The Florida Gators rebounded nicely from their first SEC loss of the season by dominating a short-handed Mississippi State squad for the second time in two weeks by the score of 83-58. The Bulldogs, the SEC last place team, looked the part again as they took on the Gators in the O’Connell center with only 6 scholarship players and only 8 dressed players.
Florida used balance scoring and strong performances from freshman Michael Frazier, starting in the place of point guard Scottie Wilbekin who was benched for poor practice performance, and reserve forward Casey Prather to overcome the loss of athletic swingman Will Yeguete who had arthroscopic knee surgery yesterday and will be out for 4-6 weeks.
The Gators were led by senior power forward Erik Murphy, who himself went down late to an apparent ankle injury, with 17 points and 5 rebounds with an assist and a steal and senior guard Mike Rosario who led all scorers with 18 points. Prather added 12 points and Frazier, who dropped his first three from beyond the arc and finishied 4-7 from the field, finished with 11 points as the Gators rebounded from their worst shooting performance of the season against Arkansas going 31-58 (53%) from the field in this one. Rosario and Murphy were sharpshooters as they both went 7-10 from the field.
The only real negative for the Gators offensively was Kenny Boynton’s continued struggle shooting the three point shot. He went 0-5 in the game most of which were uncontested shots and is now 6-26 (23.1%) since going 4-8 two weeks ago against the Bulldogs and 14 or his last 45. Luckily for the Gators they haven’t needed his perimeter scoring as Mike Rosario and Michael Frazier have really picked up the slack.
The Gators dominated on the boards 33-27 and had 21 assists while forcing 16 Bulldog turnovers. The Gators themselves only gave up a season low 8 turnovers a huge turnaround from their last game.
The Gators started slow missing 6 of their first 8 shots including their first 5 three point attempts allowing the Bulldogs to take their only lead of the game 5-4 just under five minutes into the game.
At that point, though, the Gators appeared to regroup and find their shooting touch racing out to a 15 point lead halfway in and then cruising to a huge 42-26 halftime lead.
After the Gators opened the second half on a 10-0 run to go up 52-26 the only question left was how bad the final margin would be.
Coming in the biggest worry was how much the loss of Yeguete might affect that Gators. He is a defensive specialist who is active on the press and in the halfcourt providing strong backside defense. The answer in this one was Prather. He hadn’t showed much in the Arkansas game in the way of rebounding from his high ankle sprain but was much more active offensively and defensively against the Bulldogs. He had a classic tie up underneath the basket early for a Bulldog turnover that had forward Colin Borchart ready to exchange blows and a nice steal and emphatic dunk out of the press. He and Frazier teamed up for a nice lane drive and assist by Frazier for an easy lay in by Prather.
The question going out of the game might be Kenny Boynton’s continued slumping from three point range and if Wilbekin will respond the properly to get get back in the starting lineup.
They must make the quick turnaround as the Kentucky Wildcats, defending SEC and NCAA champions, invade the O’Dome on Tuesday night. Tip off is scheduled for 7 pm eastern and will be broadcast live on ESPN.