Florida's David Lee (24) slams the ball behind his during a game against Mississippi State in the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Friday, March 11, 2005. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
"There were a couple of things that we tried to get ready for against MSU," said Florida Coach Billy Donovan. "We tried not to let them get out in transition and we had to rebound. I thought these guys did a very good job on both ends of the floor."
Mississippi State Coach Rick Stansbury was said after the game that the Gators out-hustled his ball club.
"We couldn't have beaten them at our best today," he said. "They really beat us on the boards. It was only the second time in SEC play that we had been beaten in rebounds. I don't remember being out-rebounded by 15. I think in 32 games we've won the rebounding battle 27 times. Give Florida credit."
The Gators earned a first-round bye after finishing 12-4 in league play and second in the East. The Bulldogs (21-10, 9-7) finished third in the West and won a physical game against Georgia in the first round on Thursday.
"Our energy wasn't good," said senior forward Ontario Harper. "I think we got better energy coming from the guys off the bench. We've got to rebound and play with toughness. That's what the program is based on and we didn't show that tonight."
Florida's Anthony Roberson (1) scores past Mississippi State's Jamall Edmondson, rear, during the first half of their game in the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Friday, March 11, 2005. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Florida center David Lee said that it was something that the Gators' rested legs was something his team tried to take advantage of.
"We knew coming in that those guys played yesterday and we could bring a lot of energy," Lee said. "We play well when we go out and play hard. We were loose, confident, and we tried to go out and play team Gator basketball."
Florida opened with a 9-2 lead two minutes into the game, but Mississippi State fought back and kept the game close for much of the first half before the Gators took control.
The Florida run started on reverse dunk by Lee off a no-look pass from Matt Walsh on a two-on-none fast break. After a pair of threes by Walsh and a steal and dunk by freshman Corey Brewer, the Gators were up 34-23.
Walsh then hit another three with two seconds remaining on the shot clock from about 28 feet. "I could either take it closer and be guarded or have an open deep one," he said. "I figured I might as well take the long one."
The first half ended just like it began--with the Gators out-hustling State to the offensive glass. Walsh missed a three with only three seconds remaining, but Florida was able to get two more chances and Adrian Moss hit a hook shot as time expired to give his team a 46-29 advantage heading into the break.
Mississippi State leads the league in team rebounding, but the Gators pounded the glass in the first half and out-rebounded the Bulldogs 23-13.
Ten of the Gators' 23 boards in the first 20 minutes were on the offensive end, which resulted in eight second-chance points. Florida also scored 14 points off 10 Bulldog turnovers.
Walsh and Anthony Roberson led all scorers in the first half with 12 points apiece. Five different Gators tied for the team lead in rebounds with four.
Corey Brewer #2 of the Florida Gators goes in for a slam dunk in the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the quarterfinals of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at the Georgia Dome on March 11, 2005 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Harper led the Bulldogs in scoring at halftime with 10 points. Roberts had eight points on 2-7 shooting with three rebounds.
In the second half, a three by Lee Humphrey and a lay-up by Roberson extended the Florida lead to 25 points at 63-38 with just under 13 minutes remaining. Despite Mississippi State hitting 7-15 threes in the second half, the Gators were able to coast to the 16-point win.
Brewer had the hot hand in the second half, scoring 11 of his 17 points in the final 20 minutes. He also hit a long three as the shot clock expired, much like Walsh's in the first half.
"Brewer was 6-19 in SEC play shooting the three, but he made 3-4 today," Stansbury said. "That's where it started at. It seemed like every deep shot when the shot clock was winding down went in for them."
Donovan said after the game that Brewer provided the scoring lift that his team needed against a tough Mississippi State team.
"We got really good play out of Corey," Donovan said. "He knocked down some pretty big shots and bailed us out. He did a very good job on both ends of the court. People talk about maybe getting that fourth scorer out on the court for us and Corey happened to be that guy tonight."
Roberson lead Florida in scoring with 19 points on 8-18 shooting. He also added five rebounds and two assists.
Walsh finished with 15 points on 5-10 three-point shooting while adding four rebounds. Lee had 12 points and led the team with nine boards and four assists.
Florida's Matt Walsh (44) keeps the ball away from Mississippi State's Dietric Slater (22) during their game in the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Friday, March 11, 2005. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Florida turned the ball over 15 times, one more that State. The Gators shot 29-61 from the floor for 47.5 percent, while the Bulldogs connected on 24-56 shots for 42.9 percent. The Gators also made all 10 of their foul shots.
Harper led the Bulldogs in scoring with 16 points. Guard Jamall Edmondson added 14 points. Roberts failed to score in the second half and finished the game with eight points and five rebounds.
The Gators advance to play Alabama in the semifinals at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Gators beat the Tide 85-54 at the O'Connell Center on Feb. 5.
"We're looking at tomorrow as a new beginning," Roberson said. "We had home-court advantage but it's a neutral court now. We're going to play like we have lately and play hard. It's a new game and even territory."
Alabama, who was also 12-4 in the league, will enter the contest at 24-6 overall.
Corey Brewer #2, David Lee #24, Matt Walsh #44, Al Horford #42 and Chris Richard #32 of the Florida Gators celebrate on the bench as they defeat the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the quarterfinals of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at the Georgia Dome on March 11, 2005 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
"We're very excited about playing them because that means we've won and advanced to the semifinals," Donovan said. "I think when the season started Alabama was picked to win the West and many people think they have the best starting five in the SEC. Our guys are really excited to play against a very good Alabama team."