Sunday, February 25, 2018
Sports

Florida beats Ole Miss for 19th straight win

OXFORD, Miss. — Mississippi's Marshall Henderson unleashed a first-half scoring spree that put No. 2 Florida's school-record winning streak in danger.

The Gators were impressed. And they made sure it didn't happen again.

Jolted awake by Henderson's 22 points in the first half, Florida clamped down to keep him scoreless in the second and fought its way to a 75-71 victory Saturday afternoon.

Scottie Wilbekin scored 18 and Tampa's Michael Frazier added 17 as the Gators (25-2, 14-0 SEC) won their 19th straight.

"We had a heightened sense of urgency to start the second half, especially on (Henderson)," Frazier said. "We did a better job of staying locked in on him and staying locked in as a whole."

Ole Miss (16-11, 7-7) has lost four in a row. Jarvis Summers added 20 points for the Rebels.

The score was tied at 59 with eight minutes left, but UF scored the next seven to take control. Henderson missed all six of his shots in the second half.

The Gators could very well be No. 1 when the new polls are released Monday. Current No. 1 Syracuse lost Wednesday at home to unranked Boston College and lost at No. 5 Duke on Saturday.

But Frazier and Florida coach Billy Donovan said that won't mean much.

"This team understands that the whole is greater than its parts," Donovan said. "But we need to play better, and I'm talking about that from an effort standpoint."

Mississippi needed a quality win for its NCAA Tournament resume and played like a desperate team for much of the game.

But the Gators steadily put the Rebels away with quality offensive possessions late in the game.

"We gave a winning effort," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "But we've got to make plays and we didn't make plays."

UF had to survive Henderson's first-half barrage just to have a chance.

It's not the first time Henderson has had a big moment against the Gators. He scored 21 against Florida last season in the SEC Tournament championship game, adding a memorable Gator Chomp motion as the Rebels ended up winning 66-63.

It was quickly apparent Saturday that the 6-foot-2 senior was feeling good again. He made 7 of 14 shots from the field, including 5 of 11 3-pointers, as the teams fought to an entertaining 42-all tie at halftime.

The Gators' vaunted defense, the best statistically in the SEC, had few answers for Henderson early. He made several difficult shots with a hand in his face.

It didn't last.

Henderson cooled off in the second half, missing those tough looks that had gone in during the first, and Florida did enough offensively to win.

"You're not going to prevent (Henderson) from shooting and in the first half it was a wash: him vs. our team," Donovan said. "In the second half, it just didn't go in."

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