Florida bounces back with home win against MSU


Florida Gators center Patric Young passes the ball up the court past Mississippi State Bulldogs forward Gavin Ware during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013 at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Mississippi State 83-58.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 10:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 10:43 p.m.
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Florida Gators center Patric Young passes the ball up the court past Mississippi State Bulldogs forward Gavin Ware during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013 at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Mississippi State 83-58.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer

Facts

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Who: Florida (19-3, 9-1 SEC) vs. Kentucky (17-6, 8-2)
When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Where: O'Connell Center
Gainesville-area TV: ESPN
Gainesville-area radio: 103.7 FM, AM-850

There were no signs of an emotional hangover. No wallowing in self pity. With its top bench player watching the game on crutches, No. 2 Florida still had plenty of firepower left to handle Mississippi State. The Gators had five players score in double figures while mixing and matching different lineups in their 83-58 win over the Bulldogs before a sellout at the O'Connell Center. Florida (19-3, 9-1 SEC) bounced back from its first conference loss of the season Tuesday night at Arkansas with strong ball movement on offense and better effort on defense. The Gators held an opponent under 60 points for the first time since their 75-36 win over South Carolina on Jan. 30. The Gators gave up a season-high 80 points in their 80-69 loss at Arkansas.


“Our guys understood that we needed to come out here and play better and play like we're capable of,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. The loss of UF backup forward Will Yeguete, who underwent successful surgery to remove bone chips in his knee Friday, will compromise UF's defense going forward. Yeguete is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with hopes of returning by the postseason. “We still are working on defense,” Florida senior guard Mike Rosario said. “We've got to do a better job taking away the 3-point line. I feel like once we do that, we're going to make teams feel uncomfortable.” Mississippi State finished the game shooting 42.6 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent (6-of-16) from 3-point range. The Gators scored 21 points off 16 Mississippi State turnovers. “I still think we can get better,” Donovan said. “I think anytime you lose a guy like Will Yeguete, your defense is going to be different — different rebounding, different press — although I thought our press was pretty good today. But Will adds a different dimension down there, covering up a lot of things. I think Casey (Prather) can do it. But we've got to get even more focused defensively than we have been.” Rosario had a team-high 18 points for the Gators. Erik Murphy added 17 points before heading to the locker room with a leg injury with four minutes left. After the game, Donovan said Murphy just “tweaked” his ankle and should be fine for UF's big showdown Tuesday at home against Kentucky. Florida received a lift from Prather, who had 12 points off the bench. Freshman guard Michael Frazier II, making the first start in place of point guard Scottie Wilbekin, had 11 points, and senior guard Kenny Boynton had 10 points and six assists. Donovan said he benched Wilbekin because he was “not his normal self” in practice Thursday and Friday. “We needed energy and passion and I told him if he wasn't going to have passion, I was going to play somebody else,” Donovan said. Wilbekin still finished with five points and seven assists. Overall, Florida moved the ball well, finishing with 21 assists and just eight turnovers. “I thought we could have even had more assists,” Donovan said. “Boynton had a couple of good looks he didn't knock down. Scottie had some good looks he didn't knock down.” Mississippi State also came into the game short-handed, as starting junior guard Jalen Steele did not make the trip due to an indefinite disciplinary suspension. The Bulldogs (7-15, 2-8 SEC), who lost their eighth straight, had just six scholarship players available. Florida took advantage early. Up 15-10, the Gators went on an 11-0 run to extend their lead to 26-10 midway through the first half. Frazier made his first three 3-point attempts, while Prather made an early impact off the bench with a steal and breakaway dunk off UF's press. “That gave us energy,” Boynton said. “We needed that, especially energy coming from our defense.” Florida maintained its double-digit lead for the rest of the first half, taking a 42-26 advantage into halftime. The Gators started the second half on a 7-0 run that included a 3-pointer on the corner from Wilbekin and driving layups from Boynton and Rosario. Florida shot 36 percent (9-of-25) from 3-point range but also had 38 points in the paint, with 10 of those points coming on Rosario drives to the rim. “We did a great job attacking off the dribble tonight,” Rosario said. “Offensively, I just tried to be aggressive. Being a fifth-year senior, it was important to get off to a good start. My team needs that from me.” Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or brockwk@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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