Florida Gators up slightly in new top 25 polls

The 12th editions of the 2011-12 regular season USA Today/ESPN and Associated Press Top 25 Polls were released on Monday, and the Kentucky Wildcats (19-1, 5-0 SEC) held on to the No. 1 spot in both rankings, receiving the vast majority of votes as the top team in the country.

The Florida Gators rose a few spots to No. 11 and No. 12 in the respective polls on the heels of consecutive victories one the road at Ole Miss and at home against a ranked Mississippi State team. Florida is one of three/four Southeastern Conference teams listed in both rankings.

The Gators also earned a league award for the first time in weeks with freshman guard Bradley Beal picking up SEC Freshman of the Week honors after shooting 62.5 percent and averaging 14 points, three rebounds and 2.5 assists in a pair of games on Thursday and Saturday. Beal scored a game-high 19 points and hit three of his four attempts from beyond the arc to lead Florida past MSU on Saturday.

WeekGator BaitRecordAP Top 25USA TodayNCAA RPI
Preseason--No. 7 (1,153)No. 7 (568)-
2W 68-45 vs. William & Mary1-0No. 8 (1,127)No. 7 (560)-
3L 69-67 vs. Miami
W(OT) 61-56 vs. ULM
2-1No. 18 (467)No. 16 (303)-
4L(OT) 65-66 vs. Georgetown
W 56-47 vs. UAB
L 64-75 vs. North Carolina
3-3NR (40)No. 24 (60)-

USA TODAY/ESPN COACHES POLL
This Week 1-5: Kentucky (31), Syracuse, Ohio State, Missouri, Duke
6-10: Baylor/North Carolina, Kansas, Murray State, Michigan State
11-15: Florida, Creighton, UNLV, Georgetown, Marquette
16-20: St. Mary’s, San Diego State, Virginia, Mississippi State, Indiana/Wisconsin
22-25: Michigan, Harvard, Florida State, Louisville

Last Week 1-5: Syracuse (31), Kentucky, Baylor, Duke, Missouri
6-10: Ohio State, Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan State, Murray State
11-15: Connecticut, Georgetown, Indiana, Florida, Mississippi State
16-20: San Diego State, Virginia, Creighton, Michigan, UNLV
21-25: Louisville, Marquette, Saint Mary’s, Harvard, Illinois

ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL
This Week 1-5: Kentucky (63), Syracuse (2), Ohio State, Missouri, North Carolina
6-10: Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Michigan State, Murray State
11-15: UNLV, Florida, Creighton, Georgetown, Marquette
16-20: Virginia, San Diego State, St. Mary’s, Wisconsin, Indiana
21-25: Florida State, Mississippi State, Michigan, Gonzaga, Vanderbilt

Last Week 1-5: Kentucky (61), Missouri (2), Syracuse (2), Ohio State, Kansas
6-10: Baylor, North Carolina, Duke, Georgetown, Michigan State
11-15: Murray State, UNLV, San Diego State, Florida, Creighton
16-20: Indiana, Marquette, Mississippi State, Virginia, Michigan
21-25: St. Mary’s, Kansas State, Florida State, Connecticut, Wisconsin

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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1/28: Florida vs. Mississippi St. post-game notes

The No. 13/14 Florida Gators earned another solid victory on Saturday by defeating the No. 16/18 Mississippi State Bulldogs 69-57 at home and winning their 17th consecutive game at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. With sophomore center Patric Young (ankle) again out of the starting lineup and Florida set for two games in three days next week, head coach Billy Donovan had plenty to talk about after the win.

YOUNG, BOYNTON ADJUSTING WELL TO TWEAKED ROLES

Though neither player has been asked to change their game, Young and junior guard Kenny Boynton have each had some adjusting to do since SEC play began.

Young, who has come off the bench the last four games mostly due to ankle tendinitis that has been bothering him, has had no problem whatsoever with the transition and said he will do it from now on if Donovan feels it is best. “Whatever Coach Donovan wants to do I’m 100 percent happy with it. If he wants me to come off the bench for the rest of the year, I would do it for the team,” he said after Saturday’s game.

Donovan discussed how the subject was broached to Young Friday evening and reiterated his player’s comments. “Pat’s fine. I went to Pat last night and I said to him, ‘You tell me where you’re at mentally. Do you want to start? Is that better for us and our team?’ He said, ‘No, I’m fine coming off the bench.’ I said, ‘We got a quick turnaround.’ He said, ‘I’m totally fine with coming off the bench [Saturday].’ He’s a great kid when it relates to that stuff. That’s not the end-all where he’s just not going to start,” he explained.

