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Sunday, May 22, 2022
<p>Center Jason Jitoboh catches his breath during a pre-season friendly against Embry-Riddle Nov. 1. Jitoboh scored 12 points without a miss in Florida’s loss to Ole Miss Monday night. </p>

Center Jason Jitoboh catches his breath during a pre-season friendly against Embry-Riddle Nov. 1. Jitoboh scored 12 points without a miss in Florida’s loss to Ole Miss Monday night.

Florida men’s basketball could've wrapped up the sprawling construction on UF’s campus with the number of bricks they laid Monday night. 

Desperation led the Gators (12-7, 3-3) to failure, squandering a strong opportunity for a road win against a subpar Ole Miss squad (10-9). The teams traded blows in the opening possessions until the Gators returned from the first media timeout with the aim of a stormtrooper.

Florida shot a miserable 19-50 from the field and an even worse 4-29  from downtown. The poor performance from the floor and defensive hiccups in the second half consigned the Gators to a lopsided defeat against Ole Miss, 70-54. 

The UF horror show from beyond the arc allowed the Rebels to take advantage and pull themselves even at 22 heading into the locker room.

Florida head coach Mike White thought his team was getting good shots, but faltered on defense.

“I didn't hate our looks and you know, we missed some that you've got to make on the road,” White said. “But to hold Ole Miss to 22 in the first half, we were locked in defensively. They came out early in the second half and we didn't quite recover.”

Florida felt they found hot hands in guards Phlandrous Fleming Jr. and Kowacie Reeves after a brief 6-0 run was built upon with two 3-point plays. This juice vaporized as 10 consecutive heaves from 3-point land doinked off the rim.

Ole Miss used Florida’s malfunctions as a resurgence, forcing three unnecessary Gator turnovers, seven total in the second half, and building an eight-point lead. Four-of-five Rebel starters recorded a basket, causing White to burn a timeout and give his team a reset.

The momentum failed to swing.

Although the deficit was shortened with three-consecutive baskets by UF center Jason Jitoboh, the Rebels pressed on to record a 15-8 run. The Gators continued to take chances from distance, but couldn’t make anything fall.

The Gators shot downright ugly to tally their third conference loss of the year, but Jitoboh found minor success in the paint. The junior shot a perfect 6-6, which translated into a team-leading 12 points.

Easy layups from Jitoboh and forward Anthony Duruji gaveFlorida the slightest of vital signs, but the heartbeat would eventually flatline. The Rebels found a 10-point lead and coasted till the final buzzer. The Gators would draw within eight points, but would inevitably get slapped out of Sandy and John Black Pavilion with a 16-point defeat.

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The Abuja, Nigeria, native respected Ole Miss’ hustle from the opening tip and now has his eyes set forward after the loss.

“They’re a good team, and I feel like they made shots,” Jitoboh said. “We had some defensive miscues, but we just have to learn from that, grow from that, watch film and get better for our game against Tennessee.”

Florida looks to recover and continue their slate of three games in seven days with a contest against the Tennessee Volunteers Wednesday night. Tipoff from Knoxville is set for 7 p.m. and will broadcast on ESPN 2.

Contact Jesse Richardson at Follow him on Twitter @JesseRich352

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