Instant Analysis: Golden era off to a fast start

Nov 7, 2022 | 1 comment

The “Golden era” got off to a hot start Monday night, as the Gators rallied through Stony Brook 81-45 in the O-Dome.

Inside the Gators’ Instant Analysis takes a quick look at how the game unfolded.

IT WAS OVER WHEN: Castleton won the opening tip. With all due respect to Stony Brook, a team who actually came in and played hard basketball for a full 40 minutes, this was Florida’s game to lose. The talent gap was far too clear not to notice once we got a few minutes in. Credit to the Gators for coming in, not taking them lightly, and executing. But it’s going to take a higher quality win in the “Golden era” before anyone can start anointing this team anything.

THEY STOLE THE SHOW: Alex Fudge, the second-year transfer from LSU, finished with 16 points on 50% from the field and 50% from 3. It wasn’t just the stat-line though. So much of his performance, tonight was in energy and body language. It felt like every time I looked at him he wore an ear-to-ear grin. He’s a guy who just loves to have fun out there, who you can tell genuinely loves playing this sport.

Now, tonight, that worked out just fine. How he responds will be something to watch for, however, when the Gators play better competition and adversity hits.

THESE STATS DON’T LIE: Colin Castleton finished with 4 blocks and 1 steal on the night. Florida is going to get great perimeter defense out of guys like Kyle Lofton, Will Richard and Kowacie Reeves all season. If Castleton can build off of tonight’s dominant defensive performance down low and continue to be a tour de force there, the Gators may just be able to have one of the best defenses in the country. It’s tough to tell anything for certain after just one game against an inferior opponent, but it’s pretty clear that the pieces are all there.

THIS MATCHUP PROVED KEY: CJ Felder vs. Alex Fudge. I hate to make this a Gator vs. Gator, but no Seawolf lived up to be a “key matchup” against anyone on Florida’s roster. Plus, Felder-Fudge will be interesting to watch as it continues to play out.

Coming into the opener, the starting lineup was presumed to be locked in for 4 out of 5 of the spots. The one in question was who would line up next to Castleton in the frontcourt, with Felder and Fudge in the mix. Felder is the returner, the hustler, the get-on-the-ball-and-grab-a-loose-ball guy. Fudge is the newcomer, the rawer talent – the lower-floor-but-higher-ceiling guy.

Felder drew the start, to the surprise of some (myself included) – and he came out with fire. Through the first few minutes of the game, he was the Gators’ most impactful player on the court. It won’t show in the box score, but he racked up a number of hustle stats with tip-outs on offensive rebounds and solid screens for his guards.

Once Fudge entered the game though, the night became his. As aforementioned, he finished with a team high 16 points in addition to 3 boards in just 19 minutes.

Both Felder and Fudge clearly provide value for the team in their own unique ways and are deserving of minutes. It’ll be interesting to see how Golden handles the 4-spot going forward.

Besides, there’s nothing like some friendly competition to make guys better.

WHAT A PLAY(S): Fan-favorite Alex Klatsky knocked down a corner 3 with 45.5 seconds left in the game to put the Gators up 79-43, capping off what was a fantastic all-around night for the Gators. After he knocked it down, the O-Dome absolutely erupted, and you could just feel the excitement fans have for this season. Coaches, players and fans alike cheered as Klatsky put the icing on the cake that was Golden’s first career game, and first career win, as head coach of the Florida Gators.

UP NEXT: You can catch episode 2 of the “Golden era” Friday night, as Florida will look to jump out to a 2-0 start on the season hosting Kennesaw State at 7 p.m.

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