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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Castleton posts career game as Gators defeat Kennesaw State

Florida finishes its opening week 2-0 following a victory over the Owls

Florida forward Colin Castleton — pictured during the Gators' game against Stony Brook Monday, Nov. 7, 2022 — scored a career-high 33 points versus Kennesaw State Friday night.
Florida forward Colin Castleton — pictured during the Gators' game against Stony Brook Monday, Nov. 7, 2022 — scored a career-high 33 points versus Kennesaw State Friday night.

Basketball can be a lot like Algebra. Within every equation, there’s specific components that all interact in different ways. Solving the equation is more about these components than the overall product. 

Similarly, basketball lineups are composed of individual players who present unique challenges. 

Overcoming another team means facing these individual challenges and finding a solution for each one. Sometimes in basketball, solving problems can be quite complicated. Other times, the solution is as simple as having a player like Colin Castleton on your team. 

Florida (2-0) defeated Kennesaw State (1-1) 88-78 inside the Stephen C. O'Connell Center Friday night. The fifth-year star was the solution for all the Gators’ problems, putting up a career-high 33 points as UF dominated its competitor. 

“As a team, I feel like we imposed our will in the paint,” Castleton said. 

The game began about as scrappy as it possibly could.  Both sides crashed the glass and clogged passing lanes, leading to an opening stretch of chaotic basketball. The two squads combined for just 10 points in the first five minutes of playing time. Meanwhile, they combined for six fouls and three blocks during that same time.

Kennesaw State was able to take an early 12-8 lead thanks to a couple foul shots and a basket in transition by senior Alex Peterson. Florida head coach Todd Golden opted to pair his second unit with Castleton in an attempt to jumpstart his offense.

Following a transition slam from freshman Riley Kugel and a tough shot plus the foul for Castleton, UF entered the first TV timeout. The Gators were up three, 15-12, with momentum and the O’Dome crowd behind them. 

Florida continued to dominate in transition, sparking a 13-2 run headed into the five minute mark of the first half. The Gators finished the first half with four forced turnovers. 

Kennesaw State made efforts to replenish its momentum, but the Gators continued to run two steps ahead of the Owls. KSU broke UF’s run after making three consecutive field goals, before Florida flipped the script again with a thundering slam and a steal by forward CJ Felder. On the fast break, the senior was fouled. He made both shots to make it a 36-32 Florida lead with 3:24 to go in the first half. 

At the end of the first half, Florida led 44-34 over Kennesaw State. The Owls came out of the gate fast, but struggled over time as each team settled into its halfcourt offense. Castleton dominated the game thus far with 19 points in the first half. UF entered the locker room looking to maintain its lead as Kennesaw State looked to recreate its earlier momentum. 

Florida was put into a troubling position early on in the second half. Four-straight Gators fouls led to the Owls cutting the lead down to eight points with 12 minutes remaining. However, immediately following the sequence, Castleton trotted up the floor and reached the rim with ease for the basket and the foul. The standout big man had no intention of letting the lead go. 

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“We didn’t think they had a guy who could bother Colin enough,” Golden said. 

After the small flash of life from Kennesaw State, it was all Castleton and the Gators. He tacked on 14 more points in the second half to eclipse his career high and added two timely steals to boot as Florida ran off with the 10-point victory. 

Golden and the Gators finished their first week under the first-year coach with a 2-0 record. Next week the schedule ramps up just a bit. Florida will face a couple of in-state opponents, taking on Florida Atlantic Nov. 14 and Florida State Nov. 18. 

The Gators tip off at home against FAU at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network. 

Contact Jackson Castellano at Follow him on Twitter @jaxacastellano.

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Jackson Castellano

Jackson Castellano is a junior sports media journalism student at UF and the Senior News Director at The Alligator for Fall 2023. In the past, he's served as the Sports Editor, Assistant Sports Editor and a Sports Reporter covering Football, Men's basketball and Baseball.

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