Fifth-year forward Colin Castleton was nearly absent as the West Virginia Mountaineers blew out the Gators. His struggles were consistent with the team.
Florida men’s basketball struggled in the first half. The Gators constantly fouled the Mountaineers, couldn’t shoot from behind or inside the 3-point line and failed to rebound the ball.
A 21-point scoring difference in the second half gave West Virginia a 84-55 win, and Florida suffered its largest loss of the season.
The Gators made their first three shots of the game. The Mountaineers won the tip, but a steal and fastbreak slam by sophomore Will Richard put Florida on the scoreboard first.
He followed up the two-way play with a 3-pointer, and senior CJ Felder’s layup put the Gators on top, 7-5. However, a run by West Virginia and an influx of Florida fouls gave West Virginia a convincing lead.
West Virginia fifth-year Erik Stevenson took the game into his hands as momentum switched to the Mountaineers. A jumper by Stevenson brought his team within one, and a basket by senior Jimmy Bell Jr. put them out front of the Gators.
Stevenson hit a three and his team led, 12-8. After a few possessions by each team, the Mountaineers held a 16-12 lead. Foul trouble for the Gators got serious after a charge by freshman Riley Kugel and a loose-ball foul by Castleton put West Virginia in the bonus.
The senior got pulled from the game with two fouls, and the Mountaineers went on a 10-1 lead to double the Gators’ score, 26-13. Florida’s biggest deficit of the first half was 16 points, and it struggled to get going on defense, while not being able to stop West Virginia’s offense.
The Gators started clicking and gave the Mountaineers trouble as the first half came to a close. Down 37-21 with 5:24 in the half, Florida went on a 12-4 run to trail by eight going into the break.
The team’s combined 25 fouls — Florida had 14 and West Virginia had 11 — put the teams at the line frequently. The Mountaineers connected on 11 of its 13 shots from the charity stripe, and Florida made 10 with the same number of attempts.
Free throws were a main source of scoring; both teams struggled shooting from the field. Florida shot better at 40.8%, but couldn’t score from long distance. The Gators went 1-8 from 3-point range, while the Mountaineers made one more shot in one less attempt.
Castleton was a non-factor after tallying two early fouls and taking a seat on the bench. West Virginia had its way on the glass without the big man’s presence. The Mountaineers 22 rebounds showed up the Gators’ total of 14.
Florida Graduate student Kyle Lofton and West Virginia senior Tre Mitchell led their teams in scoring, each with 11. Lofton also had three assists as he was the main source of scoring from the field for the Gators.
As the second half came underway.the Mountaineers stayed hot, and the Gators couldn’t put the ball through the net. West Virginia scored 20 points in the second half before Florida made its second basket.
Matthews made a triple for the Mountaineers, and UF sophomore Alex Fudge responded with a three of his own. His make was the Gators’ second made 3-pointer of the game in 12 attempts.
The team’s struggles continued, and Castleton couldn’t get going. He was fouled by Bell, but he couldn’t make either free throw. A few possessions later, he was called for his fourth foul.
Castleton was racking up fouls, not points. Senior Jason Jitoboh gave a spark off the bench in his time filling in for Castleton. A floater by the goggle-wearing center gave Florida its 10th and 11th points and brought his points total to eight.
Castleton’s only field goal of the game came with five minutes left in the game. He and the Gators never caught fire, and the team suffered its biggest loss of the season. Castleton finished the game with three points, five rebounds, three turnovers and four fouls.
The Mountaineers outscored the Gators in the second half by 21 points on the way to their 29-point victory. The problems Florida had in the first half were never fixed.
The team 1-8 from 3-point range in both halves, finishing 2-16. Florida’s field goal percentage went down to 35.1%, and West Virginia’s went up to 43.3%.
The Gators never found a way to turn around their rebounding issues. They were doubled in the category, as they had only 22 boards compared to the Mountaineers’ 44.
Florida had trouble finding open players and knocking down its shots. UF had seven total assists, with four coming from Lofton, who was Florida’s bright spot.
He led the team with his 17 points and efforts passing the ball. No other player cracked double digits; Richard and Jitoboh scored eight points each.
Both teams kept taking trips to the free-throw line, but Florida struggled to take advantage of these opportunities. It made three of nine attempts in the second half, totaling 59.1% from the line.
The Gators’ next game comes when they return to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center to play the Florida A&M Rattlers Wednesday at 8 p.m.
Kyle Bumpers is a fourth-year journalism major and the sports editor of The Alligator. In his free time, he cries about Russell Wilson and writes an outrageous amount of movie reviews on Letterboxd.