Young has played quite well since the switch, which came two games after Florida’s loss to Tennessee in their SEC opener. He’s shooting 71 percent from the field over the last five games and has played more than 24 minutes in each of the last three contests.

While Boynton is certainly not leaving the starting lineup, he has cooled off after starting the season on fire from three. He has shot 38.5 percent or worse from the field in four of six SEC games this year and went 1-for-6 on Saturday with a season-low two points. What he has been doing is dishing the ball and making the rest of his team better.

“I told Kenny after the game that I was really proud of him,” Donovan said. “Kenny maybe would be a guy who would’ve been upset a couple years ago. It was a real valuable lesson. Boynton and [Erving] Walker, the last four or five games, have gotten [39] assists and [10] turnovers. It’s a pretty impressive stat for those two guys.”

His teammate, freshman Bradley Beal, is equally impressed. “Kenny played great no matter how many points he had,” he said about his performance. “He did a great defensive job on [Dee] Bost. That was his main goal coming into the game, trying to defend him and trying to stop him the best he can. He really shut him down.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on the team’s offensive output: “Offensively, although we made 11 threes in the game and Murphy had a lot to do with that, I thought we had some decent looks and we didn’t shoot the ball great.”

» Donovan on MSU C Renardo Sidney: “You can catch the ball on him. He’s not going to fight and try to take away post position. But what happens is, when you put the ball on the floor to go and make a move, he doesn’t move.”

» Donovan on MSU G Bost: “We guarded him in pick-and-roll action three different ways. We trapped him just to get the ball out of his hands … and make him throw the ball to somebody else. When he’s coming off a pick-and-roll, there’s so many options for him because he can score and he can pass.”

» Donovan on his team taking five charges on Saturday: “If you’re not a shot-blocking team, and we’re not, you have to put your body in play and take charges.”

» Beal on Young’s impact: “Whenever Pat is in the game, he just brings energy. Whenever he checks in the game, the crowd is always screaming and there’s always excitement.”

» Walker on the team’s SEC experience: “We work real hard in practice. Coach puts us in every situation possible. We know games versus these good teams are not going to be easy. You just got to be able to defend, and when you can defend you’ll be in any game.”

» Young on getting back on SportsCenter’s Top Plays: “I’ve had like 12 dunks the last two games. They’ve got to do something.”

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No. 13 Gators charge past No. 16 Bulldogs 69-57

A highly-contested contest for most of the game, the No. 13/14 Florida Gators (17-4, 5-1 SEC) used quality defense and high-percentage shots to pull away from their opponent and defeat the No. 16/18 Misssissippi State Bulldogs (17-5, 4-3 SEC) 69-57 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Saturday afternoon.

Florida freshman guard Brad Beal played his most complete game of the year for the Gators, scoring a game-high 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting while going 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. UF shot 45.8 percent (11-of-24) from downtown as a team and registered 15 assists while turning the ball over just five times in the victory.

Shooting poorly early and down three points midway through the first half, Florida used a 7-2 run and an 8-2 scoring stretch to take a 27-20 lead with 3:06 left before the break. Mississippi State answered with five-straight points, but junior forward Erik Murphy’s third trey of the first 20 minutes helped UF hold a three-point advantage at halftime.

The Gators and Bulldogs battled early in the second half until Florida began to pull away again thanks to a 7-1 run that put them up 47-39 with 10:43 remaining. UF played top-notch defense during the scoring stretch with a pair of charges by redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario and sophomore forward Will Yeguete as two of the standout plays.

The highlight of the game also came during the run as Gators sophomore center Patric Young threw down a hammer dunk on a put-back from a missed three-pointer shot by senior point guard Erving Walker.

Florida found its advantage reduced to just four points but quickly put together an 11-0 run fueled by a pair of powerful dunks by Young to take a game-high 15-point lead, 62-47, with 3:46 to play. Mississippi State failed to find the bottom of the net for a stretch of 4:25 and was simply unable to fight back from the double-digit deficit.

The Gators, despite not taking a free throw for the first 35 minutes of the game and not making one until there was 1:13 left in the contest, won their 17th consecutive game at the O’Dome. Florida had 15 assists on 27 baskets, won the turnover battle 14-5 and outscored MSU off turnovers (13-7), in the paint (28-14), off the bench (20-10) and on second chance opportunities (9-3).

