Three observations following Florida’s 71-54 win over Mississippi State at the O’Connell Center:
— Florida showed some good fight on the boards against Mississippi State, outrebounding the taller Bulldogs 38-31. The Gators grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and outscored Mississippi State 16-12 in second chance points. Sophomore center Gorjok Gak, junior center Kevarrius Hayes and redshirt freshman forward Dontay Bassett all had putback baskets under the basket. “We’re starting to be consistently a little bit scrappier,” Florida coach Mike White said. “We’re not the most physical team. Our mental toughness has definitely improved, but we’re getting hands on basketballs, we’re playing with some grit on the interior. We had to, to have a chance.
— A couple of factors played into another off night offensively for Florida junior guard KeVaughn Allen. One, Allen started at the point in place of senior point guard Chris Chiozza, who was dealing with strep throat this week. Two, Allen picked up two first half fouls for the second straight game and played just 9 minutes in the first half. Allen didn’t take his first shot attempt until the 10:45 mark in the second, a transition 3-pointer off a steal. Allen then had his second shot attempt, a 3-pointer, rim out. On his third shot and final shot attempt, Allen missed a make-able drive to the basket. “I think deep down KeVaughn knows he’s got some big games ahead of him,” Florida coach Mike White said. “He just does. There’s going to be bunch of different scouting reports coming, there’s going to be a bunch of different ways that teams are going to defend us and he’s going to get it going one game in a big way and hopefully that will carry over to him being a little more aggressive.” Allen had 2 assists to 1 turnover and should have had a third assist, but junior center Kevarrius Hayes missed a wide open dunk on a pretty inside pass from the 6-foot-2 North Little Rock, Ark., native.
— Freshman guard Mike Okauru provided another solid game off the bench for the Gators with 3 points, 1 assists and 0 turnovers in 18 minutes. Okauru is playing within himself and playing with maturity in important conference games.