Florida upends No. 2 Tennessee 67-54 behind Colin Castleton

Florida upends No. 2 Tennessee 67-54 behind Colin Castleton

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Colin Castleton is used to being double-teamed every time he touches the ball, so he was pleasantly surprised — maybe even downright stunned — when Tennessee opted to keep him with just one defender in second period.

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

He did. Castleton scored 20 points, including 16 in the second half, and Florida toppled the second-place Volunteers 67-54 on Wednesday night.

Kyle Lofton added 14 points for the Gators, which gave coach Todd Golden his most important victory in his first season in Gainesville. It was Florida’s second Quad 1 victory in the past two weeks.

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

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

Tennessee (18-4, 7-2 Southeastern Conference) seemed to have taken control midway through the second half. They edged Florida by 10 points early on to take a six-point lead.

But the Gators (13-9, 6-3) stormed behind Castleton, who scored 11 of 14 points as Florida rallied. The elder had a dunk, two free throws, a three-pointer, a layup and a short jumper – essentially putting the team on their backs on the stretch.

“They got small and I felt like I had a lag,” Castleton said.

Myreon Jones and Will Richard had nine points apiece for the Gators.

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

The Gators were red-hot going into the game, making six of their first eight shots — including all three 3-pointers — while building a 17-4 advantage. But they quickly cooled against the best defense in the nation, missing nine of their next 11 as Tennessee cut the score to 22-21.

The Vols took him out of the locker room, Ziegler getting into the paint and shaking things up. But that was short-lived – thanks mainly to Castleton.

“We gave them a chance to start believing in what they’re doing, and they took it,” Barnes said.


Tennessee will surely drop a few spots in next week’s 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 top defense. Tennessee had held four of its first eight SEC opponents scoreless in the first media timeout, about the first four minutes of games. It was a sign of things to come.

“We kept fighting uphill all night,” Barnes said.

Florida: The Gators are two games away from the toughest part of their season. After a loss at Kansas State, they next have road games against Kentucky and Alabama. So 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 were able to scratch and fight.


Football coach Billy Napier watched the game from a few rows behind the Florida bench alongside his two sons and wide receiver Ricky Pearsall. Former Florida tennis star Ben Shelton, the 2022 NCAA singles champion, was also in attendance. So did 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 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

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