Men's Basketball Drops SEC Road Opener To Fla

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Early offensive struggles hurt the Mississippi State men’s basketball team Saturday night in its Southeastern Conference road opener. Florida shot 62.5 percent from the field first half and rode a fast start to a 72-47 win in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

“We weren’t very disciplined in the beginning,” MSU head coach Rick Ray said. “We had some breakdowns defensively and offensively we played with a great deal of apprehension. We have to come out and play with more confidence on the offensive end.

“We have some guys who are capable of doing more things offensively but you have to come out with more confidence regardless of the opponent and regardless of the venue.”

In the opening half, MSU (7-8 overall, 0-2 SEC) shot 30.4 percent from the field and was only able to force three Florida turnovers. The Gators scored 19 points off 10 turnovers by the Bulldogs in the opening half.

Florida (9-6, 2-0) scored six straight points to break an early 2-2 tie. After a dunk by MSU’s Roquez Johnson, Florida scored the game’s next eight points to build a 16-4 lead with 13:25 left in the first half.

A Dorian Finney-Smith basket pushed the Florida advantage to 22-7 with 10:43 left in the half. The Bulldogs were within 11 after another Johnson dunk before Florida scored the game’s next six points.

Florida would run the first-half lead to 23 points before Demetrius Houston hit a mid-court 3-point basket as time expired to bring the Bulldogs within 39-19 at the break.

“When games start, we feel like we don’t belong,” Ray said. “By the time they figure it out and figure we do belong, it is too late. We have to get more from the front line. We have to have more players who are out there as offensive threats.”

A 10-1 run by Florida early in the second half removed all doubt from the contest. Fred Thomas did hit a pair of 3-point baskets in the second half down the stretch.

For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 17 of 44 shots from the field (38.6 percent), 5 of 11 shots from 3-point range (45.5 percent) and 8 of 13 shots from the foul line (61.5 percent). The Gators hit 28 of 53 shots from the field (52.8 percent), 9 of 22 shots from 3-point range (40.9 percent) and 7 of 12 shots from the foul line (58.3 percent).

Florida held a 31-28 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had eight assists and 15 turnovers, while the Gators had 19 assists and seven turnovers.

Johnson led MSU with 11 points, while I.J. Ready and Fred Thomas each added 10 points. Gavin Ware had a game-high eight rebounds. Ready also had five assists, one steal and no turnovers in 27 minutes of action.

Eli Carter led Florida with 20 points, while Finney-Smith added 16 points and Devin Robinson added 12 points. Finney-Smith had a team-high six rebounds.

MSU remains on the road for an 8 p.m. start Tuesday at Texas A&M. The Bulldogs and Aggies will play nationally on the SEC Network.

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