Hoops Team Defeats Miss. State

Freshman Matt Walsh (Holland, Pa.) hit a layup and fellow freshman Anthony Roberson (Saginaw, Mich.) made both of his free throws in the final 30 seconds to give the No. 12 University of Florida men's basketball team a 74-66 win over No. 8 Mississippi State in the Southeastern Conference opener for both schools Tuesday night. The Gators' win at the Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Miss. snapped a streak of 12 straight wins for the Bulldogs in conference openers.

The Gators, who improved to 12-2 overall and 1-0 in the SEC, were led by senior Justin Hamilton's (Sarasota, Fla.) 22 points that tied for a career-high. Mississippi State was led by Mario Austin's 24 points, as the Bulldogs slipped to 10-2 overall and 0-1 in the conference.

Hamilton shot 8-of-12 from the field, including 2-of-4 from the three-point line and a perfect 4-of-4 from the free throw line. Joining Hamilton in double-figures were Roberson with 17 and senior Matt Bonner (Concord, NH) with 16 points. Roberson and Bonner also finished with high shooting percentages, as the freshman went 6-for-8 from the field, while the senior shot 4-of-5 in the game.

Overall as a team, Florida shot 67-percent from the field (26-39) and 50-percent from behind the arc at 6-for-12.

Trailing 35-29 at the break, the Gators came out strong in the second half and went on a 20-6 run in the first five and half minutes to take the lead for good at 49-41. The lead would get to as many as 10 at 66-56, before Mississippi State went on a mini 5-0 run to cut into the deficit. A Michal Ignerski three-pointer cut UF's lead to four at 70-66 with a little over a minute left before Walsh and Roberson made the crucial shots down the stretch to put the game away for the Gators. UF outscored the Bulldogs 45-31 in the final 20 minutes.

Mississippi State used two Austin layups in the game's first two minutes to take an early 4-0 lead. But UF responded by taking a 6-4 lead with back-to-back three's by Hamilton. UF tied the game at 27-27 with three minutes left in the first half before the Bulldogs went on an 8-2 run to head into the locker room with the six-point advantage.

Next up for the Gators is a match-up with No. 24 Georgia, Saturday, Jan. 11 at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Tip time is set for 3 p.m. The match-up with the Bulldogs will be the first of two straight home games against SEC teams, as Tennessee will be at the O'Connell Center next Wednesday, Jan. 15 for an 8 p.m. tip.

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