Gators get over ‘The Hump’ quickly

It did not take the Gators long to get over The Hump.

And that, perhaps more than all else, made Florida coach Billy Donovan happy.

“Overall I was pleased that our guys showed some maturity because we talked about going to Athens (Ga.) and getting off to such a poor start,” Donovan told the Gator IMG Sports Network. “But this was a game that we got out to a good start and really led from start to finish.”

Florida sprinted to an early lead at Humphrey Coliseum and was unrelenting in another blowout victory, hammering an inept Mississippi State team 82-47. And it may have been even uglier than the score.

A few of the final statistics certainly revealed a gruesome game.

The Gators tallied season highs in three-pointers and assists, notching 14 and 23, respectively.

Once again, Donovan used the evening’s successes as teaching points and again referenced Wednesday’s outing against Georgia.

“That was part of our problem in the first half against Georgia — we didn’t share the ball like we needed to,” he said. “(Saturday night) I thought our guys did a terrific job,” he said. “We really moved and shared the ball and found the open man.”

Florida shared the ball, as well as the points, the rebounds and the assists. Four Gators recorded double-digit scoring totals, with the season high three-point figure being split among five different players. Eight different Gators contributed to both the assist total and the gaudy plus-34 rebounding differential.

Neither coach Donovan’s postgame praise, nor his teaching points were limited to Florida’s offensive productivity. The Gators followed the Georgia game — what Donovan called its “worst” three-point defense of the season — by limiting Mississippi State to 3 of 15 from outside the arc. It was an effort not lost on the Gators’ coach.

“They shot 32 percent from the field and 20 percent from the three-point line. And that was encouraging to see because we did not do a great job in Athens (during) the first half guarding the three-point line,” Donovan said. “This was a game that I thought, from start to finish, we did a really, really good job.”

On a night that the Gators were near perfect, Patric Young flirted with flawless. Young scored 13 points on 6 of 6 shooting. An errant free throw marked his only miss.

“He got some put backs. He had a couple nice post moves and did some really, really good things around the basket. He gave us a great lift of energy to start the second half, as well,” Donovan said.

After two consecutive road wins, the Gators return home Wednesday night to play South Carolina, and then host co-conference leader Ole Miss on Saturday.

Having last played in the O’Connell Center on Jan. 19, coach Donovan expressed his excitement to return to the friendly confines.

“I wasn’t sure we had a home court with as long as we have been gone,” he joked. “It seems like we have been on the road for quite a bit of time.

“It will be great to be back in the O-Dome.”