Florida forward Colin Castleton clutched the leather ball before tossing it to guard Brandon McKissic. McKissic spotted forward Anthony Duruji in the paint alone. The senior dunked the ball into the net, and the O’Dome erupted.
The show didn’t stop there.
The No. 24 Florida Gators (3-0) battled the Milwaukee Panthers (1-2) Thursday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The orange and blue remained undefeated with an 81-45 win over the black and gold.
After an unenthusiastic start, resident big man Castleton took matters into his own hands. The 6-foot-11 star got aggressive under the hoop, pulling down 10 rebounds and scoring 19 points for his second consecutive double-double.
Castleton said the team has confidence in each other, and the boys had the same mentality as they did during the Florida State game.
“We came out firing on all cylinders,” he said. “We knew the ball was going to go into the hoop.”
Milwaukee claimed its own army of big men, captained by freshman Patrick Baldwin Jr. No. 23’s name could be heard over the speaker numerous times on his way to totaling 13 points. The guard and projected NBA lottery pick is the son of head coach Pat Baldwin.
Things got heated as Milwaukee’s Jordan Lathon violated Tyree Appleby, pushing him. Before it turned scrappy, Lathon earned a foul, drawing another not long after.
A hush fell over the crowd as Baldwin Jr. sank a basket with an around-the-back layup at the buzzer to close out the first half. Despite the star’s acrobatics, however, Florida boasted an 11 point lead.
Appleby added fuel to the Gators growing lead with a 3-pointer to start the second half.
And the flame kept burning.
Appleby’s hot hands set up guard Myreon Jones, who dunked the ball into the polyester net. On the other end of the court, “Airball” chants seemed to faze Baldwin, who began to come up empty.
Florida guard Phlandrous Fleming Jr.’s pigtails weren’t the only thing that made him stand out.
After a stellar defensive possession, Fleming Jr. drilled home a 3-pointer as the shot clock sounded. The orange and blue bench danced, led by Keyontae “Coach Key” Johnson.
“We want [Alex] Klatsky,” rang through the building until Gators head coach Mike White inevitably put the sophomore in.
As White cleared his bench, the Panthers’ dreams of a win began to slip away.
Milwaukee left the O’Dome with their tails between their legs thanks to the undoubtedly lethal Florida squad.
Castleton said the Gators took care of business. Coach White agreed.
“This group has taken a lot of ownership,” White said. “Hopefully, that continues.”
Florida takes part in the Fort Myers Tip-Off and battles the California Bears Monday at 8:30 p.m.
Karina Wilson is a third-year student at the University of Florida within the College of Journalism and Communications with a specialization in sports and media. She aims to produce engaging, accurate and current content for all types of sports fans. Currently, Karina is The Alligator's men’s basketball beat writer.