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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Gators leave doubts, fall to Bulldogs 75-69

Down a game-high 19 points with 13:29 left to play, the Florida Gators (21-12) rallied with a strong 14-0 run but still fell short, losing to the Mississippi State Bulldogs (22-10) 75-69 Friday night in the quarterfinals of the 2010 Southeastern Conference Tournament from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN.

Led by a 23-point effort from freshman guard Kenny Boynton, the Gators’ backcourt scored 48 of the team’s 69 total points. Sophomore point guard Erving Walker contributed 19 points on 6-12 shooting while going 4-for-8 from beyond the arc. Boynton finished 4-of-7 from downtown and 8-for-16 overall with a team-high three assists.

Florida began the game slow, missing their first five shots and allowing Mississippi State to get out to a 10-0 lead. A layup by Walker almost four minutes in ended the drought. The Gators attempted an early comeback, using a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to 13-9, but the Bulldogs answered back and pulled ahead to a 15-point lead halfway through the period. UF finished the half with its backcourt accounting for 25 of its 28 points.

Up a game-high 19 points, 58-39, with 13:20 to left on the clock, MSU looked to have the game locked up. That was until Florida exploded on a 14-0 run to close within five as Mississippi State was held scoreless for six minutes. It would not be enough for the Gators, who would eventually get down to a four-point deficit on a Walker free throw with 1:25 to play. Florida had a chance to get within two with plenty of time left, but a mishandled pass by senior forward Dan Werner – who had a wide-open lane to the hoop in front of him – turned the ball (and perhaps the game) over to the Bulldogs.

Mississippi State shot over 66 percent from both the field and downtown for the majority of the game, but finished 57.1 percent and 50 percent from the respective locations compared to 43.6 percent and 39.1 percent for the Gators. Florida out-rebounded MSU 32-20, mostly due to the majority of the Bulldogs’ baskets going into the hoop.

Mississippi State guard Barry Stewart led the way with a team-high 17 points as F Jarvis Varnado dominated the paint with 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting, four rebounds and four big blocks. In all, five Bulldogs finished in double figures, with G Ravern Johnson adding 12 and G Dee Bost and F Kodi Augustus contributing 10 apiece.

Florida junior F Alex Tyus scored five points one day after a season-high 24-point performance Thursday against Auburn, redshirt junior center Vernon Macklin added three with his first bucket coming with 11:23 left in the game and junior F Chandler Parsons added 10 points with a team-high seven rebounds.

“They wanted it more tonight, it was obvious,” Boynton said after the game.

Friday’s loss was UF’s first to an SEC West opponent this season.

All that is left for the Gators is to wait for the NCAA Selection Committee to make its decision on whether or not they are worthy enough to earn a berth to the 2010 NCAA Tournament. Selection Sunday begins on March 14 at 6 p.m. on CBS. OGGOA will provide full coverage of the event.

Photo Credit: Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

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