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Florida 82, Ohio 48: Gators claw Bobcats in lopsided win

Florida seems to have figured out how to blow out bad teams. That wasn’t always how it seemed this season could go.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Two and a half weeks ago, the Florida men’s basketball team was licking its wounds after a bruising exit from the Phil Knight Legacy tournament at the hands of West Virginia; last week, UConn handed Florida a comprehensive defeat in Gainesville.

But after yet another rout of a team they should have defeated decisively on Wednesday in Tampa, the Gators seem to have at least figured out how to approach that sort of game by licking their chops.

Florida’s 82-48 win over Ohio was never really in doubt. The Gators used a dominant first half — especially defensively — to open up a lead that Ohio would never meaningfully shorten.

After a 9-2 start that lengthened to a 15-6 opening, the Gators went briefly cold, permitting the Bobcats to punch back to 16-10 — then embarked on a 17-0 run over the game’s next six minutes, and punctuated the period with threes from Kyle Lofton and Kowacie Reeves to enter the locker room up 42-18. And Florida’s often spotty perimeter defense was spiffy on this evening, as Ohio made none of its seven first-half threes and only hit three of its 14 for the game.

Alex Fudge and Reeves were the Gators’ co-stars, with Fudge securing a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds wiith an exciting mix of drives, threes, and show-stopping defense and Reeves splashing in four threes off the bench en route to a game-high 20 points.

Lofton (15 points) and Trey Bonham (12) joined Fudge and Reeves in double figures, and that balanced scoring provided yet another strong indication that Florida’s roster is deep enough to weather off nights from some of its stalwarts — in this case, one that featured Colin Castleton (six points, eight rebounds) struggling mightily at the offensive end after scoring the game’s first basket and Will Richard contributing just three points while sinking no threes for the first time as a Gator.

That did not appear to be the case in early November, as Castleton having 30-point outings to barely buoy the Gators seemed like the season’s early theme. Over its last four games, though, Florida hasn’t gotten any more than 12 points from Castleton — and it has wins by 40, 39, and 34, albeit over overmatched squads.

The next step for Todd Golden’s Gators is obviously translating this level of performance to a game against a higher caliber of opponent, something Florida will get another crack at in a week’s time when it meets Oklahoma in the Jumpman Invitational.

But getting here from where the Gators were in the season’s dawning days is progress.