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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

No. 23 Gators splash 13 3-pointers and drown Troy for sixth straight win

A first-half onslaught gave Florida a lead that never wavered Sunday

Florida's Tyree Appleby brings the ball up the court during a Nov. 28 game against Troy
Florida's Tyree Appleby brings the ball up the court during a Nov. 28 game against Troy

The ancient city of Troy met its demise at the hands of the Greeks. The Troy men’s basketball team, on the other hand, fell victim to the Gators’ barrage from behind the arc. 

Within the first 1:19 of Sunday’s game, Florida guard Myreon Jones splashed in two threes. The Gators’ hot shooting from deep never let up, and the Penn State transfer made four 3-pointers and led the Gators in first-half scoring with 12 points. 

No. 23 Florida (6-0) took care of business and defeated the Troy Trojans (4-3) 84-45. Florida made nine 3-pointers in the first half alone and added four more in the final 20 minutes, shooting 35.1% from long range on 37 shots.

“Heck, we will shoot 50 threes if they’re good looks,” Florida head coach Mike White said. 

The first half was all Gators. Florida opened the afternoon on a 13-0 run, and the Trojans trailed by double-digits for the rest of the game. Troy didn’t get on the scoreboard until 4:06 into the game, when Trojans forward Khalyl Waters broke through with a layup. 

Florida combined its premier shooting with its signature pesky defense. The Gators jumped into full-court press early and forced 12 Trojan turnovers through the first half. The early noon start proved not to affect the team, with no sluggishness to be seen in its play. 

The Gators centerpiece, forward Colin Castleton, showed extreme hustle just over three minutes into the game, when he took out a few chairs on the Florida bench going for a loose ball. The senior grinned ear-to-ear as his teammates picked him up and reconstructed the bench. 

Forward Anthony Duruji has become the Gators rim-runner through the first seven games of the young season. Midway through the first half, Troy made the mistake of leaving him alone under the hoop. Guard Brandon McKissic spotted the senior in the lane and dished it to him for the slam, and Florida led 23-9. 

The battle between Florida guard Tyree Appleby and Troy guard Desmond Williams got testy early. Appleby put clamps on Williams and gave him an earful in the process. The aggressiveness forced a Trojans timeout and a technical foul on Williams. This little altercation signified just the tip of the iceberg.

In the second half, with the clock read 12:29 remaining in the game, Appleby drove hard into the lane. As the senior went up for a dunk, he was hit in midair by Williams. Appleby hit the court hard but didn’t stay down for long. The Arkansas native immediately jumped up and wanted to retaliate. Florida players came off the bench as Appleby needed to be restrained. 

Williams was given a flagrant foul after the play was reviewed and Appleby was given an unsportsmanlike technical foul.

As the seconds faded away, so did Florida guard Kowacie Reeves. The freshman hit a turn-around jumper on the baseline right before the buzzer sounded. The Gators were cruising at the break, up 49-20. 

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The second half was tighter than the first, with Florida only outscoring Troy by 10 points over the last 20 minutes, but Florida’s win never felt in question.

Florida had 10 players get in on the scoring, six of them posting double figures. The evenly spread offensive performance showed the depth of the team.

“Anyone can start on this team,” Jones said. 

As the game continued, White was able to empty out his bench. Florida freshmen Reeves and Elijah Kennedy and transfer Tuongthach Gatkek all logged minutes during the game. Sophomore guard Alex Klatsky got on the court as well, to the pleasure of the Rowdy Reptiles. 

Guard Phlandrous Fleming Jr. finished the game with 11 points and six rebounds. The graduate student made his first start for the Gators against Troy, the first variation in the Gators’ starting lineup this season. 

“We don’t have no, you know, attitudes. No emotions towards anybody,” Fleming said. “I was just as happy coming off the bench as I was starting today.” 

Castleton had a below average game by his standards Sunday. The 6-foot-11 forward scored 10 points and collected a team-leading seven rebounds. 

“We did a good job playing through Colin,” White said. “They (Troy) were pretty aggressive bringing a double and we had some possessions where we didn’t execute it as well as we could have.” 

Even with an undefeated record and Fort Myers Tip-Off championship to its name, Florida is still getting its footing as December looms. 

The Gators will have a quick turn around, traveling to Norman, Oklahoma, for its first true road test of the season. Florida draws its first of two Big 12 matchups this year against the Oklahoma Sooners at 8 p.m. Wednesday. 

Contact Joseph Henry at Follow him on Twitter @Josephhenry2424.

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Joseph Henry

Joseph Henry is a fourth-year sports journalism major and is the Alligator's sports editor. He previously worked as senior news director, assistant sports editor, men's basketball beat reporter, volleyball beat reporter and golf beat reporter. He enjoys sitting down to watch a movie as often as possible, collecting vinyl and drinking Dr. Pepper. 

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