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Florida 81, Oregon State 68: Gators dominate Beavers in Portland

Florida built a big early lead and never looked back.

NCAA Basketball: Oregon State at Florida Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Florida’s Thursday loss to Xavier in the Phil Knight Legacy was a game punctuated by a handful of puncturing Musketeers runs.

On Friday, Florida responded to that loss with an early run that put Oregon State on its back foot — and fended off the Beavers’ attempts to make runs back into contention — in an 81-68 win.

Trey Bonham was once again Florida’s spark, scoring 19 points with the aid of three threes and dishing three assists; his emergence as Florida’s leading scorer in Portland, after a relatively anonymous first few games and a game-swinging stint off the bench at Florida State, is probably the biggest development of the tournament for the Gators.

And if Bonham can help stake Florida to more early leads like the ones they earned on Friday — 9-0, 17-2, 22-4, and 31-9 were among the states in the first 12 minutes of the first half — then he might well remain in the Gators’ starting lineup for a whole lot longer.

But regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench, his scoring punch is something that Todd Golden has to be relishing, especially with Colin Castleton (12 points, six boards) having a second straight subpar game, this one thanks again to physical defense underneath like Xavier presented but also to foul trouble that led to Florida’s All-American candidate playing an unusual-only-for-him 28 minutes and attempting just six shots.

And Florida’s balance on this day — five other Gators scored at least seven points, with Will Richard (13 points) and Riley Kugel (10 points off the bench) also hitting significant shots — suggests that it may not only go as Castleton does, something that was very much in doubt after his heavy lifting in the first two weeks of the season.

Oregon State, to its credit, clipped points off of a Florida lead that expanded to as many as 23 points in the first half, and trailed by the same margin at halftime as it did at game’s end. But it only ever got as close as 11 points in the second half — and that took a three with under two minutes to play.

Florida’s win advances it to the fifth-place game of the Legacy, where it will meet West Virginia, winner of a losers’ bracket game with Portland State earlier on Friday.