Fastbreak: No. 3 Florida beats Mississippi State

The No. 3 Florida Gators (18-2, 7-0 SEC) crawled its way to a victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs (13-7, 3-4 SEC) on Thursday evening, picking up a 62-51 win at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, MS.

Florida won its 12th-straight game and picked up a victory for the 17th time in their last 18 contests. OnlyGators.com breaks it down with eight quick-hitters:

It was over when: Leading by single digits with less than three minutes to play, the Gators boosted their lead to double digits off a three-pointer by sophomore guard Michael Frazier II, his third-straight make from downtown. Frazier missed his first six three-pointers on Thursday but finished with nine points on 3-of-9 shooting from deep.

Prominent player: Florida senior center Patric Young was not the leading scorer but found the bottom of the net when it mattered the most for the Gators, especially at the start of the second half. Young finished with 12 points on 6-of-11 shooting with game-highs of eight rebounds and three blocks despite only playing seven first-half minutes.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Continue Reading » Fastbreak: No. 3 Florida beats Mississippi State

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Florida thrashes Mississippi State 82-47

Making a legitimate case to be viewed as one of the top teams in the country, No. 7/8 Florida Gators basketball (16-2, 6-0 SEC) remained undefeated in Southeastern Conference play with a dominant 82-47 victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-11, 2-4 SEC) on Saturday at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, MS.

Florida continued its trend of wiping out league opponents with its 35-point rout of Mississippi State. The Gators have now defeated all six of their SEC adversaries by at least 17 points and are averaging a 26.5-point margin of victory in conference play.

Trailing 4-3 early in the contest, Florida put its foot on the gas and rattled off a 28-4 scoring stretch to jump ahead of Mississippi State by 23 points midway through the first half.

The Bulldogs answered by scoring seven-straight points to cut into the Gators’ advantage, but UF quickly got a handle on the situation and built its lead back up to 41-19 by the time the halftime buzzer sounded.

Just minutes into the second half, Florida had already put together another impressive scoring stretch – this time a 15-0 run – to take a 56-21 lead with 15 minutes left to play.

The Gators cruised from that point forward with their primary rotation players remaining in the game until there were five minutes left.

Florida had the four leading scorers in the game with seniors guard Kenny Boynton (7-of-11, 4-of-8 from three) and forward Erik Murphy (6-of-8, 4-of-6 from downtown) each scoring 18 points and juniors center Patric Young (6-for-6) and point guard Scottie Wilbekin (5-of-9, 3-of-5 from beyond the arc) each registering 13 points.

Murphy and Young both added six rebounds, and Wilbekin dished a game-high nine assists. Freshman G Michael Frazier and junior F Will Yeguete led the way with eight boards each; Yeguete added four dimes and two steals to his line.

The Gators outshot the Bulldogs from the field (.564-.327) and downtown (.452-.200) while dominating the rebounding battle with a 44-20 advantage on the boards.

Florida registered 23 assists on 31 made baskets and blocked four shots but did commit 14 turnovers while forcing just nine from Mississippi State.

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Gators more mature; Prather working way back

No. 7/8 FLORIDA GATORS MISS. STATE BULLDOGS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Rick Ray
Record: 15-2 (5-0 SEC) Record: 7-10 (2-3 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Location: Humphrey Coliseum – Starkville, MS [Capacity: 10,575]
Time: 8:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN2/ESPN2HD (Dave Lamont, Kara Lawson)
SiriusXM: 123/199 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter and SportsYapper app

Odds: Florida -20.5 | O/U 123.5

NOT LAST YEAR’S TEAM

Behind most of the first half on Wednesday in Athens, GA, Florida fought back to trail by just three at the break before doubling up Georgia 40-20 in the second half and cruising to a 64-47 victory. During a media availability on Thursday, Donovan noted that the team is much more mature this season and the 2011-12 Gators likely would have dropped Wednesday’s contest.

“With a group of guys you’re always looking for improvement. You’re looking for improvement not only on a daily basis but even maybe from one year to the next,” he said. “We were in a similar situation last year against Georgia where we beat them pretty handily at home and then we go on the road to their place and we don’t get off to a great start and we don’t play well the entire game and we end up losing by double figures.”

“The positive was – from a year ago to now – I’m not so sure last year’s team wins the game they won [on Wednesday]. I see some growth in that area where things were not going well. I knew Georgia was going to come out [strong]. … We knew that they were going to do that. … I thought our guys were pretty resilient and they battled through and played a much, much better second half. I thought that was encouraging to me.”

