Florida fights for road win

No. 3 Florida crawled into halftime with a one-point lead at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs had all of the momentum and got the crowd into the game with an 8-0 run to close out the first half. When the Gators needed a spark, center Patric Young provided it. The senior played with renewed energy and pushed Florida to a 62-51 win to move to 7-0 in SEC play this season.

"We needed to (get Young involved)," Florida coach Billy Donovan said on the postgame radio show. "We needed to get something at the basket. They were switching everything up top and we had no post presence to close out the first half. Patric played seven minutes in the first half, but he got that dunk and made a couple plays then got in the flow of the game. We found him and he did good things."

After Mississippi State took its third lead of the game just over a minute into the second half, Young got started. He scored six straight points to spark the offense, but his energy was the most important part. He blocked one shot and had three rebounds in the first 2:16 of the second half.

His energy fed into the rest of the team.

Young's six points started a 14-2 Florida run that pushed the second-half lead to 42-32 with 12:06 remaining, and Florida's lead was only in single digits for 2:28 the rest of the way.

"He did a great job getting good post positions and the guards did a great job of finding him," Florida forward Casey Prather said. "It was nice for him to come up with some buckets for the team."

The Gators got off to a slow start. Mississippi State hung around and kept the game close for the first 12 minutes of the game. After Florida was trailing 16-15, the Gators went on a 13-2 run. However, the Bulldogs' 8-0 run to close out the first half got rid of any positive momentum the Gators earned.

"It wasn't a pretty win, but a lot of times that's not how road wins are," Donovan said. "Very rarely do you get a game where you don't have to grind it out or go through adversity."

Florida would've put the game away earlier but a consistent problem crept up again. The Gators went 8-19 from the free throw line to allow Mississippi State to stay in range of making a comeback.

"The big thing tonight was the free throw battle," Donovan said. "We definitely took more free throws, but the problem is we shot 42 percent from the free throw line.

"You get to the free throw line 19 times and only make eight. That's not good. I've got to do a better job personally with these guys trying to create more pressurized situations in practice. There are games where we shoot it well and games like tonight, and I just think that's mental focus."

The Gators have one day to prepare before facing Texas A&M on Saturday at 4 p.m.

"I'm happy and proud of these guys," Donovan said. "They've done a great job. There are still areas where we can get better and improve. It's a game I hope we can improve on and get ready for Texas A&M on Saturday."

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