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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