STILL WORKING HIS WAY BACK

No one on Florida’s roster has had a more frustrating season than junior forward Casey Prather. After missing the first four games of the season due to concussions he suffered in practice and eventually working his way back into the lineup, he played quite well and proved that he is an essential reserve for the Gators.

Playing in his 10th game of the season on Jan. 12, Prather suffered what has been deemed a high-ankle sprain and has missed the last three games. He is also expected to sit out Saturday’s contest but may be in line to return before Florida’s next big game against Ole Miss on Feb. 2 as his recovery is “going well,” according to Donovan.

“Our trainer just feels like the high-ankle sprain is a different kind of injury. It’s a slower-healing injury,” he said Thursday. “Through past experiences [with players], our trainer has learned a lot about the injury. They’ve been diagnosed of late a lot differently in terms of treatment and putting guys back out there.

“The first week what we wanted to do was to really just let him stay in a boot and no movement, no walking, no nothing. … This kind of injury, the more you do, the more it causes problems. Right now, we gave him a week. He’s out of the boot now and he’s walking around. He’s doing some rehab. He still has some discomfort when he’s tried to run. We’ll then probably reevaluate him after this weekend.

“My feeling would be that it would not be until the end of next week; that would probably be a point that we’d expect him back. We don’t feel like it’s a severe high-ankle sprain, but it’s enough where if he comes back too early or too soon, this is something that is going to linger. With this injury, we don’t want that to happen, so we’re probably cautioning on the more conservative side in terms of pushing him back into getting to practice and those things.”

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Free throw woes doom Florida again in 71-64 loss

Coming into Starkville, MS undefeated on the road and with a nine-game regular season winning streak against the Southeastern Conference West division, the No. 23/24 Florida Gators (16-5, 5-2 SEC) struggled mightily from the free throw line and eventually fell to the Mississippi State Bulldogs (11-9, 3-3 SEC) 71-64 at Humphrey Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.

Up 63-62 with 5:17 left in the game, Florida went cold from both the field and charity stripe, allowing Mississippi State to put together a 9-1 game-ending run. The Gators missed eight consecutive field goals and five of six attempts from the line, while the Bulldogs hit seven of their final eight free throw attempts to ice the game.

MSU started the first half on fire, connecting on five of their first eight shots from long distance. Taking a game-high 10-point lead early, they quickly coughed it up and allowed UF to put a dent in their deficit. Florida used a 10-2 run to tie the contest at 38, but Mississippi State would take a two-point lead going into halftime.

The Bulldogs came out of the break hot, using an 11-4 run to take a nine-point lead. The Gators answered with a 13-1 run of their own; it ended with a trey and two free throws by junior point guard Erving Walker, which gave UF its first lead of the game, 55-52.

Two triples from MSU G Dee Bost put his team ahead three, but Florida took the lead 63-62 and then tied it at 64 before falling apart at the conclusion of the contest.

All three of the Gators leads came in the second half, but their inefficiency from the line and beyond the arc doomed them in the end. Florida finished 9-of-19 from the charity stripe (47.4 percent) and only 5-of-21 from three-point range (23.8) percent. Mississippi State, after starting the game strong, went cold from three until the end of the second half. As a team, MSU finished 19-for-23 from the line.

Unlike the Gators, which saw all 10 of their players score, only four Bulldogs got the ball in the basket. Bost led MSU with 24 points and went 4-for-8 from downtown, forwards Kodi Augustus and Renardo Sidney each scored 16, and G Ravern Johnson contributed 15 important points.

Walker led Florida with 18 points on 6-of-17 shooting but was only 2-for-8 from downtown. Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin scored 10 points, and senior F Chandler Parsons grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to go along with nine points.

Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton, who is supposed to be one of the Gators best scorers, went an anemic 2-for-11 from the field and 0-for-4 from beyond the arc. Senior F Alex Tyus added six points and five boards.

Mississippi State has now won four of their last five meetings against Florida, which will likely be unranked once again when the new top 25 polls are released on Monday.

The Gators’ schedule does not get any easier going forward. Florida will face No. 22/19 Vanderbilt (Tuesday) and No. 16/14 Kentucky (Saturday) in consecutive home games next week. Both games will air live at 9 p.m. on ESPN, with College GameDay emanating from the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Saturday.

