Florida vs. Ole Miss, Game Thread: Shorthanded Gators seek success on the road

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The bad news first: In their COVID-rescheduled game against Ole Miss Monday night (7 p.m., streaming via the SEC Network), the Florida Gators men’s basketball team will be without not only Colin Castleton, absent due to a left shoulder injury, but without CJ Felder, who will miss the game with a non-COVID illness.

It makes it a bit more difficult to win over the Rebels in Oxford, no doubt.

But the good news is that the Gators aren’t exactly up against a juggernaut.

Ole Miss is 1-5 in SEC play, and his lone victory came against Mississippi State in a game in which the Rebels made 11 of 23 threes and 53 percent of their twos; when not so hot, they’ve lost to Western Kentucky, Ques Glover-led Florida transfer, Samford, and Missouri – by 25 – this season. Kermit Davis’ group also beat Memphis and Dayton, but they’re not a threat to make the 2022 NCAA Tournament and likely won’t finish in KenPom’s top 100.

All of that makes a loss for the Rebels something the Gators need to avoid, despite their exhaustion — but also something they should be able to avoid.

Key to that is likely to be keeping the Rebels’ bombers – five Ole Miss players have made 19 or more threes on the year, with another at 13 – in check, because there simply isn’t much -something else that scares their attack. And if Florida can sink their own threes against a defense that’s good enough to both prevent and defend threes, they should have the offensive juice to win.

But it will be important to keep Jason Jitoboh and/or Anthony Duruji clear of fouls, and moving the ball for better shots against a Rebels defense that has been permissive inside will likely be the optimal offense for the Gators. And that goes slightly against their tendencies, although they’ve been pretty good at picking shots without Castleton to suck up a huge percentage of attempts.

It won’t be easy, but Florida should have enough to put out a close game.

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