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Exactech Arena at Stephen C. O'Connell Center - Gainesville, FL

Jones' hot shooting sends Florida past Ole Miss

109 days ago
Florida Athletics

WHAT HAPPENED: Fifth-year senior guard Myreon Jones led a balanced Florida scoring attack with 15 points, including five 3-pointers, as the Gators snapped a three-game losing streak Wednesday night, but the 79-64 victory over Ole Miss likely came at a huge cost after fifth-year forward Colin Castleton left the game in the second half in visible pain with a hand injury. Castleton, the 6-foot-11 standout who was having a first-team All-Southeastern Conference-type season on both ends of the floor, left Exactech Arena/O'Connell Center and was taken for X-rays. His status was not official as of this posting. As for the game, the Gators used one of their best shooting performance of the season -- 59 percent overall from the floor and the 3-point line -- in winning for the first time since upsetting second-ranked Tennessee on Feb. 1. After going scoreless the previous two games, Jones hit UF's first shots of the game, both 3s, and finished 5-for-7 from the floor, plus eight rebounds and a pair of steals. Will Richard, the sophomore playing undersized at the "4" spot the last month, and sophomore wing Kowacie Reeves each added 13 points. Freshman guard Riley Kugel had his third straight double-digit scoring game with 13 points, while fifth-yard point guard Kyle Lofton chipped in 10 points and seven of the team's 15 assists. The Gators trailed 19-15 midway through the first half after a run of seven straight points by the Rebels and eight early turnovers by the home team. UF, though, straightened things up after a timeout by finishing the period on a 24-10 run to take a 10-point lead into intermission. The Gators hit their last nine shots of the period, including 3s by Richard and Reeves, while forcing the Rebels into misses on their last five shots and eight of the final nine. Though the Rebels started the second half by making their first five field-goal attempts to close within two, the Gators slowly took the lead back out to nine, then after a single free throw from the visitors scored 10 straight and eventually led by as many as 18 with just seven minutes to go. Along the way, however, Castleton took a tumble and hurt his right hand breaking his fall under the UF basket. Play was stopped, a grimacing Castleton went to the bench and the Gators finished with senior backup center Jason Jitoboh (4 points, 2 rebounds) and sophomore forward Alex Fudge (7 points, 5 rebounds) as UF's new go-to bigs. Both Wednesday and going forward, presumably. UF's production shooting the ball helped offset a tough night on the glass, as Ole Miss was that battle 38-30, including 16-4 on the offensive end.

WHAT IT MEANS: Given Ole Miss' low rating in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (No. 124 coming in), not much, other than snapping the losing skid. And less than that if the cost was Castleton for any extended amount of time.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Castleton development is an absolute gut punch. The worst injury for the program since losing 6-11, 255-pound center John Egbunu during what was a super-promising 2017 season that still ended in the Elite Eight.

STAGGERING STATISTIC: When Reeves hit a 3-pointer at the 11:20 mark of the first period, the team's third of the first half, the Gators eclipsed their total number of 3s from the crushing Vanderbilt loss four days earlier when they went 2-for-20 from deep (10 percent). UF finished 10 of 17 against the Rebels (58.8 percent) .

UP NEXT: Florida (14-12, 7-6), after two home games, is back on the SEC road Saturday night at Arkansas (17-8, 6-6), which is on a two-game winning streak against UF that marks the Razorbacks' longest in the series since winning the first five, from 1992-96) when the Hogs entered the league. A road date against the Razorbacks, who last weekend got their NBA lottery-projected freshman Nick Smith back from a knee injury, represents a Q1 opportunity against an fellow SEC bubble foe that went into Wednesday night's road game at Texas A&M with the same league record as the Gators.