Florida suffers tough loss to Mississippi State
The grip on the NCAA bubble has loosened.
Florida's 68-59 loss to Mississippi State Saturday almost assures that the Gators need wins over Tennessee and at Kentucky to keep their NCAA hopes alive.
"It's sad,'' freshman Chandler Parsons said. "It's going toward the end of the year, with everything we're playing for, the things we want to do this year, just to have a loss like that this late in the season just hurts.''
Florida was dominated by Mississippi State's size and the shot-blocking of Jarvis Vernado, the league's best shot-blocker. And when the Gators were focusing on MSU's big men, sophomore guard Ben Hansbrough (Tyler's little brother) made them pay, scoring a team-high 20 points.
"I would think with the way we played today, we had the most athletic team in the United States of America,'' said UF coach Billy Donovan, who said he was disappointed with the way the team exectued, but not surprised.
With such a young team, Donovan said he's never surprised by what happens because every game is a new challenge.
"The word I would never use with our team would be the word consistent,'' Donovan said.
The Gators helped Mississippi State with the victory and the record books. With seven blocked shots in the game, the Bulldogs set a single season school record (227), surpassing last season’s 222.
“Anytime you can go on the road and win, it’s special,’’ Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. "It's never easy here (O'Dome). With so much at stake this time of year, it's not easy. We probably caught them on not one of their better days.''
Stansbury said he believes the Gators should be in the Big Dance.
"Absolutely, Florida is an NCAA Tournament team,'' he said.
About the only Bulldogs who weren't happy after the game were Stansbury's two young sons. After his postgame press conference, one asked, "Are we going to Disney World?"
"No, we're not going to Disney World,'' Stansbury responded. "Now come on let's go.''
Florida surely had to be happy to see them leave.