Florida handles Top 25 test vs. Mississippi St.


Florida forward Erik Murphy (33) and guard Kenny Boyton (1) double-team Mississippi State guard Dee Bost during the first half at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012, in Gainesville, Fla.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, January 28, 2012 at 4:02 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 28, 2012 at 6:40 p.m.

Florida is proving during its current five-game winning streak that it can win games in different ways.

On an afternoon when leading scorer Kenny Boynton was held to just 2 points and the Gators were badly out-rebounded (34-26), No. 14 Florida still had more than enough to beat No. 18 Mississippi State 69-57 at the O'Connell Center.

Florida (17-4, 5-1 SEC) won its 17th straight home game with another balanced scoring effort. Freshman guard Bradley Beal led four Gators in double figures with 19 points. Sophomore center Patric Young, in his fourth straight game off the bench, added 12 points and 6 assists in 24 minutes.

“We know what everyone on our team is capable of doing,” Young said. “Whatever you take away, hopefully another guy can key off of that.”

Young again provided instant energy off the bench. His one-handed dunk off an Erving Walker missed 3-pointer in transition put Florida up 44-38. It also brought the 12,045 at the O-Dome to a fever pitch that carried over to the final 12 minutes of the game.

“The ball was right there so I threw it down,” Young said. “I was really excited because I had been waiting for my first tip-in dunk, and there it was.”

Beal and Young scored nine points during UF's game-clinching 11-0 run. After a 3-pointer from Mississippi State sophomore guard Jalen Steele cut Florida's lead to 51-47, Beal responded with a 3-pointer to extend UF's lead back to 54-47.

Off a Mississippi State turnover, Will Yeguete made an inside-layup to put UF ahead 56-47. Beal then rebounded a Renardo Sidney missed 3-point attempt and found Young open downcourt for a breakaway dunk.

Young followed with another dunk, and Beal had a driving layup with 3:18 left to extend UF's lead to 62-49.

“Whenever we play great defense, we always get something good on offense,” Beal said. “We really just try to feed off our defense, and it shows.”

It was an efficient scoring day for Beal, who finished 6 of 9 from the floor and 3 of 4 from 3-point range. Beal had made one of his previous five 3-point attempts and was coming off an 0-for-3 night from 3-point range at Ole Miss.

“I'm just trying to stay confident in myself, and my teammates stayed confident in me,” Beal said.

Overall, Florida shot 45.8 percent (11 of 24) from 3-point range. Florida now has made 10 or more 3-pointers in 15 of 21 games this season.

“You choose your poison with Florida, when you try to take that 3 away,” Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. “What did they have — 11 for the game? It seemed like they had 21, but it was only 11. But they are also so good off the bounce.”

Along with the outside scoring, the Gators also stood toe-to-toe with Mississippi State's physical, athletic front line. Florida scored 20 of its 28 points in the paint in the second half. Mississippi State junior forward Arnett Moultrie had his 13th double-double (12 points, 13 rebounds), but also had six of Mississippi State's 14 turnovers. The Bulldogs are now 17-5 and 4-3 in SEC play.

Walker finished with 10 points and 4 assists for Florida.

“Whoever wants to call us finesse, that's OK,” Walker said. “We know we're not a finesse team. We wouldn't be where we are right now if we were a finesse team.”

Though Boynton had just 2 points, he also had 5 assists and did a strong job on the perimeter defensively against Mississippi State guards Dee Bost and Brian Bryant.

Boynton came into the Mississippi State matchup averaging 18 points per game.

“We're not a one-man team,” Walker said. “He's a great scorer and sometimes you are going to have nights like that. He still played a big game.”

Florida coach Billy Donovan was most pleased that Boynton and Walker were steady in the backcourt, combining for 9 assists and no turnovers.

“That was really important, their shot selection and not wanting to force things,” Donovan said.

Another player who stepped up offensively for the Gators was junior forward Erik Murphy, who had 14 points. Murphy, who went out for extra shooting practice before the game, went 4 for 7 from 3-point range.

Murphy scored 11 points in the first half, helping the Gators build a 30-27 halftime lead.

“To me the whole key to their team right now is Murphy,” Stansbury said. “He's a guy who has changed their team in every way. He's playing with a lot of confidence, too.”

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or brockwk@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.

THREE QUESTIONS

1. Can Florida keep Mississippi State off the boards and limit second-chance scoring opportunities?

The Gators were out-rebounded 34-26, but Mississippi State only scored 3 second-chance points. The Gators, meanwhile, had 9 second-chance points, including a thunderous one-handed dunk from sophomore center Patric Young.

2. Who will win the point guard matchup between Erving Walker and Dee Bost?

The two senior point guards were fairly even. Bost had 12 points and 4 assists, while Walker had 10 points and 4 assists. Defensively, the Gators did a good job keeping Bost from driving in the lane, where he is most effective.

3. Can the Gators convert from the free-throw line and make clutch free throws in crunch time?

Florida didn’t even get to the line until late in the second half. Freshman Bradley Beal made four straight free throws late to close out the game. Erving Walker missed the front end of a one-and-one. Overall, Florida went 4 of 7 from the free-throw line, while Mississippi State was 8 of 14.

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