Teams get a little gritty on the floor in historic win
Published: Thursday, January 12, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 12, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
With half his teammates sick and the other half in foul trouble, Florida starting point guard Taurean Green at one point in the first half asked coach Billy Donovan if he was taking too many shots.
"I told Taurean, who else is going to take them," Donovan said.
On a night when Green hoisted up an uncharacteristic 18 attempts, No. 2 Florida survived some shaky first-half stretches to beat Mississippi State 75-60 in a game with some chippy, mouthy moments.
Green finished with a team-high 20 points, including a deep 3-pointer that sealed the game late. Florida (15-0, 2-0 SEC) broke a school record for consecutive wins in a game that Donovan described as a humbling experience.
Tensions boiled over during a postgame handshake in a comfrontation between Florida forward Chris Richard and Mississippi State freshman Jamont Gordon that involved some pushing and shoving. Gordon, who led the Bulldogs with 17 points, had traded some verbal barbs with Green during the course of the game.
"He tried to take a swing at me," Gordon said. "He came really close to hitting me. If he would have hit me, we would have fought."
"It's a competitive basketball game and everyone is out there playing hard," said senior forward Adrian Moss. "For a freshman to go at Chris is surprising. He's a pretty big dude."
Richard (2 points, 5 rebounds) and Moss (8 points, 3 rebounds) provided lifts off the bench for Florida, which had to deal with one starting forward sick and the other in foul trouble. Al Horford had missed the previous two practices with strep throat and was on antibiotics. Brewer, who added 18 points, picked up two early fouls and sat the final 9:56 of the first half.
Lee Humphrey also picked up his second foul with 10:16 left in the first half. With both Humphrey and Brewer on the bench, an early 26-12 Florida lead nearly vanished. Mississippi State went on a 13-0 run, frustrating Florida into four turnovers and seven straight missed shots during a 5:56 scoreless stretch.
Florida was forced to rely on freshmen guards Walter Hodge and David Huertas for extended minutes. Huertas also had been suffering a bad case of strep and nearly fumbled the ball out of bounds in one his few touches when he was on the floor.
"We didn't want to put David into the game, but we didn't have much of a choice," Donovan said. "Anthony (associate coach Anthony Grant) was out of eligibility."
Humphrey eventually checked back into the game at the 5:36 mark, and the run ended when Horford made one of two free throws to put Florida up 27-25. Green followed with a pretty driving layup in the lane.
Florida extended its lead to 32-27 when a Green steal set up a Hodge layup in transition. But Mississippi State followed with a layin by Sharpe and 3-pointer by Reginald Delk with 25.7 seconds remaining to tie the score at 32.
Green, with 8.7 seconds remaining, sank an open 3-pointer from the top of the arc to put Florida up 35-32 at halftime.
Florida, which came into the game leading the NCAA in assists at 20.1 per game, had just three in first half.
"You can't get many assists if you don't shoot the ball well," Donovan said. "I thought our player movement in the first half at times was poor."
"For some reason, we weren't moving the ball well," Green said. "We stressed that at halftime. We were able to get Corey and Lee back into the flow."
In the second half, Florida got back out on the break, eventually building a comfortable lead behind the shooting of Humphrey and some electric plays from Brewer. An alley-oop from Brewer to Green extended Florida's lead to 45-36. It was 60-40 after two Green free throws with 11:12 remaining.
From there, Florida worked the shot-clock. Two three-pointers from Green as the shot-clock wound down staved off some runs that were sparked by the driving Gordon, who scored 12 of his 17 in the second half.
Mississippi State played without leading scorer Jamall Edmondson, who sat out his third straight game with a pulled groin. Without their best ballhandler, the Bulldogs (11-4, 1-1 SEC) couldn't overcome 24 turnovers.
"I was proud of our team's effort," Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. "The Florida basketball team presents many problems."
Donovan said he plans for all of his team to get throat cultures today, to make sure everyone is healthy in time for Saturday's home game against Auburn.
That Florida survived some anxious moments against Mississippi State was a sign of some resolve.
"You can call it iffy," Moss said. "I call it a win. It's an SEC win. They're all important."
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