No. 24 Florida 81, UWM 45: Panthers have no answers for the bigger, better Gators

Todd Rosiak
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Florida forward Colin Castleton blocks the shot of UW-Milwaukee guard Patrick Baldwin Jr. during the first half Thursday night.

Eager to test themselves against top-notch competition, the UW-Milwaukee Panthers emerged from their matchup at No. 24 Florida on Thursday night a humbled squad.

They had no answer for the Gators' size and athleticism on either end of the court and ultimately suffered a 81-45 demolition at Exactech Arena in Gainesville, Florida.

"Just a black-and-blue game, and we took all the hits," coach Pat Baldwin said. "I don't think they're more athletic. I think they're tougher right now. That's plain and simple.

"We had some guys that really tried to fight out there and stick their nose in things. But we need more guys to do that, and I think this group will."

UWM (1-2) was outscored, 40-26, in the paint and surrendered 46 rebounds – including 11 on Florida's offensive end – but it was a span of 11 minutes 28 seconds without a field goal in the second half that turned an 11-point halftime deficit into a blowout.

Patrick Baldwin Jr. scored a team-high 13 points while Markeith Browning II added 11 for the Panthers, who shot 31% and hit just 2 three-pointers.

UWM did get guard Jordan Lathon back after a one-game injury absence but Donovan Newby played the lion's share of minutes at the point.

Forward Tafari Simms was out for a second straight game with a groin injury, with Baldwin starting Moses Bol at center while also cycling through Joey St. Pierre and Samba Kane in an attempt to compete with Florida in the paint.

But the Gators out-rebounded the Panthers, 24-16, in the opening half while scoring 24 of their 33 points in the paint on a variety of drives, dunks and putbacks.

UWM guard Donovan Newby directs the offense while guarded by Florida guard Tyree Appleby during the first half Thursday night. Newby played most of the game at the point as Jordan Lathon eased back in after a one-game injury absence.

Colin Castleton, a 6-foot-11 transfer from Michigan, led all scorers in the first half with 10 points while Baldwin had eight points on 4-for-10 shooting (0 for 3 from beyond the arc) to go along with three rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

Baldwin also capped the first half in style, plucking a Florida pass off at midcourt, driving to the basket, going around the back to avoid a steal attempt and scoring on a reverse layup at the buzzer to send UWM into the locker room down, 33-22.

He was playing in front of representatives from 22 NBA teams – Florida issued 39 credentials in all to scouts – with the Gators also boasting a number of potential prospects.

Baldwin also opened his second half with a nice move, driving to his left for a layup.

But it was sandwiched between Florida threes, and those were followed by consecutive dunks as the Gators began to smell blood.

Those were followed by Castleton dunks on consecutive possessions – giving Florida seven dunks to that point – to continue what had grown into a 14-2 run.

That layup by Baldwin, in fact, stood at UWM's lone second-half field goal until Newby drained a long three from the top of the key with 7:47 remaining, a span of 11:28 without a basket for the Panthers.

"I think one thing compounds another," the elder Baldwin said. "We had some shot-clock violations, we had some turnovers, we had some missed shots and they got out in transition and then started making some threes.

"Whenever you're on the road and you're playing a team that as good and physical as Florida, if you don't take care of the ball, if you're not tough on the offensive end and run good offense, it's going to be a long night.

"We didn't have any semblance of offense in the second half."

Things grew much uglier from there. Florida had opened up a 39-point lead on its sixth three-pointer of the half at the 7:33 mark.

To the Panthers' credit, they showed some fight by scoring 12 straight points to keep the final score from growing to an embarrassing level.

Four Gators finished in double figures, with Castleton leading the way with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Baldwin Jr. hit 6 of 15 shots overall, didn't hit a three, split a pair of free throws and didn't tack any rebounds, assists or steals onto his first-half totals in 34 minutes. He had registered double-doubles in each of his first two games, a win at North Dakota and loss at home to Eastern Kentucky.

"I think he's shown in the last few games with his rebounding that he definitely needs to stick his nose in there and make some of those tough plays," Baldwin said. "Then on offense, he has to make tough plays, too, when his number is called and he has those opportunities.

"He's two baskets away from being 50% from the field, but we need a little bit more than that. He had some open looks; he needs to knock them down and be aggressive.

"We need to get him better. I need to help him get some easier looks, and I need to do the same thing for DeAndre (Gholston) and Josh (Thomas) and make life easier."