FINAL: Florida 81, South Carolina 60

WHAT HAPPENED: Fifth-year senior forward colin castle scored 18 points to lead five Florida players to double-digit scores as the Gators crushed visiting South Carolina 81-60 for their largest Southeastern Conference win of the season Wednesday night at Exactech Arena/O’Connell Center. In what was his best overall offensive performance to date, the Gators also earned a career-high 14 points from him, from the rookie guard. riley kugel13 wing kowacie reeves and 10 each of the guards Richard Y kyle loftonbut i was fifth year Myreon Joneswho Not reached double figures, which posted by far the best stat line of the night. Jones had nine points and a career-high 10 rebounds and eight assists. no billing, failing to become the fourth player in UF history to achieve a triple-double. The win was UF’s fifth in the last six games and was much-needed given the brutal paddle wheeling of the games ahead (read on). Unlike previous home games, the Gators didn’t start slow, but it was still a anybody’s game early in the second half, with UF leading by just six. The Gators, however, used a 12-2 run early in the period to push the lead to 16 before the first media timeout, then jumped for 20 after another run of nine straight points a few minutes later, and they went home from there. Castleton dominated the Gamecocks up front, making seven of his 10 field goal attempts and getting to the free throw line to make four of five. He also had three rebounds, three assists and four blocks. Florida shot 47 percent in the game (with a season-high 21 assists) and was well above 60 percent in the second half, and advancing by 30, when the Gators began to empty their bench. The Gamecocks were held to 36.7 percent overnight, marking a seventh game in eight SEC outings in which the UF has held an opponent below 40 percent, though they won the battle of the 45-boards. -36. USC was led by freshman forward Grady “GG” Jackson IIthe projected NBA lottery pick, who posted game-highs of 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Fifth Year Forward colin castle he throws a dunk to start Wednesday night’s game against the Gamecocks.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: The Gators were ranked 44th going into Wednesday’s kickoff and therefore had the sixth-best NCAA Assessment Tool (NET) rating in the SEC, which seems to be improving a bit. They remain tied for fifth in the league standings with Kentucky, but are about to embark on one of the toughest stretches of games in program history, with three of the next four coming against ranked opponents in the Associated Press Top 5. The next two weeks, with three of four on the road against some true powerhouses, will have a major hand in determining where this season (and postseason) ends up.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: We’ll be in touch with Jones shortly. In the meantime, let’s say hello to the senior center jason jitobohwho was called up for extended playing time from as a sophomore forward Alex Fudge He left Saturday’s win at Mississippi State eight seconds into the second half after a nasty collision trying to get a load out. This time, Jitoboh had to spell out Castleton, who had foul trouble in the first half, and played nine minutes in the first half to give his team a bridge into the second half. The 6-foot-11, 300-pound player finished with five points and two rebounds in 15 minutes before fouling out long after the game had been decided.

AMAZING STATISTICS: Jones came awfully close to joining corey brewer, nick calathes Y Chris Chiozza as the only players in Florida basketball history to record triple doubles. Jones has 25 assists and just three turnovers in SEC play and now has a 63+ floor ratio over the past six games.

UNTIL NEXT TIME: Florida (12-8, 5-3) joins 11 other teams in the league by exiting conference Saturday for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The Gators, of course, will be sent to Manhattan, Kansas, to take on fifth-ranked Kansas State (17-3, 6-2) in what appears to be an emotional reunion with the former standout forward. Keyontae Johnsonwhose plight at UF has been well documented and will be back in the run up to this one.

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