Entering the first media timeout of the Florida Gators’ matchup against the No. 5 Connecticut Huskies Wednesday night, head coach Todd Golden and the Gators were down just 7-5 and had been trading leads with an undefeated UConn.
The Florida faithful in attendance were on their feet as the noise shook the walls of the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
From that early break, UF began to slowly unravel, ending in a 21 point loss that dug in like a dull knife.
Florida (6-4) fell to UConn (10-0) 75-54 in what ended up a blowout loss for the Gators. Star fifth-year forward Colin Castleton recorded just 12 points on 4-14 shooting in the loss. “We gotta stick to the basics and what we know, and we let that slide,” Fudge said.
After trading a handful of empty possessions, sophomore Kowacie Reeves opened up the game’s scoring with a tightly contested fadeaway. Huskies forward Adama Sanogo, who leads his team with 18.7 points per game entering Wednesday’s contest, responded right away with a bucket at the other end.
Freshman Riley Kugel started hot from distance, sinking his first 3-pointer to give Florida an early 5-3 lead. The Huskies continued to attack inside as the lead went back and forth.
Castleton struggled out of the gate offensively, failing to score in his first four attempts. The staunch defense of Sanogo and freshman Donovan Clingan secured the paint for the Huskies.
UConn went on a three-minute, 7-0 run to take a 16-6 lead with just less than 12 minutes remaining in the first half. The Huskies took advantage of three UF turnovers during that stretch. A media timeout at the 11:18 mark gave the Gators a much needed breather.
Castleton found his first bucket over Sanogo to cut the lead down to 20-13 with more than eight minutes left in the half. Florida had held UConn to just one basket on its last seven attempts, but it still struggled to close the gap.
A foul called on sophomore guard Will Richard contesting a 3-point shot helped make it a 25-15 UConn lead with less than five minutes to go till halftime. The crowd and Golden had animated reactions to the call.
As the half closed the Gators took one step forward, only to watch the Huskies take two. An Alex Fudge layup was met with a basket on the other end, and a block on Castleton the next possession.
The most Florida could manage by half was a 13-point deficit, 36-23. UF was destroyed on the glass through 20 minutes, being outrebounded by the Huskies 26-15. Castleton couldn’t buy a bucket, going 1-9 from the field.
Florida came out refreshed on offense and attacked the paint, including two slams from Fudge. The Gators still found themselves facing a 42-31 deficit at the 16:00 media timeout.
Florida had an opportunity to bring the game within single digits after a 3-pointer from Reeves, but gave up possession empty handed and allowed a three on the other end. UConn called timeout up 49-36 with 12:13 remaining.
Despite the late surge, Florida could never bring the lead back to single digits, and slowly deflated as the buzzer sounded in its fourth loss in the first ten games of the season.
“At the end of the day, against a team like UConn, you just gotta make some shots,” Golden said.
After a week off, Florida returns to action at Amalie Arena in Tampa against the Ohio Bobcats. The game on Dec. 14 tips off at 7 p.m. and will broadcast on ESPN2.
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.