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).