California and No. 24 Florida meet on the basketball floor for the first time since 1988 when the Golden Bears and Gators duel in the opening round of the four-team Beach Division in the Fort Myers (Fla.) Tip-Off on Monday night.
Seton Hall and No. 19 Ohio State duel earlier in the evening, with the winners and losers of those two games squaring off Wednesday.
Both previous meetings between the Golden Bears (2-2) and Gators (3-0) also took place in tournaments, with Florida doing a majority of the traveling.
Led by one of the school’s best all-time players, guard Kevin Johnson, Cal pulled out an 83-80 win over Florida in the 1986 Rainbow Classic in Honolulu.
The schools were paired again in the 1988 Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage, where the Golden Bears won again, this time 73-58 over the Dwayne Schintzius-led Gators.
Each team is adjusting to a new look this season.
With Tre Mann having jumped to the NBA after leading the Gators to a 15-10 campaign a year ago, Florida has reloaded around four double-figure scorers, led by Colin Castleton at 17.3 points per game.
Castleton had a game-high 19 points when the Gators thumped visiting Milwaukee 81-45 on Thursday night to cap a 3-0 season-opening homestand that included a 71-55 win over Florida State. The senior from the Daytona Beach area had 15 points and a game-high 16 rebounds in the win over the rival Seminoles, who were ranked 20th in the country at the time.
“Colin played with some mismatches there in the second half, which allowed us some scores,” Gators coach Mike White said, “but it also allowed us to attack some close outs. … I thought he was terrific offensively.”
Cal, meanwhile, has struggled in the early going as it attempts to move on from 2021 standout Matt Bradley, who transferred to San Diego State.
Andre Kelly capped a 29-point, 15-rebound double-double with dominant play in the second overtime when the Golden Bears survived against visiting Southern Utah 75-68 Thursday.
Cal coach Mark Fox was brutally honest about the performance afterward.
“Andre had a very productive night,” he assessed, before adding, “I still think he can play a lot better. … We (as a team) have to play a lot better.”
Cal hasn’t faced an SEC team since beating Arkansas 75-64 in the NIT in March 2014.
In 2018, Florida drew Stanford of the Pac-12 in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas and crushed the Cardinal 72-49.
–Field Level Media