Some observations following Florida’s 81-78 win over Mississippi State at the O’Connell Center.
— Florida coach Mike White told me the reason why the Gators didn’t hold for the final shot of the first half had to do with the mis-execution of a play. White called for a “spread” play, in which point guard Kasey Hill is supposed to start his drive to the basket with eight seconds left in the first half. Instead, Hill started it with 11 seconds left. Hill missed a drive with 4.1 seconds, which allowed Mississippi State enough time for Fred Thomas to hit the desperation 3-point heave from 25 feet to put the Bulldogs up 42-37 at halftime. “Second time it’s happened this season,” White said. White was forced to play Hill more in the game because starting point guard Chris Chiozza struggled defending Mississippi State point guard I.J. Ready, who had 16 of his 20 points in the first half. Chiozza also had an uncharacteristic off night with his decision-making with 5 assists to 3 turnovers.
— White said he was concerned about pressing Mississippi State because of its four-guard lineup, but went to the press in the second half down 11 points with Mississippi State guard Craig Sword out in an effort to spark his team. The move worked because it took Mississippi State out of an offensive rhythm. “We were active, causing havoc,” Florida senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith said. “We tried to speed them up and it worked.”
— The Gators were strong on the boards, out-rebounding Mississippi State 45-33 and scoring 10 second chance points. Sophomore forward Devin Robinson had 5 rebounds, including 3 offensive boards, in 19 minutes off the bench. Justin Leon (8 rebounds) and Dorian Finney-Smith (13 rebounds) also crashed the boards hard.