Gators Fall Short in Starkville

The lack of clutch offense continues to hurt the Gators. Most of the issues this season have come from the free throw line, and they did again on Saturday. This time, the problems also included Florida's half-court offense, as the Gators scored one point in the final five minutes of a 71-64 loss at Mississippi State.

"I didn't think they did a great job defensively, even though the stat sheet looks that way," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said on his post game radio show. "I thought we had some really good looks."

The Gators missed their last seven shots from the field. Erving Walker's floater in the lane gave Florida a 63-62 lead with 5:17 left. The one point Florida would score the rest of the game came when center Vernon Macklin hit a free throw with 3:32 left in the game.

After Macklin's free throw, the Gators missed their final five free throws. Florida was 9-for-19 from the free throw line during the game.

"The last five minutes, between missing open looks and the free throw line, were the difference in the game," Donovan said. "Both teams shot a comparable percentage from the field and free throw line. The difference was Mississippi State shooting 82% from the free throw line, and Florida 47%. It's hard to win on the road (like that)."

Mississippi State led 40-38 at halftime, but that seemed like a victory for Florida after how the game started. The Bulldogs opened the game on fire from behind the three-point line, starting the game 5-for-8.

Forward Kodi Augustus had 11 of the Bulldogs' first 25 points after a three-pointer pushed their advantage to 25-15, the biggest lead any team had in the game.

The Gators ended the half on a 10-4 run that brought the deficit to 40-38.

Mississippi State started the second half just how they did the first. It opened on an 11-4 run in the first 3:31 of the half.

Instead of the starters bringing the momentum back to the Florida bench, it was an usual lineup with multiple freshmen. The lineup featured heavy doses of Patric Young and Will Yeguete in the frontcourt. Wilbekin saw plenty of time in the backcourt with Walker.

That unit went on an 11-1 run that ended at the 12:58 mark with a three-pointer for Walker to give Florida a 53-52 lead.

"I was really proud of our young guys, because they made a run to get us the lead," Donovan said. "

The Bulldogs had a three-point lead with 35 seconds left, and the Gators had a chance to tie or cut the lead to one. However, Kenny Boynton double dribbled while trying to hand the ball off to Walker near midcourt.

Boynton didn't play well all game, going 2-for-11 from the field and 0-for-4 from behind the three-point line. He had one rebound, zero assists, zero steals and two turnovers.

Florida returns home to host Vanderbilt Tuesday night at 9 p.m.

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