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Sunday, December 04, 2022

Florida hoops gets trampled by No. 5 Kentucky, 78-57

Gators road trip to Lexington ends in 21-point failure

<p>Florida&#x27;s Phlandrous Fleming matches up against Florida State&#x27;s Matthew Cleveland during a Nov. 14 game. </p>

Florida's Phlandrous Fleming matches up against Florida State's Matthew Cleveland during a Nov. 14 game.

Saturday afternoon was an Oscar Tsheibwe extravaganza. 

The 6-foot-9-inch, 255-pound big man made it clear that Lexington, Kentucky, is his territory, claiming a game-high 19 boards and converting hard looks at the rim to the tune of 27 points. Tsheibwe notched his 19th double-double of the season, dominating the decked out in orange Gators.  .

Florida (16-8, 6-6) fell hard at the hands of the No. 5 Kentucky Wildcats (21-4, 10-2), 72-55. The Gators were riding a four-game win streak before the devastation and now fall to 1-9 against top-25 opponents in 2022. 

Florida head coach Mike White felt a lack of consistency from his squad throughout the matchup.

“The biggest key to the game for us was starting the game with less urgency and less communication level than needed,” White said. “Especially with our frontcourt behind the play, pointing at guys ahead. We didn’t get to the level of the ball, didn't cut the ball, which led to some open looks.”

Florida outshot Kentucky by 1.3% and managed to win the turnover battle. The Wildcats commanded every other statistical category, however, including rebounds, points in the paint and steals.

All seemed lost within the first five minutes of action when the Wildcats quickly stacked a prominent 20-8 advantage. UF senior forward Colin Castleton notched three-consecutive baskets, including two mid-range jumpers, to keep the Gators within reach, but the rest of the squad struggled to score early.

Eventually, the Gators would claw back with a 15-2 run, ignited by 3-point buckets from forwards CJ Felder and Anthony Duruji. Mid-range efforts by guards Kowacie Reeves and Brandon McKissic would also fall to cut the overbearing deficit. 

To Florida’s dismay, the glimmer of ambition left just as it arrived.

Kentucky found its footing again and returned to running the offense through Tshiebwe. The Wildcat big commanded both the paint and Castleton for all 40 minutes, rebounding misses and cashing in numerous second-chance baskets.

Castleton said that Tshiebwe is one of the best centers in the country and highlights the importance of second-chance points.

“[Rebounds are] everything. Extra possessions, extra time in a game and more opportunity to score the ball,” Castleton said. “Usually, we get to fly around the rim, so it's just like a shot put or like a volleyball tap. [Tshiebwe] does a good job of that. He’s probably the best rebounder I’ve ever played against.”

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The 22-21 score would be the game’s slimmest margin. The conference rivals traded haymakers before heading to the locker room, but Kentucky would reenter Rupp Arena with newfound energy while Florida forgot to refuel its gas tank.

The Wildcats launched a 14-6 run while keeping the pressure down low, making it impossible for Florida rebounders to outreach the everlasting grasp of Tshwiebe. A win over Kentucky became a daydream, but Florida would find small embers of momentum with more 3-point makes from Penn State transfer Myreon Jones late in the game.

Guard Tyree Appleby had to check out of the game early in the first half with a right-leg injury. The junior returned sparingly in the second half, but mostly kept his knee on ice as the game began to extend out of reach.

Castleton said post-game that Appleby is one of the toughest players he’s competed with and Appleby chose to fight through the injury.

Florida continues a two-game road trip with a venture to College Station, Texas, to take on the Texas A&M Aggies Tuesday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. and will broadcast to the SEC Network. 

Contact Jesse Richardson at jrichardson@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @JesseRich352.


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