The Bulldogs outrebounded the Gators 34-26 (8-5 offensive) but failed to score consistently enough to keep the game close in the waning minutes only receiving 12 points apiece from G Dee Bost and F Arnett Moultrie.

Beal added four rebounds and just one turnover to his total but was not the only Florida player who played well offensively. Young scored 12 points on 6-of-11 shooting with six boards in 24 minutes, and Murphy added 14 points by making 4-of-7 attempts from downtown. Young, Yeguete and Rosario combined for five charges in the game.

Junior G Kenny Boynton, the Gators’ leading scorer this season, was held to just two points but remained a factor by dishing five dimes to help his team. Walker reached 10 points and added four assists while only giving up the ball once.

Victorious in a pair of hard-fought games in a three-day span, Florida will have four days off before trying to perform the feat again next weekend in a pair of home games. UF will host South Carolina on Thursday at 9 p.m. (ESPN2) before Vanderbilt comes to town for a 1 p.m. game Saturday on CBS.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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No. 13 Florida vs. No. 16 Mississippi St. Gameday

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 12,000]
Time: 1:30 p.m. (ET)

TV: SEC Network (affiliates)
SiriusXM: 220/199
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(13) FLORIDA GATORS (16) MISSISSIPPI ST. BULLDOGS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Rick Stansbury
Record: 16-4 (4-1) Record: 17-4 (4-2)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -9.5; O/U TBD

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series against Mississippi State 57-49, sporting a 10-8 record against MSU under Donovan and a 35-12 record at home in Gainesville. The Bulldogs, however, are 4-1 against the Gators in the last five matchups.
» Florida is 57-17 against former SEC West opponents since 2000 and 13-1 against those same teams since 2010.
» The Gators have won 16-straight games at the O’Connell Center (10-0 this season).
» All five of Florida’s normal starters are averaging double figures in scoring.
» The Gators have made a three in 671 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» Florida has posted a positive assist-to-turnover margin in 15-of-16 victories but has put forth a negative ratio in that category in all four of their losses.
» The Gators are 281-37 since 1988-89 when holding opponents under 70 points.
» Florida is four victories away from winning 20+ games for the 14th consecutive season, which is currently the longest active streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally.
» Mississippi State is 1-2 in SEC road games this season.
» Of the Bulldogs’ four losses this year, only one is to a ranked opponent (Baylor).
» Florida is ranked No. 7 in scoring offense (81.3 points), No. 8 in scoring margin (16.0 points), No. 1 in three-pointers (10.6 per game), No. 13 in field goal percentage from three (40.5 percent), No. 15 in assists (16.8 per game) and No. 4 in assist/turnover ratio (1.51) nationally as of Jan. 26. The Gators are also 211th (out of 338 teams) in free throw shooting (67.3 percent).
» Mississippi State commits more fouls per game than any other team in the country, averaging 13.3 each contest.

LAST TIME OUT

Florida and Mississippi State last squared off a year ago with the Bulldogs earning a 71-64 victory on their home court. The Gators held a one-point lead late in the second half, but MSU scored the final seven points of the game to pull out the hard-fought victory. Dee Bost scored a game-high 24 points for Mississippi State, and Erving Walker chipped in 18 for Florida on a paltry 6-of-17 shooting performance. UF struggled to score throughout the game, hitting just 39.7 percent of their attempts from the field while shooting 23.8 percent from downtown.

