Florida defended well enough to beat Mississippi State on Saturday, holding the Bulldogs to 68 points (5 below their average) and 41.8 percent shooting. Florida rebounded well enough to beat Mississippi State, breaking even (40-40) on the glass with a taller, stronger, more athletic and more experienced basketball team. The Gators took care of the ball well enough to beat Mississippi State, turning it over just ten times in the contest.
But the Gators did not shoot the ball well, and thus they did not beat Mississippi State. Florida's 36.1 percent effort from the field and dismal 28 percent from beyond the arc (7-for-25) were the major culprits in a 68-59 setback. Dan Werner was 10-for-18 (6-for-10 from three) in the last two games, but on this afternoon he would miss all six of his shots. He was an equal opportunity brick layer, missing three inside the arc and three outside. Alex Tyus, the primary reserve in the paint added an 0-for-4 day as well. When your two primary power forwards combine to go scoreless in 32 minutes you end up playing a lot of four-on-five.
The Gators fell behind early and only led once (4-3) the entire day. The Gators trailed by 12 at the half and cut it to five early in the second half (41-36) only to see State go on an 11-3 run to push the lead to 13. Florida again cut it to six (56-50) on an offensive put back by Marreese Speights with just under four minutes to play but never got any closer.
The loss shouldn't do too much damage to Florida's NCAA hopes. Mississippi State entered the game with a higher RPI and had won 14 of its last 17 games. We'll have a complete update of all SEC situations tournament wise on Monday. However, it's still clear that Florida needs at least one more win. Next up is the powerful Tennessee squad, making Wednesday night's home finale' as big a game as it could possibly be.
At least the Gators won't be distracted by senior day festivities.
Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel
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