Florida upends No. 2 Tennessee 67-54

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Colin Castleton is accustomed to double-collaborating every time he touches the ball, so he was pleasantly surprised — perhaps even downright stunned — when Tennessee decided to pair him with a lone defenseman in the second half to protect.

“I have to take advantage of that,” Castleton said.

He has. Castleton scored 20 points, 16 of them in the second half, and Florida beat second-place Volunteers 67-54 on Wednesday night.

Kyle Lofton added 14 points for the Gators that gave coach Todd Golden his most significant win in his first season at Gainesville. It was Florida’s second Quad 1 win in the last two weeks.

The Volunteers, playing with their highest ranking in four years, lost for the first time in five games. They had won nine out of 10.

“Our boys are disappointed,” said Tennessee coach Rick Barnes. “We’re better than that, but tonight we weren’t.”

Tennessee (18-4, 7-2 Southeastern Conference) looked like it took control midway through the second half. They beat Florida by 10 points in the early days and led by six points.

But the Gators (13-9, 6-3) stormed back behind Castleton, who scored 11-of-14 as Florida recovered. The senior had a dunk, two free throws, a three-point play, a layup and a short jumper — essentially putting the team on their backs.

“They got small and I felt like I didn’t fit together,” Castleton said.

Myreon Jones and Will Richard each got nine points for the Gators.

Zakai Ziegler led the Vols with 15 points in 6-of-19 shooting. Olivier Nkamhoua added 11 points and nine rebounds for the visitors, who also grabbed 11 points and eight boards from Vescovi Santiago.

The Gators were red hot early in the game, taking six of their first eight shots – including all three from 3-point range – and building a 17-4 lead. But they quickly cooled off against the nation’s best defense, missing nine of their next 11 as Tennessee cut to 22-21.

The Vols had it all coming out of the dressing room and Ziegler got into the paint and made things happen. But it was short-lived — thanks largely to Castleton.

“We gave them a chance to believe in what they were doing and they took it,” Barnes said.


Tennessee is sure to drop a few places in next week’s https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll.


Tennessee: The Volunteers gave up 10 points in the first four minutes of games, a rare slow start for the nation’s best defense. Tennessee had kept four of their first eight SEC opponents scoreless at the first media timeout, roughly the first four minutes of the game. It was a sign for the future.

“We fought uphill all night,” Barnes said.

Florida: The Gators are two games into the toughest part of their season. After losing to Kansas State, their next away games are against Kentucky and Alabama. To say they needed this one would be an understatement.

“It was a game of desperation,” Castleton said. “We have a tough schedule here and we have to win games. We could claw and fight.”


Football coach Billy Napier watched the game from a few rows behind Florida’s bench along with his two sons and receiver Ricky Pearsall. Former Florida tennis star Ben Shelton, the 2022 NCAA singles champion, was also in attendance. Such was former Gators and NFL quarterback Doug Johnson.


Tennessee hosts No. 25 Auburn and former coach Bruce Pearl on Saturday.

Florida plays Kentucky on Saturday. The Gators have lost seven out of eight in the series.


More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/ AP_Top25


Gainesville, Fla.

AP Wire ID 0dc2e551ae5141bd8d75821e65029006

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