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Senior point guard Erving Walker (#11)…who is the longest tenured player on the team having appeared in 127 consecutive games with 66-straight starts. A shoot-first player much of his career, Walker has been tasked with distributing the ball and managing the game this year. He is the SEC’s active leader in minutes (3,807) and treys (259) but also ranks second in points (1,585), assists (479), steals (145) and free throws made (392). Walker is No. 7 on the school’s all-time scoring list, No. 3 in assists, No. 8 in free throws, No. 4 in threes made, No. 2 in treys attempted (671) and No. 5 in minutes. He is also hitting a team-best 82.1 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe while averaging 12.8 points and 5.1 assists per game.
» Junior guard Kenny Boynton (#1)…who is a dynamic scorer and just the second starter returning from a year ago. Boynton is working on his consistency this season and is already shooting better than he has throughout his career (48.8 percent from the field and 44.3 percent from downtown). He is the best defender on the Gators and is often put on the opponent’s best backcourt playmaker. Boynton currently ranks fifth in the SEC among active players in points (1,361) and third in three-pointers (222). He had hit a trey in 34-straight games and is the SEC’s second-leading scorer averaging 18.0 points per game. Boynton is No. 6 on UF’s list for threes made.
» Freshman G Bradley Beal (#23)…who is starting at the three for Florida fresh out of high school. Beal was the 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year, one of the top five players in the country, and is arguably the most talented player to sign with the Gators since Donovan took over. He is averaging 13.9 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting 42.9 percent from the field and 72.6 percent from the line (third-best on the team) while playing a team-high 33.6 minutes per game.
» Sophomore center Patric Young (#4)…who joined the starting lineup this year after being the primary frontcourt reserve as a freshman. Young saw action in all 37 games as a freshman, averaging 3.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in limited action. He has four double-doubles on the season and scored a career-high 25 points against Arizona. Young is posting averages of 11.4 points, 6.8 boards and 1.1 blocks per game.
» Forwards junior Erik Murphy (#33) and sophomore Will Yeguete (#15)…who are trying to be do-everything players for Florida. Murphy is posting averages of 10.4 points and 4.2 boards with team-highs of 1.3 blocks and 47.5 percent accuracy from three. Yeguete is averaging 4.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 22.0 minutes per game.
» Redshirt junior G Mike Rosario (#3)…who is finally playing for Florida after transferring out of Rutgers and sitting out the 2010-11 season. Rosario scored more than 1,000 points in two seasons with his former team and averaged 16.7 points per game during his sophomore year. He is the Gators’ de facto sixth man and is seeing 16.2 minutes of court time each game, averaging 8.5 points while shooting 44.7 percent from the floor and 39.1 percent from beyond the arc.

MISSISSIPPI STATE
» F Arnett Moultrie (#23)…who is leading his team in scoring (17.1 points) and rebounding (11.2 boards) as well as shooting percentage both from the field (.563) and downtown (.500). Moultrie is also hitting 81.0 percent of his free throw attempts making him a dangerous offensive threat anywhere he is on the floor.
» PG Dee Bost (#3)…who has averaged 12 points and 5.8 assists in four career games against Florida and is known as one of the most clutch players in the league. He is averaging 16.0 points, 5.7 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game this season but is only hitting 38.1 percent of his field goals.
» G Rodney Hood (#4)…who is proving himself as one of the best freshmen in the league averaging 11.5 points, 5.0 boards and 2.1 dimes per game while netting 39.7 percent of his chances from beyond the arc. Hood is playing 34.2 minutes per game and is the third-leading scorer for the Bulldogs.

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1/27: Donovan on Young, early departures, Walker

The No. 13/14 Florida Gators earned their second true road victory Thursday coming from behind to defeat the Ole Miss Rebels 64-60 in Oxford, MS. With sophomore center Patric Young (ankle) out of the starting lineup again with ankle tendinitis, head coach Billy Donovan updated his player’s status on Friday and spoke about a number of other topics concerning the team.

YOUNG MAY WORK WAY BACK INTO STARTING LINEUP

Though he has not yet sat out yet due to his injury, Young has begun the last three contests on the bench but still managed to play more than 24 minutes in each of the last two games. Donovan said once again on Friday that Young is feeling better, but he still remains unsure as to whether or not he will start on Saturday against the No. 16/18 Mississippi State Bulldogs.

“I haven’t seen any carry over or effect from the ankle after we held him out during our bye week,” he said. “This whole week of practice he was in every second. He wasn’t complaining about it. I know he’s still getting treatment. I’m sure it’s sore. I’m sure it does maybe take him a little while to get going. I didn’t see anything coming off the bench last night where he looked slow getting started. He seemed to be in a pretty good place.”

Donovan said that he has not addressed Young’s status for Saturday but that it will be a topic of discussion Friday night.

“We’ll probably meet as a staff and talk a little bit about that. I will talk to Patric as well. I want to get a feeling of where he’s at right now,” he said. “Obviously he played very well [Thursday] night and I thought we got some really good minutes out of him in the LSU game as well. I kind of want to see how he feels, would he feel feel more comfortable back in the starting lineup or would he prefer to come off the bench?”

He would not say specifically that Young’s conditioning is an issue, but Donovan did note that he wants him to be able to maintain his level of intensity longer or at least be more consistent with it while he is in games.

