Stark contrast: Bulldogs no match for Gators
Published: Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 9:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 27, 2013 at 12:10 a.m.
STARKVILLE, Miss. — Florida is on its longest winning streak in more than three years.
Who: South Carolina at Florida
When: Wednesday, 8 p.m.
Where: O'Connell Center
Gainesville-area TV: WJXT (Cox, Ch. 19)
Gainesville-area radio: 103.7 FM, AM-850
But after the Gators handed Mississippi State its second-worst home loss in school history Saturday, Florida senior forward Erik Murphy focused on looking ahead.
“Obviously, we’re playing really well and you’d like it to continue,” Murphy said shortly after UF’s 82-47 win over the Bulldogs at Humphrey Coliseum. “But every game is a new game with new challenges. You see it around college basketball, and we just have to keep working hard.”
In the win, the No. 8 Gators (16-2, 6-0 SEC) made a season-high 14 3-pointers, outrebounded the Bulldogs 44-20 and held an opponent under 50 points for the 10th time this season.
Had Florida not brought its freshmen in late, the Gators could have challenged Mississippi State’s worst home loss, which was by 41 points against Vanderbilt in 1993. The Bulldogs (7-11, 2-4) lost their fourth straight game overall.
Florida’s eight-game winning streak is its longest since starting the 2009-10 season 8-0.
“I think Florida by far is the best team in the SEC and is playing as well as anyone in the nation,” Mississippi State coach Rick Ray said. “Their willingness to share the basketball is their best attribute. That’s something we can learn from.”
It was another balanced scoring night for the Gators. Murphy and Kenny Boynton each scored 18 points for UF. Patric Young added 13 points, and point guard Scottie Wilbekin had 13 points and nine assists.
“As a team, we took open shots,” Boynton said. “Patric did a great job down low and that opened things up for us on the perimeter.”
Florida shot 55.4 percent from the floor and 45.2 percent (14-of-32) from 3-point range.
“We moved, passed and shared the ball well,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “I thought we had some really, really good looks at the basket tonight.”
Up 41-21 early in the second half, Florida put the game away with a 15-0 run that featured two 3-pointers from Murphy and one from Boynton that extended UF’s lead to 56-21.
After a poor early start in its last game at Georgia, Florida responded to the challenge of starting better on the road Saturday night. The Gators opened a 17-6 lead and led by as many as 23 points (31-8) on a Boynton 3-pointer.
“It was encouraging to see us get off to a better start,” Donovan said.
Mississippi State responded with a 7-0 run and cut Florida’s lead to 33-17 on a driving layup by freshman Craig Sword. But the Gators responded by pounding the ball inside to Young. Two inside baskets from Young and a 3-pointer from Michael Frazier II sparked an 8-2 run to put the Gators up 41-19 at halftime.
Florida shot 48.4 percent from the field in the first half and 35.3 percent (6-of-17) from 3-point range. Defensively, the Gators held Mississippi State to 29.2 percent shooting in the first half.
The Gators outrebounded Mississippi State 25-9 in the first half and scored seven first-half second-chance points.
If there was one weakness for the Gators on Saturday night, it was turnovers. Florida at times was careless with the ball. UF’s 14 turnovers led to 16 Mississippi State points.
“Is 14 turnovers too many? I don’t know,” Donovan said. “We had segments where we were sloppy with the ball, but we weren’t sloppy with the ball the whole game.”
After playing four of its first six SEC games on the road, Florida will play four of its next five league games at home, beginning Wednesday against South Carolina.
“It’s going to be nice to get back to playing in front of the home crowd,” Boynton said. “It seems like we’ve been playing on the road all season, but I think it’s made us better.”
FREE THROWS: Florida junior Casey Prather sat out his fourth straight game with a high ankle sprain. Prather took part in full-speed workouts before the game but has yet to be cleared for contact. … Freshman point guard Braxton Ogbueze, who was dealing with knee issues earlier in the week in practices, finished with three points off the bench. Overall, Donovan said he was “very happy” with how the freshmen closed the game out. “They guarded, they rebounded,” Donovan said. “They played the right way.”
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or email@example.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.