Florida upends No. 2 Tennessee 67-54 behind Colin Castleton
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Colin Castleton had 20 points and nine rebounds, Kyle Lofton added 14 points and Florida used a 13-0 run late in the second half to upend No. 2 Tennessee 67-54 on Wednesday night.
The Volunteers, playing with their highest ranking in four years, lost for the first time in five games. They had won nine of 10.
Tennessee (18-4, 7-2 Southeastern Conference) looked like it had taken control midway through the second half. They outscored Florida by 10 points in the early going to take a six-point lead.
But the Gators (13-9, 6-3) stormed back behind Castleton, who scored 11 of 14 points as Florida rallied. The senior had a dunk, two free throws, a three-point play, a layup and a short jumper — essentially putting the team on his back down the stretch.
Myreon Jones and Will Richard chipped in 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 vistors, who also got 11 points and eight boards from Vescovi Santiago.
Florida led 27-21 at halftime, just the fifth time the Volunteers has trailed at the break this season. Tennessee rallied to win three of the previous four.
The Gators were red hot to start, making six of their first eight shots — including all three from 3-point range — while building a 17-4 advantage. But they quickly cooled against the nation’s best defense, missing nine of their next 11 as Tennessee made cut it to 22-21.
The Vols had it going coming out of the locker room, with Ziegler getting into the paint and making things happen. But it was short-lived — thanks mostly to Castleton.
Tennessee surely will drop a few spots in next week’s AP Top 25 college basketball poll.
Tennessee: The Volunteers gave up 10 points in the opening four minutes of the games, a rare sluggish start for the nation’s best defense. Tennessee had held four of its first eight SEC opponents scoreless at the first media timeout, roughly the first four minutes of games. It was a sign of things to come.
Florida: The Gators have been resilient much of the season, and this was arguably the most impressive comeback of the season for coach Todd Golden’s team. The Gators squandered a 13-point lead early and a six-point advantage in the second half. But they rallied when it mattered.
IN THE HOUSE
Football coach Billy Napier watched the game from a few rows behind Florida’s bench alongside his two sons and receiver Ricky Pearsall. Former Florida tennis star Ben Shelton, the NCAA singles champion in 2022, also was in attendance. So was former Gators and NFL quarterback Doug Johnson.
Tennessee hosts No. 25 Auburn and former coach Bruce Pearl on Saturday.
Florida plays at 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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