“Patric’s conditioning is interesting because he goes so hard for such short periods that he almost takes himself to exhaustion,” Donovan explained. “Part of the thing that he needs to learn to do is he’s got to push through some of that and learn how to play when he’s a little bit tired. I don’t really see a lot of a drop off from where he was before.”

NOT WORRIED ABOUT EARLY DEPARTURES – YET

Even though he has three supremely talented starters, including two top-rated underclassmen, likely to seek out information about playing in the NBA following the season, Donovan is not presently concerned about what the future might hold.

As a coach who has seen players stick around to repeat a national championship but also witnessed two leave early for the NBA Draft recently, he is less concerned about whether or not his players try their hand at the pros bur rather how uncertain the situation can be.

“You don’t know [what’s going to happen] and that’s the thing that’s hard sometimes and that can be challenging,” he said. “Sometimes you actually spend more time recruiting them when you do coaching them and that’s the hard part.”

As far as Young and guards junior Kenny Boynton and freshman Bradley Beal go, Donovan said he has not noticed any of them discussing their future at all this season.

“Those guys are really level-headed right now. They don’t talk about it,” he said. “I really think those guys are totally in tune right now of trying to play this season. I think that they all realize, if our team does well and they do well, maybe down the road there’s time to make a decision. I don’t get a sense from them that it is even on their mind or that they’re talking about it, at least in my conversations. They’ve been pretty focused on playing.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On fighting back from 16 points down against Ole Miss: “Part of us getting down like we did 20-4 was we didn’t make shots early in the game. We had pretty decent looks ourselves. Patric got the ball a couple times and just didn’t finish some plays. We missed a couple runners in the lane. We really didn’t get to the free throw line. But we kind of weathered the storm and hung in there. […] I didn’t really sense from our guys that they were disappointed or frustrated or bothered. I thought that they just hung in there and kept playing.”

» On if the win was a confidence booster for the team: “Anything that’s happened in the past at home or on the road, it really doesn’t mean anything. It’s over and done with.”

» On senior point guard Erving Walker’s performance on Thursday: “Erv was really good outside of that turnover where he slipped. He had nine assists in the game and one turnover. He played a very good floor game. He got guys shots [Thursday] night. He made some great interior passes to Patric for some dunks. It was a situation where I thought he made the game easier for everybody else last night. He really did do a very good job. He’s the guy you want to have with the ball in his hands to get fouled. He just unfortunately slipped in that situation. […] That was his only turnover for really 39 minutes of play. I thought from a floor game standpoint he played really well.”

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FOUR BITS: Fowler, Haskins, lacrosse, Miller

1 » Five-star defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. (St. Petersburg, FL), who the Florida Gators have continued to pursue even though he has been committed to the Florida State Seminoles since Dec. 5, 2010, hosted five Florida coaches at his house Thursday night. In attendance were head coach Will Muschamp, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, linebackers coach D.J. Durkin , cornerbacks coach Travaris Robinson and tight ends coach Derek Lewis. According to The Gainesville Sun, the Gators coaches gave him plenty to think about. “I don’t know where I’m going,” he told the paper after saying last week he was still 100 percent committed to Florida State. “Not yet. I need this week to think about it. It’s gonna be pretty hard. I’m making a decision that’s gonna stick with me for the rest of my life.” Even though Fowler has remained committed to FSU for over a year, he has visited UF unofficially on a number of occasions.

On Thursday he also took the picture above wearing the Gators’ No. 6 jersey. With a family mostly full of Seminoles fans, Fowler previously felt pressure (especially from his father) to go to Tallahassee, FL for college. Now he knows it is all up to him. “My family really doesn’t care which one I go to now,” he said. “I’m making this decision on my own. My parents and coaches already talked with me, so now it’s my time to make the last call. It’s up to me. I finally get to call some shots.” Fowler will announce his decision on National Signing Day at 10 a.m.

2 » As noted Tuesday evening, Florida has hired Jon Haskins as the team’s new director of player personnel. UF senior writer Scott Carter has since composed a feature on Haskins, who explained what his role will be with the Gators and how he can impact the program from the office. “At the end of the day the head coach is the one who pulls the trigger on who he wants to bring into this program,’’ Haskins said referring to his assistance in recruiting. “We set the table. What really matters is that two days into camp, our coaches feel like, ‘that kid is going to be really good here.’ And then a year later you really have an idea of how he is going to fit long term in your program. When people think about recruiting, they think it’s the sexy stuff – the meet-and-greets and the visits. In reality, in my opinion, it’s more of an interview process. It’s really trying to give our coaches what they want however they want to attack recruiting.”