Photo Credit: Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

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No. 23 Florida Gators at MSU Bulldogs Gameday

Location: Humphrey Coliseum – Starkville, MS [Capacity: 10,500]
Time: 1:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: CBS/CBSHD
Online Video: CBSSports.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 23/24 FLORIDA GATORS MISS. STATE BULLDOGS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Rick Stansbury
Record: 16-4 (5-1) Record: 10-9 (2-3)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC West
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -5.5; O/U 137.5

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series against Mississippi State 57-48. The teams defeated each other once in 2010, and the Gators are 10-7 overall against the Bulldogs under Donovan including 4-3 in Starkville.
» UF has won nine-straight regular season games against the SEC West; they are 3-0 this season and looking to go undefeated against them for the second-straight year.
» Florida has won 11 of its last 13 games with seven victories against RPI top 100 teams.
» UF is a perfect 5-0 in true road games this year and 7-1 overall away from Gainesville. Florida could win its sixth road game of the year, their most since the 2005-06 season (6-4).
» The Gators best the Bulldogs in all four major statistical categories nationally. Florida holds advantages in points per game 71.8-69.2 (116th to 182nd), rebounds 38.6-36.5 (40th to 106th), assists 14.4-12.0 (90th to 256th) and field goal percentage .461-.427 (70th to 227th). The Gators rank 14th in RPI (.6389) and fifth in strength of schedule nationally compared to the Bulldogs being 177th (.4934) and 133rd, respectively.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Junior point guard Erving Walker…who is leading his team in scoring with 14.3 points per game and leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (43.7%) and three-point percentage (40.6%). He has single-handedly accounted for 43 of Florida’s 117 treys this season. Walker became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points, accomplishing the feat earlier this year.
» Senior forward Chandler Parsons…who is back to averaging double-digit points (10.4) while leading the Gators with 7.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Parsons notched his third double-double of the season on Tuesday against Georgia.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-high 58.1 percent as a starter this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.4 points and 6.4 rebounds a game while being a major presence for Florida.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably UF’s most talented player but had been marred in a slump until recently breaking out of it. Boynton is only shooting 36.8 percent from the field and 30.7 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second on the team in scoring with 13.4 points per game and hits 81.5 percent of his free throws.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are the Gators primary reserves averaging 17.6 and 16.9 minutes per game, respectively. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads Florida in assist-to-turnover ratio (3:1), while Young is the team’s most efficient scorer at 57.4 percent.
» Mississippi State G Ravern Johnson…who plays a team-high 36.1 minutes per game and is his team’s leading scorer (18.2 points per game), too.
» Bulldogs F Kodi Augustus…who leads his squad in rebounding with 8.2 boards per game and is second on the team in scoring with 228 points scored this season.
 

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FOUR BITS: NFL Combine, Strong poaches recruit

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, linebacker Ryan Stamper, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham and kick returner Brandon James have received invites to the 2010 NFL Combine. Juniors who have declared for the 2010 NFL Draft have yet to receive invitations, but fans can expect DE Carlos Dunlap, cornerback Joe Haden, tight end Aaron Hernandez and safety Major Wright to participate in the event from Feb. 24 to March 2 in Indianapolis, IN.

2 » Three-star athlete Marcus Smith (Columbus, GA) had an outstanding scholarship offer from Florida and was prepared to take it…that is until Louisville Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong came calling. “If Louisville would have never been in the mix, I would have probably went to Florida,” Smith told the Courier-Journal. “But I’m glad Louisville came into the mix. I like coach Strong a lot, and I really wanted to play for coach Strong. Louisville is a great program. He wants me to play quarterback, he established that during our talk this morning. To tell you the truth, I just want to play, so I am good wherever he wants me.” Upon taking his position with the Cardinals, Strong said he would not poach recruits the Gators were interested in unless they initiated contact.

3 » The Gators hosted their biggest remaining recruiting weekend the past few days and a number of both committed and undecided prospects came away impressed. Four-star running back Mack Brown (Lithonia, GA), who at one point was wavering after head coach Urban Meyer announced his leave of absence, solidified his recruitment after getting extensive time with new running backs coach Stan Drayton. Brown also told Adam Gorney of Rivals that Meyer may return as soon as March. “He looked pretty fine to me,” Brown said. “He looked healthy. I know he wants to coach, so I know he’s going to be there. He’s going to take a couple weeks off in February, but he’ll be back.” Fellow four-star recruits offensive tackle Chaz Green (Tampa, FL) and wide receiver Christian Green (Tampa, FL) raved to numerous sources about their respective experiences.

4 » Coming off of a heartbreaking loss to the No. 4 Tennessee Volunteers with just two seconds remaining in the game, the Florida women’s basketball team gained a bit of revenge by taking down the Mississippi State Bulldogs 55-52 on the road on Sunday afternoon at Humphrey Coliseum. Sophomore guard Trumae Lucas scored seven points off of the bench in the waning minutes while senior forward Sharielle Smith led the Gators with 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting while also grabbing seven boards.

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