The toughest battle that occurred during the Florida-Mississippi State game on Saturday night wasn’t on the floor of Humphrey Coliseum, but rather, it was in a living room in Gainesville, Fla. as I battled furiously with my quickly closing eyelids during the Gators’ 82-47 romp in Starkville, Miss.
It was evident early on the Bulldogs were severely overmatched by the Gators (actually, it was evident before tip-off, but the game just confirmed it).
Up next the Gators (16-2, 6-0) will return home for the first of two consecutive home dates that should offer a little more excitement than Saturday’s yawner. They take on visiting South Carolina (12-7, 2-4) on Wednesday. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. EST.
As the game transitioned from not close to ugly to downright grotesque, it was tough not to question just how impressive the Gators really are? Does beating six-straight conference opponents by double-digits truly signal a team that is simply that strong and that much more impressive than its league counterparts? Or is the SEC giving UF a false sense of identity by stinking it up each time they take the floor against the Gators?
There may or may not be an answer to the questions surrounding the Gators, but despite what its fellow conference-mates are doing around them the Gators have indeed been that good during the month of January on the hardwood. It has been strangely in line with reality as the Gators have been continually heating up — much like the weather in Gainesville — as the rest of the league has been subject to frigid temperatures.
On Saturday’s close-for-about-three-minutes victory for the Gators, Florida experienced a much better start than they did against Georgia earlier this week, as the Gators came out firing from the field. Both Kenny Boynton and Erik Murphy started off 3-for-3 from the field with both seniors firing back-to-back three-point baskets to open up Florida’s scoring.
Boynton scored 11 first-half points, while Murphy added nine. Junior center Patric Young did it all for the Gators, starting with his manning of the ESPN camera during Florida’s pregame shoot around.
Once he put the camera away however, Young went to work on MSU’s undersized frontcourt, dominating the ‘Dogs on the glass with six rebounds, and either hustling down the court in transition, or hustling back up to the rim on the offensive end of the floor, as he scored nine first half points of his own.
The Gators were able to overcome a few sloppy offensive possessions on the night due to their hot shooting, but as usual, the story of the game was Florida’s defense. For the 10th time this season and the fourth time in SEC play, the Gators held an opponent to less than 50 points. It was the 12th time an opponent was held to less than 52 points.
The Bulldogs were continually frustrated by Florida’s press throughout the game, and even though the Gators were only able to procure nine turnovers from a Bulldogs team that averaged 17 coming into the game, Florida continually harassed MSU, forcing it to commit untimely mistakes.
The Gators had four players who finished with double-figures on the night as Boynton and Murphy finished with 18 points apiece on a combined 13 of 19 shooting. Young and guard Scottie Wilbekin both finished with 13 points.
On the rebounding end, freshman Michael Frazier II proved that he’s more than just a shooter as he snatched nine boards for the Gators, with forward Will Yeguete grabbing eight of his own. Overall, the Gators outrebounded the Bulldogs 40-16. The Gators also had their best three-point shooting night of the season, finish with 14 successful attempts from behind the arc.