3 » Though it was only an exhibition match, No. 5 Florida lacrosse absolutely routed England 17-2 on Thursday with the team’s freshmen scoring 12 goals in the contest. Junior attacker Gabi Wiegand scored five goals on seven shots and also had two assists on the evening. Freshman midfielder Nicole Graziano scored four times on five shots, and junior A Kitty Cullen scored thrice on nine shots. The Gators will begin regular season action on Feb. 11 at North Carolina.

4 » Miami Heat guard/forward Mike Miller is set to sell his oceanfront mansion in Hillsboro Shores, FL to the highest bidder in a Feb. 25 auction. The property, which was once worth $12 million, will go on sale with a suggested opening bid of $4.5 million. How ridiculous is the home? The three-story mansion has six bedrooms, eight full bathrooms, two half-bathrooms, two gourmet kitchens, a home theater, a ventilated and climate-controlled wine/cigar room, a game parlor, a wet bar, an elevator, a swim-up bar with a grill, a hot tub, a fire pit and an outdoor entertainment lounge with dual waterfalls, a large plasma TV and a second summer kitchen. The entire property is nearly 13,000 square feet. Interested in learning more and placing a bid? First donate some money to OGGOA and then click here to view the listing. (Thanks to OGGOA reader Charlie B. for the heads-up.)

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No. 13 Florida steals 64-60 victory at Ole Miss

Down 16 points eight minutes into the game and looking lost on both ends of the floor, the No. 13/14 Florida Gators (16-4, 4-1 SEC) rode an impressive second half to a come-from-behind 64-60 victory over the Ole Miss Rebels (13-7, 3-3 SEC) on the road at Tad Smith Coliseum in Oxford, MS on Thursday.

Coming off the bench for the Gators, sophomore center Patric Young led his offense with 15 points, and senior point guard Erving Walker helped UF to 21 assists on 24 baskets thanks to nine dimes of his own in a composed 31 minutes.

For the first time in a while it was Florida’s opponent that got off to an unbelievably fast start as Ole Miss began the game with an early 20-4 lead thanks to hitting their first four buckets from downtown as part of an impressive 14-0 run.

With the Gators looking to get back into the game, UF rebounded from its ugly 2-for-10 start from the field and cut their deficit to 10, but the Rebels would not relent.

An 11-2 run by Florida – including a pair of treys by junior guard Kenny Boynton – reduced Ole Miss’ lead to 29-23 with 5:27 remaining in the first half. However, the Rebels once again fought back, ending the first 20 minutes with a 9-5 scoring stretch to take a 10-point lead on the Gators heading into the break.

Ole Miss was a perfect 6-for-6 from downtown in the first half with G Nick Williams hitting all four of his attempts and F Terrence Henry knocking in both of his treys as well.

Florida opened the second half with gusto and a 6-0 run, continuing their stellar play with an explosive 12-2 scoring stretch to take a 48-46 lead with 8:09 left. It was UF’s first advantage since they led 2-0 early in the contest thanks in part to nine points by Young.

The Gators continued their onslaught of the Rebels with another 11-2 run, going up a game-high seven points (61-54) thanks to a trio of treys including two more by Boynton.

Maintaining their seven-point advantage with 49 seconds to play, Florida appeared to be letting the game slip away. Henry hit a big three-pointer for Ole Miss and Boynton missed the front end of a one-and-one on the other end to give the Rebels the ball back.

Ole Miss would then draw a foul with 24 seconds remaining but hit just one of two free throws to find themselves down three points. Rushing the ball back up the court, Walker tripped and fell, allowing the Rebels to grab on for a jump ball with 18.2 seconds left.

Fortunately for Walker and the Gators, sophomore forward Will Yeguete swiped the ball away just outside the paint and freshman G Bradley Beal picked it up. Beal would then hit a free throw, and Henry missed a three-pointer with six seconds left to end the game.

After being outscored 38-28 in the first half, Florida posted 14 more points than Ole Miss (36-22) in the second half. The Rebels hit a cold stretch from long range, connecting on just one of their last six attempts while also committing 13 turnovers.

The Gators were a paltry 6-of-11 (54.5 percent) from the free throw line but only turned the ball over six times for a 3.5 assist/turnover ratio. Florida also scored 18 points off turnovers and had 26 off the bench including Young’s 15.

