The Gators’ leading scorer, graduate student forward Colin Castleton, left the game early in the second half with an injury.
The rest of his team stepped up as five Florida players finished with double-digit points, culminating in a dominant win against the Ole Miss Rebels.
The Florida Gators (14-12, 7-6 SEC) defeated Ole Miss (10-16, 2-11 SEC) 79-64 in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center Wednesday night. The Gators shot an efficient 59% both from the field and from beyond the arc.
Graduate student guard Myreon Jones led UF in scoring with 15 points and five 3-pointers on 5-7 shooting.
Gators graduate student guard Kyle Lofton stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals.
Florida head coach Todd Golden praised Lofton’s performance. The 6-foot-3-inch guard is comfortable handling almost any situation the defense throws at him, he said.
“He’s like the ultimate security blanket out there for a coach,” Golden said.
Lofton kicked the ball out to Jones up top for a wide-open triple for the game’s first points.
The Gators stymied the Rebels offensively and forced Ole Miss to miss its first four shots. Rebels guard Jaemyn Brakefield scored his team’s first points with a 3-pointer, but Jones answered with a three of his own.
Sophomore guard Kowacie Reeves rushed to the rim and threw down a big dunk. Graduate student forward Colin Castleton followed the play with a block on the next possession, but UF failed to capitalize.
The Rebels attempted to cut the lead to one, but Florida sophomore forward Alex Fudge rose up and sent the shot back. Reeves connected on a 3-pointer a few possessions later for his second basket.
Ole Miss went on a nearly three-minute-long scoring drought before Brakefield knocked down a pair of free throws.
The Rebels took a one-point lead after guard Matthew Murrell converted a fast-break dunk to cap off a 7-0 run. Murrell made Ole Miss’ 10th straight point with a corner three. The 3-pointer was the Rebels’ fourth make in a row.
UF sophomore guard Will Richard ended the run with a midrange jumper. Lofton hit a jump shot of his own to tie the game at 19 apiece.
Lofton then found Richard with a bounce pass down low for a dunk. Richard hit a corner 3-pointer in transition to give the Gators the lead again. Florida’s run continued when Lofton threw a lob to freshman guard Riley Kugel for an open layup.
Kugel’s layup finished a 7-0 run and forced an Ole Miss timeout.
Brakefield scored down low to end UF’s run, but Kugel caught a pass from Jones and slammed the ball through the rim on the next play.
Reeves buried a triple as the shot clock expired, and Lofton’s layup got called for goaltending to make it nine straight shots for the Gators. Florida went on a 7-0 run at the end of the first half and led 39-29.
The Rebels missed their last five first-half shots and ended the half on a two-minute-long scoring drought. The Gators finished the first half shooting 67% from the field and held Ole Miss to 32%.
Ole Miss guard Amaree Abram started the second half with a jumper, but Richard answered with a layup. Abram made a layup to cap off an 8-0 Rebels run before Reeves ended it with a layup.
Lofton buried a floater to push the lead back to six. Castleton exited the game at the 15:05 mark of the second half holding his wrist and didn’t return.
Golden thought his team stepped up in a big way after Castleton went down with his injury, he said.
“The fact that we won that game by 15 speaks to the depth and performance of those other guys on the roster,” Golden said.
The team had a next-man-up mentality, Reeves said. Castleton missed part of last season with an injury during Reeve’s freshman season.
“We just had to come together and be more connected,” Reeves said. “That was [the] team’s main focus.”
Reeves lost the ball but quickly recovered it down low. He finished a layup through contact but failed to convert the three-point play.
Ole Miss forward Myles Burns scored on the other end, but he failed to finish off the three-point play. Fudge followed up the Rebels' possession with a 3-pointer.
Lofton missed a three a few possessions later but darted for his own rebound. He found Richard for a layup to stretch the lead back to double digits. Kugel hit a pull-up triple to seal eight-straight Florida points.
The Gators' lead continued to swell after Lofton dished out another lob — this time to Kugel for a dunk. Jones hit a 3-pointer to put Florida up 18.
Lofton ended the Gators' two-minute-long scoring drought with a tough finish down low. Jones buried back-to-back threes to keep UF ahead by double figures in the final minutes.
The game helped Florida get going again from beyond the arc, Richard said.
“Definitely helped us build confidence for the next few games that we have,” he said.
The Gators will head to Fayetteville, Arkansas, for their next game against the Arkansas Razorbacks Saturday. The game will tip off at 2 p.m. and be broadcast on ESPN2.
Contact Jackson Reyes at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JacksnReyes.
Jackson Reyes is a third-year journalism major and one of the assistant sports editors for the Spring 2023 semester. In his free time, he enjoys collecting records, long walks on the beach and tweeting about Caleb Williams.