saturday’s Mississippi State win eight seconds into the second half after a nasty collision in which an attempted charge was made. This time Jitoboh had to spell out Castleton, who struggled with fouls in the first half, and played nine first-half minutes to give his team a second-half bridge. The 6-foot-11, 300-pounder finished with five points and two rebounds in 15 minutes before fouling long after the game decided.

AMAZING STATISTICS: Jones was awfully close to joining Corey Brewer, Nick Calathes and Chris Chiozza the only player in Florida basketball history to record triple doubles. Jones has 25 assists and just three turnovers in SEC play and now has a 55-plus on court in his last six games.

NEXT: Florida (12-8, 5-3) joins 11 other league teams in Saturday’s conference game exit for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The Gators are, of course, dispatched to Manhattan, Kansas, to take on fifth-ranked Kansas State (17-3, 6-2), marking an emotional reunion with the former standout forward Keyontae Johnsonwhose plight at UF is well documented and leading up to this one will be again.

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