The Rebels outrebounded their visitors 41-23 (12-3 offensive) and shot 58.3 percent from three after netting just 27.3 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc over their first 19 games.

Boynton finished second on the Gators with 12 points by hitting 4-of-10 attempts from downtown, Walker added 10 points to his impressive performance, and redshirt junior G Mike Rosario had arguably his best game of the season by playing stellar defense and scoring eight important points.

Henry led the way for Mississippi with game-highs of 21 points (on 9-of-16 shooting) and 10 boards, and Williams added 14 points and five rebounds of his own.

Florida snapped Ole Miss’ eight-game home winning streak and hopes to continue its 16-game stretch of victories at home by hosting No. 16/18 Mississippi State on Saturday. The game will air live at 1:30 p.m. on SEC Network (check your local listings).

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SIX BITS: Guy, Koch, Bennett, Bullard, Meyer

1 » While the Florida Gators wait to figure out which scholarship quarterback to bring in as part of their 2012 recruiting class, the team has offered a preferred walk-on role to three-star Jacob Guy (Dade City, FL). According to the Tampa Bay Times, Guy has scholarship offers from Massachusetts, Ohio and Western Michigan and is also being considered by Memphis and Miami (OH). He is unlikely to make a decision before National Signing Day on Feb. 1, probably in order to see how the situations shake out at all of his potential destinations.

2 » Former Florida golfer Gary Koch will be inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame as part of the 2012 class on March 19-20 in Tampa, FL. He is one of 14 athletes to be included in the ceremony and will be inducted alongside names like Charlie Ward, Alonzo Mourning and George Smith. A four-time All-SEC first team member, three-time All-American, two-time SEC Champion (1973-74) and NCAA Champion with the Gators, Koch won six PGA Tour events but never finished better than tied for fourth at a Major Championship (The Open Championship, 1988). He also spent time on the other tours and has worked for both ESPN and NBC Sports as a sportscaster.

3 » Five-star power forward Anthony Bennett, Florida basketball’s lone remaining target for its 2012 recruiting class, is not any closer to making a decision where he will play next year. In an interview with SNY.tv’s Adam Zagoria, Bennett said that his mom is favoring UF and Kentucky but that UK has told him they expect to lose up to seven scholarships next year so he could come in and start right away. With the Gators, Bennett notes that head coach Billy Donovan is telling him that he will be able to develop his inside-out game better than any other school. His top five also includes Oregon, Washington and UNLV.

4 » In a feature by The Gainesville Sun’s Robbie Andreu, Florida 2012 commitments five-star defensive end Jonathan Bullard (Shelby, NC) and three-star defensive back Rhaheim Ledbetter (Boiling Springs, NC) discuss their long-time friendship and a trick Bullard played on his buddy before committing to the Gators. “We’re going to be roommates at Florida. We talk about it a lot, how much fun it’s going to be,” Ledbetter said. “It’s just going to be real nice to have an extra few years with my best friend, playing on the same team. It’s crazy.” Bullard added, “I’m glad it worked out the way it did. Maybe it’s a sign that we need to be together and achieve our goals together to win championships. It’s exciting. We’ve got a strong bond. We’ve been best friends since the sixth grade. I see him as a brother now.”

5 » Former Gators head coach Urban Meyer committed last October to be the keynote speaker at the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner on Feb. 7. However, just a month before the event was sent to take place, Meyer has now notified the organization that he “could no longer honor his commitment,” according to The Daytona Beach News-Journal. The chamber has been selling advance tickets ($100 apiece) to the event for a while but luckily as of Jan. 24 has not had anyone request a refund. Meyer has since been replaced as the keynote speaker by a pair of political analysts, CNN’s Paul Begala and FOX News’ Tucker Carlson.

6 » Florida announced Wednesday that Paul Spangler, “a 10-year assistant track and head cross country coach at The Virginia Military Institute,” will be the new assistant coach for distance and cross country with the Gators. His responsibilities include being the head cross country coach during the fall and an assistant for the distance track and field athletes during the indoor and outdoor seasons. “I’m really looking forward to this outstanding opportunity to get back to the SEC and contribute as a coach at the University of Florida,” Spangler, a former Alabama cross country runner, said. “I’m excited to be in a position where I can work with the Gator student-athletes one-on-one to help them reach their full potential and work towards a common goal of bringing another national championship back to Gainesville.”

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