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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Gators men’s basketball seeks first conference win against former head coach

Mike White and surging Bulldogs play Gators Saturday

<p>Florida guard Trey Bonham throws a pass in the Gators&#x27; loss to the Connecticut Huskies Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022.</p>

Florida guard Trey Bonham throws a pass in the Gators' loss to the Connecticut Huskies Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022.

The Florida Gators men’s basketball team will try to avoid falling to 0-3 to start Southeastern Conference play in back-to-back seasons Saturday. The Gators will take on former Florida head coach Mike White and the Georgia Bulldogs.

The Gators (7-7, 0-2 SEC) will look to end their three-game losing streak against a hot Bulldogs team (11-3, 1-0 SEC) that has won its last four games. Georgia most recently picked up a 12-point win over the No. 22 Auburn Tigers Wednesday. 

White has already turned the Bulldogs around in his first season. UGA won just six games in the 2021-22 season and could double its win total with a victory over Florida. 

In seven seasons with the Gators, White finished with an 11-3 record against his current team, Georgia. The game Saturday will be his first time back in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center since he left to fill the Georgia coaching vacancy March 13.  

“It’s gonna be like any other game,” UF graduate student forward Colin Castleton said.

Castleton played two seasons with White and was a key player on his teams. The 6-foot-11-inch forward is currently leading the Gators in scoring with 14.9 points per game and ranks second in the SEC with 2.7 blocks per game. 

“We gotta win,” Castleton said. “That’s the bottom line.” 

Junior guard Trey Bonham will also need to be a key contributor in order for Florida to get its first SEC win. Bonham is averaging 10.9 points per game and finished with 21 points in the Gators’ loss to Texas A&M Wednesday night. 

Bonham transferred to UF from Virginia Military Institute as a part of the wave of new additions by first-year Florida head coach Todd Golden. It’s going to be fun to see his teammates go up against their old coach, Bonham said.

Playing smarter and keeping emotions in check will be key to beating Georgia, Bonham said. He and his teammates are playing with energy, but they have to make sure it doesn’t result in fouls that could cost his team the win, he said.

In their previous game against Texas A&M, the Gators struggled to stay out of foul trouble. UF sophomore forward Alex Fudge fouled out of the game, and four other Gators finished with three or more fouls.

While seeing their former head coach may give some of the players extra motivation, Golden’s main focus is on Florida’s preparation, he said. 

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“Obviously, there is a little bit of a relationship there for some of our guys,” Golden said. “We just got to come out and be ready to play.” 

Georgia senior guard Terry Roberts will likely be a major factor in the Bulldogs’ game plan. He leads the team in scoring and assists with 15 points and 4.2 assists per game — which ranks second in the SEC. 

Roberts took a visit with Florida in the off-season but ultimately chose Georgia and has become an impactful player on their roster. He could be the deciding factor in Saturday’s game. 

Junior guard Kario Oquendo is averaging 14.5 points per game and is shooting 36% from beyond the arc. He initially entered the transfer portal in the 2022 offseason but withdrew to play for White. 

The Gators have won six straight games against Georgia and will look to extend its winning streak to seven after Saturday’s game. 

The game will be at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and will be broadcast on SEC Network. 

Contact Jackson Reyes at Follow him on Twitter @JacksnReyes.

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Jackson Reyes

Jackson Reyes is a UF journalism senior and The Alligator's Fall 2023 Sports Editor. He previously served as Digital Managing Editor and was a reporter and assistant editor on the sports desk. In his free time, he enjoys collecting records, long walks on the beach and watching Bo Nix.

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