Gators slow Henderson late, earn road win

The score was tied at 42 at halftime, but Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson looked set to carry his team to stay in the game. After 22 first-half points, the Gators shut out the Rebels' guard in the second half of the game, holding him to 0-6 from the field. No. 2 Florida extended its school-record winning streak to 19 games with a 75-71 win at Ole Miss on Saturday.

The hot-or-cold style of Marshall Henderson got off to the worst possible start for Florida. The senior guard shot 7-14 from the field in the first half, scoring 22 of Ole Miss' 42 first-half points. Billy Donovan wanted to start the game without needing Scottie Wilbekin on Henderson the entire game, saving his energy and keeping him out of foul trouble with freshman point guard Kasey Hill (groin) out.

Henderson was Casey Prather's responsibility to start the game, trying to put a combination of size and athleticism on the scorer. However, Prather was out of possession on Henderson's first shot and got the senior's scoring started.

In the second half, Florida switched defenses, including switches on screens at times to give him tougher looks while getting big men in his face to challenge shots in the perimeter. The goal to make Henderson uncomfortable was reached, holding the senior to 0-6 from the field in the second half.

"In the first half, Henderson made some really difficult, tough shots to his credit," Billy Donovan said on the Florida postgame radio show. "There were a couple times we didn't guard him correctly, didn't do the right things and let him get going. All of a sudden, the basket gets bigger for him (after his first made field goal). We made some adjustments in the second half with what we did defensively. Our defense and energy was just better in the second half."

The Florida defense came out with a different look in the second half, slowing the Rebels to 29 points after giving up 42 in the first half. The Gators outrebounded Ole Miss 34-32, but Donovan wasn't happy about that. The Rebels struggled to rebound throughout the year, and the Florida coach was disappointed in his team's effort on the glass Saturday.

"They're not a great rebounding team," Donovan said. "I thought we got outhustled and outworked on a lot of balls. We gave up an enormous amount of offensive rebounds in the second half, 15 for the game. That's way too many."

The effort was the most consistent problem Donovan saw. In recent games, the Gators haven't played with great effort but have fought through and pulled away in the end. That was the case again on Saturday. It hasn't hurt the Gators this week against Auburn and Ole Miss, but as the competition gets stiffer into March, that could change.

"We're getting into a little bit of this turning it on, turning it off stuff," Donovan said. "We're going to get caught. Jim Boeheim made a great comment when (Syracuse) lost, saying that when you play in enough games like that, someone's going to catch you. Right now, we're not playing together effort-wise a 40-minute game like we need to. You're always looking forward at what kind of habits we're building."

The next challenge comes Tuesday at 7 p.m. when the Gators travel to face Vanderbilt. With only four games left in the regular season schedule, the Gators continue closing in on a perfect conference record. However, Donovan sees a Vanderbilt team playing well on Tuesday that could change things.

"This is a hard stretch for us," Donovan said. "When you play Wednesday, Saturday and Tuesday, you go a long period of time without a break. There's a lot to get our guys familiar with. We've got to go to Nashville on Tuesday and get ready for what Vanderbilt does. They've always been hard to guard. It will be a battle in Nashville."

Fightin Gators Top Stories